I have a love-hate relationship with Ryanair. I love that they offer so many cheap flights to amazing destinations, but hate all the fees and customer service issues. Still, I want to travel as much as possible and they have more routes at lower prices than other airlines especially flying out of London’s Stansted Airport. We have used them to fly to Riga, Colmar (via Basel), Lisbon, Hamburg, and the Algarve. Based on my experience, here are my tips for flying with Ryanair so that you don’t have to learn the hard way.
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Flying Ryanair is not like any other airline. They have their own way of doing things and it can be confusing, especially if you are flying Ryanair for the first time or if you are not an EU Citizen. If you mess up, it can be costly. That’s why it’s important to read my advice for flying Ryanair before booking any travel with them.
If you are organizing a trip, you might also want to check out my printable travel planner.
Search for Flights on the Ryanair Website
It is easy to find cheap flights using ryanair.com. If you know where you want to go and when then search for your flight using the “Search Flights” option under the Plan menu. It’s similar to many other airline websites, where you input the departure airport, destination airport, dates, and how many travelers.
Sometimes though, you want to get away but you are not sure where to go. Maybe you have a very tight budget. If that is the case, try the “Fare Finder” option under the Plan menu. Just put in your departure airport and budget and find out all the options that fit. You can also specify the timing if you already have an idea of when you are looking to travel. I have seen flights as low as €4.98 each way. Remember that these prices do not include any extra fees so, in the end, the price will be higher. I have also discovered some cities that I never ever heard of!
Pay Attention to the Fare Type When Booking Travel With Ryanair
You need to pay extra attention when booking flights with Ryanair. There are several different options and it can be confusing, so I am going to break it down here.
First, just like other airlines, you need to put in the airport you want to fly from and the airport you want to fly to along with the dates and number of passengers. Then on the next screen, choose the time and the fare type.
For fare type on Ryanair flights, there are the following options:
- Standard – This is your cheapest option. It only includes the flight and one small cabin bag (40cm x 20cm x 25cm). A purse counts as a small cabin bag. This is much stricter than the baggage rules on most US airlines. Our rolling backpack was too big. I actually bought this small backpack to make sure I could comply with the size restrictions. It slightly bigger than the measurements but can be squeezed into the sizer if it’s not stuffed full. Baggage (or other extras) can be added for an additional fee.
- Plus – With the plus fare you get priority boarding, two cabin bags (one small bag measuring 40cm x 20cm x 25cm and one larger bag not exceeding 10kg and 55cm x 40cm x 20cm), a reserved standard seat, and a 20 kg checked bag. Again, the bags I used in the US are larger than the ones that Ryanair allows. For the small bag, I bought this compact backpack. For the larger carry on bag, you need something like this one that also has a USB charging port.
- Family Plus – If you are booking a flight with children, there is the option to book a Family Plus fare. That gives you priority boarding, two Cabin Bags(one small bag measuring 40cm x 20cm x 25cm and one larger bag not exceeding 10kg and 55cm x 40cm x 20cm), two 20kg checked bags, and free seats for the children. You have to pay a small additional fee to choose the standard seats for adults and then the kids are assigned seat by you for no additional charge.
- Flexi-Plus – The Flexi-Plus fare includes priority boarding, two cabin bags (one small bag measuring 40cm x 20cm x 25cm and one larger bag not exceeding 10kg and 55cm x 40cm x 20cm), any reserved seat, security fast track, free airport check-in at the Flexi-Plus desk (shorter lines!), and a flexible ticket. The flexible ticket gives you the option to make some changes to your flight time, destination, or departure airport at no extra cost.
This table shows a visual comparison of the Ryanair fare types.
Which fare type is best? It depends. I don’t always book the same type because my luggage needs for each trip differs. If I think I can get away without a checked bag, then the best deal is to book the Standard Fare and add the two cabin bags as described below. All passengers on the same reservation will have the same fare type, but you can choose different baggage options.
Don’t Buy All the Ryanair Extras
After you have chosen your fare type, Ryanair will try to entice you with some “extras.” I will explain what they offer and help you decide if they are worth it.
Ryanair Baggage Fees
As of November 2018, Ryanair’s luggage policy is that passengers only get one small carry on bag (a handbag counts) for free unless they pay for one of the plus fare types. You can add additional luggage to any ticket. First, check to see what is already included. For example, if you bought the Plus fare it includes two cabin bags and one 20 kg checked bag. You only need to add luggage if you want to check two bags. If you do want to add baggage, the options are:
- Two Cabin Bags (one small and one overhead bag): All fares come with one small cabin bag so, in reality, this is letting you bring a second bag that weighs 10kg (or less) and measures (no more than) 55 cm x 40 cm x 20 cm. It costs between €/£6 to €/£10 each way and also includes priority boarding.
