5 tips to make flying with budget airlines less stressful

service with a smile!
service with a smile!

When passenger air travel first really 'took off' in the 1920's it was a luxury afforded by only a privileged few - and those passengers were treated like royalty!

Seats were roomy, meals were served on fine china with real silverware and your every need was attended to by the elegant and smartly dressed flight attendants.

Even up until the 90's air passengers could expect to be fed and watered at no extra cost and although this still applies to the majority of flights today, many thousands of us are opting for the low-cost budget airlines such as easyjet and Ryanair to get us to our destinations. These operate a 'no frills' service and they make their money by cutting non-essential extras and aiming for the fastest 'turn-around' time possible.

Here are 5 essential tips to make your budget flight experience as stress free as possible.

on-line booking is the norm now
on-line booking is the norm now

Tip 1 - your flight begins at home!

One of the ways that budget airlines make money is by letting you do their administration for them. You search for your flights, complete the booking form, and now - the new innovation - you check yourself in on-line often paying a fee for the privilege of doing so! (All the while using your electricity, computer, ink, paper, time etc. - but that's a whole new hub!).

Make absolutely sure that you've completed the forms correctly, booked in and printed out the relevant paperwork and then - even more importantly - put the booking form with your passport and remember to take them to the airport.

Sounds too obvious? The budget airlines make money from you having to go back and correct errors and Ryanair, and, i'm sure, soon to be others, charge a hefty fee if you've forgotten your booking form. (£40 in Ryanair's case - and I do speak from experience).

Tip 2 - let your weighing scales be your friend

You may try to avoid stepping on the weighing scales most of the time but in these days of restricted baggage allowances it's essential to know exactly how much your baggage weighs before you arrive at the airport.

There's nothing more stressful than finding out at the check in desk or baggage drop that your bags are a couple of kilos over and you either have the choice of paying an excess baggage fee - Ryanair currently charge £20 per kilo! - or ditching some holiday essentials at the airport.

Also, check that your cabin baggage meets the size allowance - some airlines refuse to let you carry it on board if it's too large and make you check it in for an additional fee of £35.

don't miss the plane!
don't miss the plane!

Tip 3 - ♫ ♪ get me to the plane on time ♫ ♪

It may be tempting, because you've already checked in online, to turn up at the airport with less than the two recommended hours to spare.

As we're talking avoiding stress here, my advice is - be prepared for the unexpected and arrive at the airport with more time to spare than you think you need - if things go smoothly you can always spend time looking at the overpriced gadgets and gizmos in the so-called duty free shops.

Possible delay factors

  • Incorrect paperwork - make absolutely sure that your passport or other ID is valid and not about to expire, have all of your flight documents to hand - as mentioned above, if you've checked in on line make sure you have your printed boarding pass - not just your flight confirmation print out - if you don't have it, you'll be sent away to have it re-printed, time-consuming and expensive!
  • Problems with baggage - I recently arrived at the airport with the hold bag that I have been using for the past six years - on this occasion it was deemed to be 'oversized' and I had to take it to a special check-in desk where the check-in clerk decided to meet his daily quota of bags to examine and completely emptied mine leaving me to repack it - this sent my stress levels soaring as I only made the flight by the skin of my teeth!
  • New security checks - these have become more thorough in recent years. Be prepared to have to remove your shoes and belt, your laptop will have to come out of its bag and make sure you are carrying only small amounts of liquids and that they are sealed into transparent plastic bags.

Tip 4 - avoid the stampede!

One of the most stressful aspects of budget flights is that, generally, you are not automatically assigned a seat number. If you don't want to be amongst the crowd scrambling for seats you either have to pay extra to pre-book a seat or pay for 'speedy boarding' where you are supposed to be guaranteed to be among the first to board the plane - useful if you are travelling as a family or a group and want to be seated together. In practice, this sometimes doesn't work, as when passengers are 'bussed' to the plane and you then have to take your chances along with everyone else.

Personally, I normally travel solo and prefer to wait until the majority have gone through the boarding gate - some of whom have been standing in a queue for a considerable time - I then join the end of the queue and then board the aircraft by the rear steps if possible, working my way towards the front to spot an empty seat. I prefer to sit on the aisle seat and I have no qualms about asking anyone who's hogging all three seats to themselves to either let me pass or to move over - they generally will do the latter and, with luck, the middle seat will remain empty for the duration of the flight - somewhere to deposit book, glasses etc. this is especially useful if travelling with Ryanair as they have decided to dispense with back seat pockets meaning you have to juggle everything on your lap!

