If you’re looking to travel around Europe, you’ve probably heard of low-cost carrier Ryanair. With airfares as low as €5 and a route map that covers nearly every corner of Europe, flying Ryanair is a popular option among budget travelers. In fact, it’s the largest airline in all of Europe in terms of passengers carried.

However, not everyone who flies Ryanair knows what to expect and that has led the airline to be at the bottom of customer rankings across several polls. One of the biggest complaints is its many extra fees. Ryanair was one of the first airlines in the world to charge for checked bags and the extra fees really took off from there. To help you avoid or reduce those fees and have as enjoyable of an experience as possible, follow these tips when flying Ryanair.

Check Your Airports

Ryanair plane mid-flight

In many cities, Ryanair flies to secondary airports which can be hours outside of the main city center. For instance, it markets flights to/from Paris but does not fly into either of the two airports in the Paris metro area. Instead, Ryanair flies from Beauvais airport (BVA), which is over an hour away to the north, and Vatry (XCR) airport, which is over two hours to the east.

You’ll usually be able to find direct bus service to/from these outside airports but make sure to factor in time, cost, and convenience into your decision. It may make more sense to fly another carrier at a closer airport. In some cities, you’ll find Ryanair flights from the main airport but don’t assume this to be the case. Make sure to always double check exactly which airport you’re flying from/to—especially when planning on making connections from long-haul international flights.

Buy Bags in Advance

The initial fare you see when you book a Ryanair flight only includes a small personal item that fits under the seat in front of you. Its dimensions must be under 40x25x20 cm. The vast majority of travelers will be traveling with more luggage and you’ll want to pay for those bags during booking. Extra bag fees range between €8-40 Euro for the first bag when booked online depending on the route, weight, and whether you want to carry-on or check your luggage.

However, if you wait to pay at the airport, it can cost up to €70, which will likely wipe away any airfare savings compared to other airlines. For this reason, it’s best to have a good idea of what you’d like to bring before booking a Ryanair flight. Pack everything up and weigh your bag so you have a good estimate and make sure to add the required luggage during booking.

Skip Bundles and Seat Selection

For the most part, I would suggest skipping purchasing a bundle on Ryanair. Sticking with the “Value” fare and adding any extras you want a la carte will likely be cheaper since you shouldn’t really need some of the things the bundles include, such as airport check-in.

The same goes for seat selection. I know some will gladly pay more for extra legroom or to ensure a seat next to a companion but if you really want to keep your flight as cheap as possible, choose “Option 2: Select seats later” at the top of the seat selection screen. Your seat will be randomly assigned for free during check-in.

Note: When traveling with children under 12, you will be required to pay for one adult seat assignment (around €5) and seat the children next to that adult for free.

Related: 8 Tips for Flying Wizz Air

Pay for Priority

Blue carry-on suitcase in overhead bin of airplane
Have a nice day | Adobe Stock

If you want to travel with a larger carry-on bag, you’ll need to purchase Ryanair’s “Priority & 2 cabin bags” add-on. I find this to be the best value since it’s usually cheaper than paying for checked luggage and also allows you to skip the check-in counter and board the plane first. The fee varies between €8-30 and includes a 10kg carry-on bag up to 55x20x20 cm in addition to your free small personal item bag.

The best part about having Priority is that it seems to give you less scrutiny on the actual size/weight of your bag. At most airports, gate agents will not have the ability to weigh your bags at the gate and oftentimes board priority passengers without paying much attention to their bags. There are always going to be a few sticklers but your chances of sneaking by with a slightly heavier or larger bag are greater if you purchase Priority.

Refrain from Booking Family Plus

It may seem like a good add-on when traveling with a family, but when you crunch the numbers it’s almost never worth it. The Family Plus bundle includes a 10kg check-in bag for all passengers, one 20kg check-in bag total for the entire family, and “free seats for kids under 12”. That last part sounds like a selling point, right? However, kids under 12 always get free seat assignments next to an adult on the same reservation—and it only requires a nominal €5 fee for the adult’s seat assignment.

As I said before, adding necessary extras a la carte is almost always the cheapest way to go. If you add the Family Plus bundle, you’ll be charged extra, per person, for things you don’t even need. Even if a family of four wants to check in five bags, it will be cheaper to pay for those separately. And if you’re traveling with a baby (under 2), you’re always allowed an extra baby bag up to 5kg and two items of baby equipment such as a stroller and a car seat, free of charge.

Don’t Book Car Rentals, Hotels, or Insurance Through Ryanair

Adding extras during booking should stop after you choose your baggage. Ryanair will try to sell you insurance, hotels, car rentals, and activities. All of these options will be more expensive than what you can find elsewhere so I recommend to ignore the sales pitch and click on the “continue” button on the bottom of the page until you reach the overview page. Then, click on the shopping cart in the upper-right corner of the screen to proceed to the check-out page where you’ll enter your payment information.

Related: The 12 Best Hotel Booking Sites

Pay in Local Currency

Close-up of woman taking euros out of a red wallet
VAKSMANV | Adobe Stock

Ryanair offers to convert the price of your ticket to your own currency but you’ll always get a worse exchange rate than you can get with your credit card. Instead, choose to pay in Euro, British Pounds, or the local currency of your flight’s departure city. Book with a credit card that has no foreign transaction fees and you’ll get the best exchange rate.

However, don’t be surprised by Ryanair’s credit card transaction fee. This ranges up to about 2% depending on the card used and is unfortunately unavoidable when booking a Ryanair flight.

Check-In Online

The most important thing to do when flying Ryanair is to check-in online before you get to the airport. I repeat, Check. In. Online. Ryanair’s biggest “gotcha” fee is an airport check-in fee of up to €55. This means you should never go to the airport without checking in online first.

If you purchased a seat assignment, you can check-in online 60 days in advance. For those who chose to get a random seat assignment for free, you can check in starting 24 hours before departure. In both cases, you must be checked in online at least 2 hours before departure to avoid any extra fees.

Print Your Boarding Pass or Download the App

It’s also important to print or download your boarding pass when you check-in online. Of course, Ryanair charges a fee to reprint your boarding pass if you lose it so make sure it’s in a safe place. To avoid the hassle, I recommend downloading the free Ryanair app. It will make the check-in process seamless and you’ll always be able to pull up a boarding pass for free right on your phone.

Certain airports may not accept mobile boarding passes but as long as you’ve completed the check-in process online or through the app first, you’ll be able to receive your paper boarding card at the airport for free.

Related: 5 Apps You Need for COVID-19 Travel

Adjust Your Expectations

Flight attendant walking up aisle of Ryanair plane cabin
kasto | Adobe Stock

Finally, it’s best to adjust your expectations when flying Ryanair. It is a budget airline after all. The seats look and feel cheap with no seatback pockets but surprisingly sufficient padding. There’s also no Wi-Fi or entertainment onboard so unless you bring something to occupy your time, like a good book or a tablet, you’ll be left to read the safety information that is printed on the seat backs for the entire flight.

Ryanair sells overpriced food and beverages onboard so it’s best to pack some snacks of your own. The seats do not recline and the average seat pitch is around 30” which is a little cramped.
Since Ryanair’s flights are mostly short hops within Europe, it might be worth your while to forgo a few amenities for an extremely cheap way to get from point A to point B. And with Ryanair’s vast route network of nonstop flights, it might also be the quickest way to get where you’re going.

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