How to not only survive but also enjoy traveling with low-cost airlines.
Whether it is for business or pleasure, traveling is cool. However, unless you have no restrictions on your budget, it can be a bit of a challenge. Buses are dirt cheap, but there's a moment in life when you move on - either because your time becomes more precious or you just cannot be bothered anymore, as the comfort level on these long bus journeys is more awful than not. Trains are a step up, but for the strange ways railways are operated in many countries of western Europe, low-cost planes are often cheaper than going by train.
Therefore, getting on board of a budget airline is inevitable.
And while these low-costs can be a major pain too, if it is done right, it is convenient and comfortable. Here are a few tips I learned while traveling with them.
Late check-in for the best seats.
If you want to have a seat of your choice in low-cost airlines, you have to pay extras. If you don't, their algorithm will try to assign you some dreadful seat, just so you'll pay them the next time. You can either get over it and survive whatever position they throw at you; or, do your check in as late as possible - at that time, most of the other passengers already checked in, so the worst seats are usually taken already - so you'll end up with a better spot, free of charge. The dream.
Use the apps.
Not having your boarding pass ready results in an ugly fee, so you better print it in advance. But that gives you another paper to worry about, and if you don't have a printer on hand, it can be a headache to do it in a public library or so. Been there. However, nowadays, most of the airlines have an app, in which you can generate the boarding pass. If you have a smartphone, this is convenient, free, and eco-friendly.
Priority boarding is a scam.
The budget airlines are selling an opportunity to board the plane early. But let's face it, their airplanes aren't a synonym of comfort, the seats are odd, and the personal space is nonexistent. So, why would you want to get into that cramped space earlier than necessary, nevermind paying extra for it?
Speaking of boarding, it brings me to...
It's common that as soon as the gate opens, everyone rushes to stand a queue, sometimes for as long as an hour. Unless you enjoy queuing, don't do that. The seats in the plane are assigned anyway; there's literally no gain to be there before others.
Just keep seated and relax.
How to luggage.
Low-costs are trying to milk money off your luggage, which scares many people off. But the truth is, going for a vacation lightweight is the way to go.
in 2018, I spent around 20 days on the Iberian Peninsula, my backpack had 9 kilos /19 lbs, and I did not felt like I am missing something. In 2019, I spent nearly two months traveling across Italy and China with just a carry-on. I had clothes, camera, toothbrush... what else would you need?
The smaller luggage you have, the better the experience is, because A) you don't waste valuable vacation time waiting for your suitcase coming on the baggage carousel. B) you don't get all sweaty dragging that heavy luggage around, and C) you have fewer things to worry about.
If you really need to carry tons of stuff, go during the winter! No airline takes the weight of the clothes you wear on you, so make use of it and repack half of your suitcase into the pockets of your coat. Walking with a big jacket with T-shirts stacked in every pocket is kinda stupid, but so are all of their restrictions. And as this saves you money, in the end it's you who's the winner. Another good tip is to have a backpack rather than those suitcases with wheels, as the airport staff thinks that you put heavier things into the wheeled box than you would into a backpack, which you have to carry. I had a small, but heavy backpack many times, and they let me pass without measuring the weight of it.
The luggage limits are truly restrictive only when you are moving, but that sucks even with proper airlines, not only low-costs. I remember when I was relocating from the US to Europe, packing an equipped 2-bedroom apartment and a car into a few backpacks was one heck of an exhausting process.
Ok, then, but what to actually bring / have?
Earplugs. Or better: Noise-cancelling headphones. Out of all products that suppose to make your travel better, these are the top. Forget blankets and pillows. I can't even think how many times these headphones saved potentially horrendous journey into a treat.
Having control over silence and sound, yes please.
Imagine sitting in that tiny seat, and seeing multiple poor children stretching their throats in a gut-wrenching cry, spitting tears in gallons, yet the only thing you can hear is beautiful calm piano solo. All is good.
Or that time when an immense wind tosses the plane in all directions while pilots are trying to navigate onto the landing strip. Couples around grasp hands of each other while saying their desperate thoughts, others whisper to the sky, a guy in the back is sick... yet you are smiling, nodding your head as the turbulence got sync with that banger from Drumcode. All is good.
Or when your day is a gigantic pile of misery, and the first thing in the plane is a guy two feet shorter than you, endlessly whining about his personal space. You want to punch that guy, but then headphones bring some fine Belgian metal into your ears, and all is good.
Seriously. So many cases. (not only planes, when I was moving into Poland by a bus and the driver got lost, it helped too.)
Airport etiquette. Airport security can be a scene from hell, but learning what is expected from you make things faster and more comfortable for you and everyone else. Please, don't be that person who go through the detector four times and always fails. "Oh I forgot, my phone is in my pocket. Oh I forgot, my metal belt is on. Oh-uh!"
An empty water bottle & a snack. Fill the bottle after the security checkpoint, and stay hydrated, while you can laugh at them companies selling bites for some ridiculous cash.
A plan what to do during the flight. Use the time in the air, be productive. Take a book to read, or write your own. Talk to people, watch a movie, take a nap... But if you are just going to sit doing nothing, even if the flight is as short as an hour, it will feel like an eternity. This then transitions me to:
Full batteries. So you don't board a plane, open that laptop only to realize that you have last 10 minutes before it goes flat. Or that you won't land in a new country with a dead phone, so you are on your own translating and finding directions.
An extra layer. just to be safe. Sometimes, planes are saunas; sometimes, they are fridges. You can always layer down, but if you don't have a layer to put on, you might land into your vacation with a cold. And that would suck!
Comfy shoes. Budget airlines often don't use a jet bridge for boarding; instead, you need to use those portable boarding ramps. And if it's raining... I've seen an individual with high heels sliding down, and it didn't look like fun. Moreover, many cheap flights board from gates that are miles away from the entrance, as they are cheaper to operate than those right behind the security. Comfy shoes makes these walks a piece of cake.
What's your tip? Let me know!
If you liked this post, I'd recommend my stories about airports, and cheap travels:
Published by: Jakub Stepanovic in Stories