I follow a similar procedure when the plane lands. I have never understood the practice of everyone standing as soon as the seatbelt sign goes out scrambling for bags and coats - there's nowhere to go!  I just sit and relax and wait for most people to leave the plane and then leisurely follow. I recently did this at East Midlands airport, a bus was waiting at the bottom of the steps, I was last on board and 'hey presto' first off and through passport control!

a selection of delicious sushi
a selection of delicious sushi

Tip 4 - food for thought

Right - you've made it onto the plane and now you're in need of refreshment. The budget airlines charge for all food and drink at inflated prices - another obvious way to add to their profits. The food is generally nothing special for the money. For example on easyjet you can buy various 'combos' such as a pastry or muffin and a hot drink for about £3.60 or a sandwich, packet of Pringles crisps and a bottle of water for around £6.50. 

However, If you are flying out of British airports or Dublin in the Republic of Ireland, you can usually pick up a 'meal deal' at the 'Boots' outlet for around £3. You get a sandwich, wrap or salad plus a snack such as a bag of crisps, or piece of cake plus a soft drink including smoothies. It's excellent value for money and will keep you going on a short-haul flight to the continent.

But there's nothing to prevent you from taking your own food on board with you - drinks, of course, have to be bought once you've passed through security but you are free to pack up your own gourmet picnic and pretend that you're flying first class after all - if you can ignore the lack of legroom that is!

How about smoked salmon and cream cheese sandwiches on wholemeal bread, a slice of asparagus quiche, peking duck wraps or a selection of sushi followed by a fruit tartlet or just some lovely fresh strawberries to nibble on - yummy - and all easy to eat on board! Just be sure not to bring anything that could be classed as liquid through security - you'll have to wait until you're in sunny Spain for the gazpacho - oh, and don't forget to pack some wet wipes.

Do you fly with budget airlines?

  • Yes, always - they're great
  • Only if I have no other choice
  • No, I avoid them like the proverbial plague!
See results without voting

My personal experience!

I do hope that you have found these tips useful and informative. I have learnt most of them from personal experience since moving to Spain six years ago and having to fly back and forth to the UK several times a year.

I must say that it doesn't get any easier the more that I do it - in fact my last flight was the worst ever. Flying with Ryanair, I first had to pay £40 as I had forgotten to bring my boarding card with me - it was still waiting for me on the bedside table on my return! I then had the problem with the 'oversized' bag - see above. I was already flustered by the time I joined the slow moving queue at security and then I set the alarms off - it turned out be the underwiring in my bra (maybe we'll soon be asked to remove those!) and the various metal rivets on my jeans. This necessitated the most thorough body search I have ever endured, one step down from 'rubber gloves' I suppose!

I entered the airport lounge and anxiously scrutinised the screens to see which boarding gate I needed - to be confronted with the message 'Boarding Gate Closed'. By now, I was whimpering with stress and anxiety as I fought my way through the hoards of happy browsers in the duty free area - now an obligatory money-making obstacle course in the airport - I could see the plane on the tarmac, engines running, ready for take off.

Thankfully they let me through - well they had to really as it would have further delayed things to rummage through the hundreds of bags to offload mine. I just had to brave the disapproving looks of my fellow passengers as I made my way down the aisle to a seat. The plane still arrived at its destination half an hour ahead of schedule.............

So, as you see, I am well qualified on the subject of this hub - happy flying everyone!

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Comments 38 comments

Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 6 years ago from Houston, Texas

You certainly ARE well qualified with your list of experiences. I like your style of taking smoked salmon and cream cheese sandwiches, fresh strawberries and asparagus quiche on board for snacking! If in fact you have not actually done this, at least your recommendations sound yummy! Ha!

We lived in central Wisconsin for 4 years when my husband worked at a paper distributor headquarters. The only way in and out was via a very small airplane where one could not even fully stand up. And talk about leg room or lack thereof...that's another story!

In comparison, your budget airline would be great! LOL


Suki C profile image

Suki C 6 years ago from Andalucia, Spain Author

Ha-ha - thanks for your comment Peggy. No I'm afraid I just dream of sushi - I'm usually so stressed and running late that I'm lucky to have time to grab a ham sandwich from the outlet at the airport!!

On that last awful experience I didn't even have time to get a bottle of water - mind you, a stiff G&T would have gone down better on that occasion!

Maybe I need to follow my own advice :)


Tony W 6 years ago

We perfectly understand what you write Suki. We recently had a very similar experience with a friend we were travelling with to Spain!!


