One of the most popular budget airlines for traveling Europe is Ryanair.
If it’s your first time flying with this company, the process can be tricky and sometimes confusing. Here are my tips for how to fly smoothly:
Making a Reservation
- Be flexible. Flights are usually cheaper if you plan ahead, although occasionally fares will be cheaper if you purchase them a few days in advance.
- Check the airport name and location carefully. Sometimes you will be given a nearby airport instead that is close to the major city you want (example: the Girona airport instead of Barcelona El Prat). Although the flight may be cheaper than with another airline, you are looking at extra time, money, and effort spent to get to your real destination.
- If you are not checking in a bag, select “0 checked bags”. To give you an idea of how much it costs to check in a bag: from January to the end of May (low season), one checked bag up to 15kg costs €15 during initial booking, €20 when added through Manage My Booking, and €60 if added at the airport – this fee is per bag per one way flight.
- If you already know you need to check in a bag, add it when you make the initial booking which is when it is cheapest. You can also add a bag through Manage My Booking (second cheapest) which can be done up to 4 hours before the scheduled flight departure time. It is most expensive to add a bag at the airport.
- If you will be traveling with a lot of luggage or sports equipment, weighing significantly more than 20kg each, I would recommend looking to a different airline with more lenient baggage allowances (Ryanair policy states, “Any passenger exceeding their personal checked baggage allowance will be charged for excess baggage at the rate prevailing on the day of travel. This is currently £20/€20 per kilo.”). Ryanair is best suited for weekend excursions or otherwise short trips with little luggage required.
- Ryanair will try to sell you a million other things before you can confirm your booking… hotels, life insurance, text message reminders, a car rental, LUGGAGE, and so on. Make sure you uncheck all of the appropriate boxes and say “Travel without insurance” so you don’t end up paying for something you don’t want or need. (Spoiler alert: the sales continue even while you’re in the air. Want some perfume? A lottery ticket? A bus ticket that may or may not be used depending if you can catch your bus on time?)
- Check all of your information carefully before booking a flight — any corrections or changes will cost you.
All booked, without extra charges? Great! What next?
Know Before You Fly
- Don’t forget to check in and print your boarding pass at home. One good thing Ryanair does is allow you to check in early, not just 24 hours before your flight. You can check in from 15 days before departure, up until four hours before your flight. If you forget and need your pass printed at the airport — you guessed it — expensive fine! (€70 for a boarding pass re-issue).
- Bring the appropriate travel documents. If you do not have a EU passport, you will have to get your documents checked and boarding pass stamped before you go through security. It’s simple: all you have to do is go to the Ryanair Visa/Document Check Desk and present your document and boarding pass. Make sure to give yourself ample time to go through this check. There may be a line, especially if it’s early in the morning before the desk opens, but the actual check is a quick process.
- Your ticket will show the area that you will be boarding in, but not the specific gate number. You will not find out this information until near boarding time. Stay close by and check all screens frequently, as the destinations will appear unannounced. Once your gate is listed, line up early because seating is first come, first serve (unless you paid more for a reserved seat). Lines will also take a while because employees will come around checking baggage sizes.
- FOLLOW THE BAGGAGE RESTRICTIONS. Even if your baggage dimensions qualify as a regular carry-on that can clear security’s x-ray, Ryanair’s policy clearly states that bags must be no bigger than 55cm x 40cm x 20cm. Strictly one item of cabin baggage per passenger is permitted, weighing up to 10kg. Everything must be carried in this one bag, including any purchases made at the airport and your purse. They are real sticklers for this rule. Staff will come around and measure any bag they suspect may be even just a little too big. If your luggage doesn’t fit — and yes that includes the wheels — you better be prepared to start unpacking some clothes and putting them on, unless you want to pay to check in your bag (€60).
- Flights tend to leave later than scheduled, but always arrive “on time.” (Regardless, you should plan to be at the airport with ample time for the document check and to go through security. Be at the boarding gate at least 30 minutes prior to scheduled departure. Boarding closes 20 minutes prior to departure.) You will be herded like cattle onto the plane and ushered into your seats quickly because of the “late departure.” This is just something you have to get used to.
Although this all sounds hectic and complicated, Ryanair has good flight deals and I’d still recommend traveling with them. After you’ve been through the process once, it gets easier to remember the little details. I hope this helped with your first flight! Safe travels.