If you want to fly, European budget airlines are definitely the best way to get around Europe if you can follow their rules. They allow so many people, like us, to travel more frequently and to more places than we’d be able to get to otherwise.
Because they are priced lower (sometimes MUCH lower) than traditional airlines, you can guess that you may not have all the comforts or services you expect from full-price airlines. This post is all about managing your expectations on budget airlines in Europe to make the best of them!
Play their game and you can win!
Dealing with the airlines
Beware of luggage restrictions on budget airlines
Luggage really is the biggest elephant in the room. As a frequent traveler in Europe, I’m getting to know the budget airlines quite well. For example, I know that EasyJet gives you one bag to take as a carry-on…and they will stop you at the ticket check if you have more. Transavia has the option for the tradition personal bag + one piece of carry-on luggage. BUT that luggage is not guaranteed to stay in the cabin! If there’s no more room, under the plane it goes! This kind of system is becoming more and more popular.
Honestly, just reading through the airline’s website helps a lot but there’s also this super helpful post from Travel Made Simple with a carry-on size chart for over 150 airlines! Check the luggage restrictions and measure that bag. I’ve tested my rolling bag (eBags 21” Mother Lode Mini) in the smallest of carry-on brackets in the airport (when nobody was looking…just in case 😉 ) so I can confidently know it will fit. If there’s ever a doubt, I also have a 19” eBags convertible backpack that I’ll use. If you’re looking for some good luggage, I’m happy to share why I love our bags.
If you’re flying carry-on only — which you totally should be doing if you’re flying within Europe — bypass that check-in counter and save yourself one less frustration. Just check-in ahead of time and put that boarding pass on your phone which you may need to download their app to do. Or, print it out for peace of mind, though, some airlines still require a printed boarding pass. Be sure to check ahead!.
Budget airlines aren’t known for service
So far, I’ve never had a problem with the service of European budget airlines, but I’m sure the day will come, and it’s good to be prepared. Follow all your regular airlines on Twitter, and if you need them, reach out right away. Twitter is literally the best thing to happen to the service industry!
Once I went to the airport with my boarding pass which said “Boarding time 08:45”. But when I got to the airport, the board said that was the departure time. Luckily, I was there well ahead of time, but the experience taught me not only to look at my ticket but to also stay up-to-date using Google flights as well (which told me the gate number). If you live in Amsterdam, download the Schiphol app and it will be your best friend.
Actually, I had to ask someone for confirmation at the airport information desk because I just didn’t see my flight on the board…now that’s a scary thing.
Don’t ever hesitate to ask for help! Gates change, flights are delayed, connections are short, and sometimes things just get really messed up. If you need to get where you are going and you’re not sure, just ask someone what you need to know.
Some will care about this more than others. When traveling with someone you may want to sit together, so it might be worth the money to snatch up two seats wherever you want on the plane. Or maybe you’re a tall person and REALLY need the legroom. Or maybe you just have to “go” a lot and need an aisle seat. For whatever reason, grabbing your seat ahead of time can be a nice luxury …even on a 2-hour flight.
Surviving the budget flight
Really on any flight, these are a must-have for frequent travelers. That plane sound…OMG. It can make me so angry! Add to that, people who talk too loud, who are on the phone, or really any other audio annoyance and it’s nice to block it all out with some noise-cancelling headphones. You may not even use them to listen to anything except for the thoughts in your head.
Find comfort in a tablet or phone
Personally, I love my tablet to watch videos or write when I’m on the plane. Put on headphones and some good music and it’s almost like you’re not squished in a tin can. Get your productivity on, or chill out with a movie. Your choice!
Battery packs save the day
Do not expect outlets on a budget airline. I’ve been on a few flights that do have them…but never count on it! If it’s just your phone, then a lipstick charger is probably fine. But if you have rechargeable headphones, phone, tablet, etc, then get a good powerful one. I have an in-between one that’s solar-powered from Tespack and I love it.
Nobody likes hangry
This is pretty self-explanatory I think. Bring snacks you know you’ll like that don’t cost an arm and a leg like they would on the plane. I usually go with granola bar type snacks, but grab those chips or gummies or whatever makes you happy. Because let’s be real…hangry is a real thing. Regardless if my computer is telling me that’s not a word.
You know to stay hydrated on the plane, right? Please do. Either bring a water bottle from home that you can fill after security or just buy a bottle of water when you’re near your gate. Besides, you’ll need it to wash down your snacks!
To stay comfortable on a chilly plane, this is a must. I love to travel with my fleece jacket if it’s a warmer season, or I use my scarf if it’s cold outside and I don’t want to wear my winter jacket in the seat. But seriously, who doesn’t love a good, versatile scarf?
Is it going to feel like first class? Sadly, no. But at least you can be a bit more comfortable than if you didn’t plan ahead.
Get cheap flights. See amazing places. Make the most of life in Europe.
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