Suki C profile image

Suki C 6 years ago from Andalucia, Spain Author

Hi Tony - you poor thing, you certainly have my sympathy :)


Hannah 6 years ago

Great informative article.


Meg 6 years ago

Oh dear me!

And here am I about to set off on Wednesday on an Easyjet flight to the UK all on my own.

I shall make sure I'm at the airport three hours before take off, can't do with the stress of almost missing a flight, it will be bad enough anyway as even on other more expensive airlines you end up being treated like cattle.


Suki C profile image

Suki C 6 years ago from Andalucia, Spain Author

I agree - allow plenty of time, especially if you are on your own. Do all the necessary things such as such as booking in and getting through security as soon as possible and if you are flying from a large airport get as near to your boarding gate as possible and then just find a quiet place to sit with a book or magazine where you can keep an eye on the information screens and try to relax.

I have found easyjet in the past to be very good and I'm sure the flight will go smoothly for you :)


Paradise7 profile image

Paradise7 6 years ago from Upstate New York

I always fly to Florida to visit my relatives on a budget airline. Flights from New York to Florida are CHEAP! But there are many drawbacks. However, we put up with the inconveniences for a few hours and save $1500 or $2000 round-trip; so it's well worth it.

The security is really getting silly. They made my elderly mother take off her shoes. It was so weird, last time, to stand in the line, shoeless.


Suki C profile image

Suki C 6 years ago from Andalucia, Spain Author

Hi Paradise7 - yes they do that in the UK as well - not all of the time though, I had to take my boots off on that last occasion!

They make people take their belts off as well!

As for cheap fares, I have never paid more than £50 for a one way ticket to Spain and vice-versa, I used to pay more for a 90 minute train trip from Nottingham to London to visit my parents!

I have actually flown for as little as £10 ($16!)including the taxes and, apart from that last experience, have had no problems!


assember 6 years ago

Very well done, I'll be bookmarking this


Suki C profile image

Suki C 6 years ago from Andalucia, Spain Author

thank you assembler - I'm glad that you find it useful:)


lorlie6 profile image

lorlie6 6 years ago from Bishop, Ca

Back in 1985 I developed a fear of flying when my Airliner was caught in the middle of a typhoon over Japan. After reading this, I am soooo glad for that phobia!!!!

Thanks for this great hub, Suki.


Suki C profile image

Suki C 6 years ago from Andalucia, Spain Author

Ha-ha lorlie - I'm not sure that that was my intention when writing this - but glad to have been of service :)


ethel smith profile image

ethel smith 6 years ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

Very informative. I love that first image of plane travel in years gone by.


Suki C profile image

Suki C 6 years ago from Andalucia, Spain Author

Me too Ethel - I'm sure it was a far more pleasant experience in those days!


Dim Flaxenwick profile image

Dim Flaxenwick 6 years ago from Great Britain

Hilarious, but sadly sooooo true of budget airlines. You have a great 'turn of phrase' that made me laugh out loud.


Suki C profile image

Suki C 6 years ago from Andalucia, Spain Author

Glad you liked it Dim - I can laugh about it now, but, I tell you, it wasn't funny at the time :)


Meg 6 years ago

I took your advice , made sure I arrived at the airport in plenty of time which was just as well due to the long delays at security.

I then went for something to eat then went close to the boarding gate, it was a doddle! With EasyJet you can't pre book your seat, booking in early gives you priority boarding

so I got the isle seat that I wanted on both journeys.

I have to admit that being the first time I had flown alone I was a little anxious, but I needn't have worried as they were the two best and least stressful flights I've ever experienced! :)


Suki C profile image

Suki C 6 years ago from Andalucia, Spain Author

Meg - I'm so glad that you had a good experience.

Isn't it odd that very often the more we dread something, the better it turns out!


Denise 6 years ago

Just reading your great tips. I first flew in 1960 to spain and it was with BEA, it was fantastic, they brought sweets round before take off and landing, newspapers were given out, and the meals were lovely and not served on plastic. It was an adventure and lovely, I was a kid at the time and hostess's were lovely, I wanted to be one when I grew up. Now I hate travelling, the service is like an overseer herding his cattle in as quickly as possible and no compassion for the elderly. Oh for the good old days.


Suki C profile image

Suki C 6 years ago from Andalucia, Spain Author

Denise - so true, flying used to be a lovely part of the holiday - something to look forward to. Now it's an ordeal to be got over!


Eileen Hughes profile image

Eileen Hughes 6 years ago from Northam Western Australia

Great hub full of helpful information for those intending to fly. It should help them.

