Budget airlines like WOW Air and Spirit can save you a buttload of money when you fly with them, but itâ€™s still going to cost youâ€”in sanity. Hereâ€™s what you should know going in, as well as a few tips for making the trip more bearable.
What You Need to Know Before You Book
For your budget airline experience to go as smoothly as possible, you need to manage your expectations going in. If you know whatâ€™s in store, youâ€™re less likely to be surprised and disappointed.
- They charge you for everything: Everythingâ€”including carry-ons, checked bags, seat selection, extra leg room, food or snacks (which isnâ€™t anywhere close to decent), and even water. Thatâ€™s right, no complimentary drinks. Some budget airlines, like RyanAir, even require you to print your own ticket to cut down on costs. Itâ€™s a wonder they donâ€™t charge you for air. When itâ€™s all said and done you could end up paying close to the same amount of a typical airline flight if youâ€™re not careful.
- Give your trip some wiggle room: Airlines like WOW Air claim to be pretty punctual, but if a delay or flight cancellation occurs, it will probably be a big one. And budget airline customer service is almost certainly going to leave something to be desired. One WOW Air flight cancellation forced some passengers to lose out on a day and a half of their trips, with no offers of food or a hotel. Budget airlines are probably not your best bet if you need to get somewhere as soon as possible or have a tight window of vacation time.
- Expect to be disconnected: Most budget flights do not have in-flight Wi-Fi, or even any form of in-flight entertainment. They may have some power plugs, depending on the plane, but be prepared to be out of touch for the entire flight. Not ideal if you need to work.
- No pets allowed: To cut down on costs, most budget airlines donâ€™t even bother with providing pet-friendly services. If you want to travel with your pet, look elsewhere (therapy pets and guide dogs may be an exception if you can provide the proper paperwork).
So yeah, thereâ€™s a reason that round trip ticket to Europe is so freakinâ€™ cheapâ€”youâ€™re getting what you pay for. These are bare-bones flights, people. But that doesnâ€™t mean they arenâ€™t worth trying out! You just need to come prepared.
Missing a connecting flight is one of the most stressful and frustrating things that can happen toâ€¦
Tips for Surviving the Flight
Okay, so youâ€™re going to give that budget airline a go? Great, follow these guidelines and things should go swimmingly for the most part:
- Watch for short layover times when you book: Sometimes budget airlines fly out of smaller airports or far out terminals that require a shuttle ride in between connecting flights. Giving yourself plenty of time is the name of the game with these types of flights.
- Have a backup plan in place: Expect delays, cancellations, and other time sensitive things to go wrong, and have a plan. Look up places you can stay, things to do, and maybe even pack an extra snack. Sleeping overnight in an airport on an empty stomach is no fun.
- Do everything online before you get to the airport: Book your flight, check in for your flight, modify your seating arrangement, and print your tickets online at home before you leave for the airport! Otherwise you may encounter extra fees or long lines backed up at the few available check-in desks.
- Get there crazy early anyway: You may have to travel via shuttle to a separate terminal, or deal with some luggage issues at the gate. Or even worse, find out youâ€™re at the wrong airport. That happened to my girlfriend in Iceland and she was only able to make it to her flight on time because she had gotten to the first airport so early. Again, give yourself plenty of time or this experience could be very stressful.
- Pack light: The more you bring with you, the more it will cost you. Remember, you will have to pay for checked bags and your carry-on. If you can fit everything into one bag, youâ€™ll save yourself a ton of money.
- Bring a water bottle: Flying dehydrates you, but paying for water on a plane sucks. Bring your own empty bottle and fill it in the terminal.
- Bring a meal and snacks: You know what else sucks? Paying for all of your food, even on long-haul flights that youâ€™d normally get a free meal out of. Pack yourself something to snack on, as well as something that will fill you up come meal time.
- Bring some entertainment: There is no in-flight entertainment on these planes, so either bring yourself some pre-loaded movies on a tablet, phone, or laptop, or pack a long book. Otherwise youâ€™re going to be very bored. Besides, youâ€™ll need something to distract you from the in-flight advertisements for duty free wares (seriously).
Budget airlines have a lot of pros: theyâ€™re crazy cheap, theyâ€™re just as safe as other airlines, and they fly to a lot of popular locations. Just make sure youâ€™re mentally prepared for the experience and youâ€™ll be fine.
I just returned from a five-day trip to Paris, on a budget airline that charges a fee to bring aâ€¦
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