Making the most of Ryanair on your year abroad
Lukas is 23 years old from Hamburg in Germany, and he's doing his Interpreting and Translating (French and Spanish) degree at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh. He is currently spending the first semester of his year abroad in Brussels, and will be heading to Barcelona for his second. As a seasoned and thrifty traveller, here is his advice about making the most of budget airline Ryanair on your year abroad...
After almost 30 years of existence, Ryanair have well and truly earned their place as Europe's most controversial airline. From the notoriously persistent and somewhat amusing urban myth of charging passengers to use the on-board toilets ('spend a pound to spend a penny') to suggesting removing seats and making passengers stand during flights, the company never fails to spark the imagination – and outrage – of its millions of customers. Yet still we flock to Europe's most out-of-the-way airports in our ever-continuing hunt for the cheapest way to get from A to B. For years, Ryanair have been quietly driving down the price of flying and transformed it from a luxury previously the preserve of the rich and/or famous to an everyday experience as cheap and normal as hopping on a train.
Whether you love them or hate them, for any student on their year abroad – always on a budget, always on the move – Ryanair are a godsend. They enable the homesick to jump on a flight back home for a short and heartfelt reunion with mum and dad and what is more, they make the act of visiting and being visited a delightfully easy possibility.
Chances are, when you are on your year abroad so are your friends from uni back home. Scattered across Europe, everyone immerses themselves in their new, temporary lives only to return and tell you why they had it better than you. Why not go see for yourself? I for myself have just booked flights to go from Brussels to Madrid to visit my friends who are on their year abroad there, an adventure that will set me back by a grand total of €30, courtesy of Ryanair.
However, be warned: booking a flight with Ryanair is a tricky endeavour. Their website is a cunningly constructed labyrinth and after each wrong turn there lurks an extra charge, ready to be added onto your fare.
But fret not; here is a step-by-step guide to making the most of everyone's most and least favourite budget airline:
- If you have never flown with Ryanair before, forget everything you know about flying – that is, mainly your expectations. A plane is, in the company's CEO's own words 'just a bloody bus with wings'.
- Travel light – truly cheap air travel is only available to those travelling with hand-luggage only. It's 10kg max for hand-luggage so carry everything you can't stuff into your bag on your body (multiple layers of clothes are not unheard of and you can take it all off again once you're on the plane).
- Be flexible with dates and try to fly Monday – Thursday only.
- Make use of their regular promotions, sign up to the newsletter – this is when it gets seriously cheap.
- Navigate their website. Now this is the tricky part. After you've found your flights and continued to the next screen you can avoid all extra charges by ticking the right boxes:
- Enter your details and select '0 bags' if you're travelling with hand-luggage only.
- Say 'no' to priority boarding – it's pointless as everyone gets a seat anyway.
- In the drop-down menu for travel insurance scroll right down to the bottom and select 'Travel Without Insure'.
- Leave the Reserved Seating box unchecked.
- Select not to receive your flight details by text – you'll get an email free of charge.
- Check or uncheck the following two boxes (Musical Instruments and Special Assistance) according to what you need. Check the box at the bottom and click continue.
- They'll ask again if you want their travel insurance – you don't.
- On the following screen say no to everything, including airport transfer (you are guaranteed to find cheaper transfer yourself).
- Now enter your contact and payment details – credit cards incur extra charges, debit cards don't. If you're booking from abroad, the amount will appear in your card's own currency next to the amount in euros after you've entered your card number.
- Click 'Purchase Now' – Done.
- Check in online – This is important. You absolutely have to check in online otherwise you're looking at a €80 extra charge. You will need your passport and booking reference which you'll find in your confirmation email.
- Print your boarding pass in advance (up to 14 days before departure) and bring it to the airport with you (again, €80 charge if you don't).
- Go straight through security, you are already checked in and ideally don't have a bag to drop off.
- Get on board and enjoy your flight! (just don't buy any of the food – trust me).