My problem is that I am petrified of flying. I dont know if you have heard of the movie star Mr T. years ago they used to knock him on the head to get him in the plane. I even asked my husband to do that to me. Great hub cheers.


Suki C profile image

Suki C 6 years ago from Andalucia, Spain Author

Ha-ha - well that's an idea!!!!

I have to fly back to the UK in a couple of weeks and I'm not exactly looking forward to it myself - I'll have to re-read my hub :)


Michael Jones 6 years ago

You have some good advice here. I'm due to fly with Ryanaiar next week for the first time and I'll certainly follow your tips - especially about allowing plenty of time!!


consultjtr 6 years ago

Great hub. I really think that arriving at the airport as early as possible and being prepared for anything is sound advice for passengers of any airline at any airport.


Suki C profile image

Suki C 6 years ago from Andalucia, Spain Author

Thanks for your comment consultjtr - yes, I always used to get there at the last minute - I've certainly learnt my lesson now!


seanorjohn profile image

seanorjohn 6 years ago

This will surely prove to be an evergreen hub. Ryanair will be dreaming up new charges for the forseeable future. Voted up. Good hub Suki.


Suki C profile image

Suki C 6 years ago from Andalucia, Spain Author

Thank you for your upvote Seanorjohn - I'm keeping my eye on them :)


Nan Mynatt profile image

Nan Mynatt 5 years ago from Illinois

Thanks for your tips. I hope to start flying again this fall. The summer is so hot, and the weather has been bad. You provided us with a lot of useful info, and I voted you up. I want to invite you to my new venture, that I hope will let me travel more:

http://NanMynatt.OneGreatMovie.com


Suki C profile image

Suki C 5 years ago from Andalucia, Spain Author

Thank you for your nice comments Nan. I'll go and have a look at your link :)


Jeannieinabottle profile image

Jeannieinabottle 4 years ago from Baltimore, MD

This is really helpful information. I've always been too busy or poor to fly, but one day I hope to be able to use your advice when I can take a plane somewhere.


Suki C profile image

Suki C 4 years ago from Andalucia, Spain Author

Thanks Jeannie, we are lucky here in Europe to have a choice of great budget airlines so flying can be really cheap - and, if you follow my tips, stress free ;)


Carole 4 years ago

I thought this was great reading. I always book hols and fly from gatwick as the bar is always open! I'm a nervous flyer and like to have 2 large glasses of red Rioja first, no matter what time of the day! I guess if I'm up at 2am, then 3.30am is time for a pre lunch drink! I always allow heaps of time for check-in, for this purpose alone! hic....Don't think I've done budget airlines but the best flight for me was Austraus, I may have spelt it wrong but Bruce Dickinson from Iron Maiden was our pilot and he whizzed us to Egypt in far less time than was expected and most smoothly! Don't like circling around London & Thorpe park on return from heathrow. Not worried about food, just as a means of taking up time before I can get off and have a smoke! Free drinks on board is great but I make sure I have enough money for them if necessary!!! XXX PS Baggage....a few bikinis will usually suffice!


Suki C profile image

Suki C 4 years ago from Andalucia, Spain Author

Thanks for your comments Carole - I never thought of recommending a few glasses of Rioja - but 'why not' - anything that helps :-D

And wow - Bruce Dickinson himself!!! Did he introduce himself? Next time you find yourself at Gatwick have a look at a couple of paintings a FB friend of mine Tiffany Dowling was commissioned to do for Wetherspoons. She has a unique style :)

https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.26217487...


Danielle 4 years ago

Well I'm flying out to Spain tomorrow on a budget airline so this article has been very handy. Wish me luck...


Suki C profile image

Suki C 4 years ago from Andalucia, Spain Author

Good luck Danielle - see you in Periana?


Xolo 4 years ago

Thanks, this really helps as I will be flying to Malaga with Easyjet at the end of the month (quite exciting!) It will be my first time flying and even going abroad so this really helped to prepare me!


Suki C profile image

Suki C 4 years ago from Andalucia, Spain Author

So glad you've found it useful Xolo. I always fly into Málaga and usually with Ryanair or Easyjet so I am very used to the journey.

Are you coming on holiday? One thing to bear in mind is that if you are flying back from Málaga with Easyjet is to allow even more time than the two hours that they advise - especially if you want to visit the shops in the new terminal. There is also quite a long walk to the budget airlines boarding gates once you have gone through security.

Hope your flight goes smoothly and that you have a good time in Spain - let us know how it goes :)

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