It is no exaggeration to say that budget airlines have revolutionised air travel. Gone are the days when an air ticket was a luxury item. Today cheaper flights allow us to not only take a summer break from our routine, but also to enjoy mini-breaks throughout the year.
Booking and taking a budget airline flight, though, can be a bit of a minefield. Snaring the best price is not just as straightforward as checking one airline website, baggage can be a costly pain and catering on board eye-wateringly expensive.
So here are a few travel hacks to help you negotiate the stressful world of flying low cost carriers.
1. Bag it up
You have snapped up your ultra-cheap flight and relax thinking you are all sorted. But don’t be so hasty. You may have forgotten about the dreaded ‘B Word’. Yes, baggage costs on the budget carriers can be a real bane.
Hold baggage charges can really ramp up the cost of your flight, especially if you leave it to the airport to add your bag. It is usually cheaper to book bags when you book online. Be aware too that some airlines offer discounts for a 15kg bag as opposed to 20kg, so go lighter if you are on a short trip.
2. Maximise your hand luggage allowance
With hold luggage becoming more expensive, some truly dedicated travellers might want to don pocket-laden combat trousers and waistcoats in order to make extra space for all their worldly possessions. There are even retailers that manufacture space-saving travel clothes – like this – to help you fit it all in.
But a much less uncomfortable solution is maximising your hand luggage. Policies vary between airlines so check exactly what you are allowed and maximise it by taking a bag that fits the exact dimensions of the airline’s limits. Note that many airlines allow you to bring one cabin-sized bag and a small handbag, so you can stow your week’s clothing in the overhead lockers and still keep all your essentials nearby.
3. Nab a decent seat
These days the budget airlines are tending to move away from the scrum of boarding with no seat allocations. You can often book your seat in advance free of charge, but some still charge for the best seats – those at the front and next to emergency exits. If you can check-in online and get in there early, it’s sometimes worth the extra few pounds or dollars for a better seat.
4. Bring your own food
The budget airline pricing model relies on you spending cash in the air, often on overpriced food and drink. Our advice? Don’t.
You are perfectly entitled to take your own food and drinks aboard your budget flight. If you can fit it in your hand luggage, bring a packed lunch or enough snacks to keep you going, and stock up on water after you’ve gone through security.
5. Bring a good book/tablet
Don’t rely on the in-flight magazine to keep you entertained – as good as they often are, they can be a little dogeared and stained from the hundreds of hands that have flicked through them before you.
Bring a book to tuck into or a tablet loaded with games, books and films. While you might plan on doing lots of work or sleeping, it’s good to have your own entertainment for a little break if you need it.
6. Pack a pillow
An inflatable pillow is one of the best investments any budget airline traveller can make. Protecting lolling heads and crooked necks for decades, they’re an invaluable – and lightweight – piece of kit, and can come in handy on buses and trains when you arrive at your destination.
7. Wear comfy clothes
On a short domestic hop this is not really an issue, but what if you’ve just boarded a four hour flight? Don’t find yourself sitting there in the sweaty jeans you’ve been wearing all day. Packing a loose fitting old shirt and comfy trousers to change into can really make a difference. An extra pair of socks will go a long way when the air-con is up all the way, too.
8. Stay fresh
You know the feeling. Arriving somewhere with your hair all over the place and stinky breath from that ill-judged chicken tikka sandwich. There is really no excuse for arriving in a mess though. No, you cannot bring your massive toiletries bag aboard, but you can bring a variety of travel sized products with you. Pack a toothbrush and toothpaste under 100ml each and head to the toilet before you land. Otherwise your welcome home kisses will leave loved ones wishing you’d never returned.