- 10 kg Checked Bag – For between €/£10 to €/£ 12 each way, you can add a 10 kg checked bag. This does not include priority boarding. Since it is more expensive than the option above (and doesn’t include priority boarding), it doesn’t make much sense to get this option unless your bag is larger than the carry on dimensions. If you need to add a bag but did not book it online, purchase this 10kg bag option at the airport bag drop desk for €/£20 or €/£25 at the boarding gate.
- 20 kg Checked Bag – Each passenger can add up to three 20 kg checked bags. If purchased during the booking process it costs €/£25 or €/£40 if added later. Make sure each bag does not exceed the weight limit or it will cost £/€11 per kilo that you are over. These prices are charged per bag each way. Ryanair will not accept an individual item that weighs more than 32 kg or with dimensions of more than 81 cm x 119 cm x 119 cm.
- Sports/Ski equipment, golf clubs, bikes, and musical instruments can be checked for an additional fee. Check the specific amounts here.
All these baggage fees are non-refundable. You also cannot switch to another baggage type once you have purchased it. Instead, you would have to pay an additional baggage fee.
Security Fast Track
For a fee, you can pay to skip the line at the security checkpoint. You still have to take out your computer, remove your liquids, etc, but it does save the time of waiting in the line. Some airports are worse than others and the wait time can vary depending on the day and time. Ryanair seems to always tell me that the security will be busy at the time I am flying, but I think that it is just a sales tactic. I’m not buying it. I can stand in line if I have to. So far, the longest I have had to wait is 25 minutes.
Not all airports will have a fast track option. Ryanair also mentions on their FAQs that you still need to allow enough time to go through security and they will not be responsible for missed flights.
I also refuse to pay extra for an assigned seat even when I am traveling with my husband. Ryanair tends to randomly assign us at opposite ends of the planes. Several times we have had empty seats next to at least one of us so that we could easily move to be together. In other cases, I have asked people to switch so we could sit together – we always offer a window or aisle seat for a middle so it’s a win-win. Then there was one time where we both had middle seats. Luckily the people sitting next to Russell moved to sit with their travel partners and left their seats for me. So far we have had good luck still being able to sit together without paying for assigned seats!
The fee for seats varies depending on the type of seat you want. They have standard seats, front seats, and extra legroom seats. There is also a different fee for the mandatory family seats.
You should consider booking parking through Ryanair if you are driving to the airport. I found that the parking Ryanair offered me for Stansted Airport has been cheaper than what I saw on other websites. The other thing that is nice is that since you have booked for Ryanair, I think they communicate with the parking systems if there is any problem. When we arrived home over a day late because of a canceled flight, we didn’t have to pay anything extra.
As an EU airline, Ryanair is subject to the EU Flight Compensation rules, but you still need travel insurance. I can’t say I recommend buying travel insurance through Ryanair, although it is reasonably priced. Hopefully, you have it through some other source. I did have to use it once and I did get the compensation I deserved but that was after countless frustrating emails back and forth.
Ryanair has the option to book rental cars as an add-on to your flight. I have not tried this option, but I would recommend checking other car rental websites like Clarify Car Hire to compare prices. Don’t forget to make sure you have the appropriate insurance.
Watch out for Credit Card Fees
Ryanair will charge a small fee for processing some credit cards. This will be added as a small line item in the bill after you enter your payment information so it is a bit sneaky. If after you enter your payment information you see this fee, try paying by PayPal instead. It allows you to use the same credit card but avoids the processing fee.
Mistakes to Avoid When You Travel On Ryanair
In addition to booking the flight with the right extras, there are a few other things you need to be aware of when you fly Ryanair.
Don’t Bring Too Much Baggage
First, make sure the luggage you packed is within the restrictions. (Check out our packing tips to help reduce the amount you bring). For carry on bags, check the weight and measurements to make sure you are in compliance. Do this as soon as possible – ideally before heading to the airport. If you need to add more luggage, the sooner you do it the cheaper it will be. It will be most expensive if you are forced to pay for more/larger bags at the airport. I have seen gate agents ask passengers to put their bags in the sizers. If they decide that your cabin baggage is too large it may go on the plane with the other checked baggage (if possible) for a fee of €/£50 or they could even refuse to take it.
Check-In for Your Flight In Advance
Make sure you check in before getting to the airport or there is a €/£55 fee (unless you purchased the Flexi-Plus fare). When you check in, Ryanair will again try to sell you more baggage and other extras. Look very carefully to see what you already purchased. Be careful not to buy another bag if you have already purchased one.
Print Your Ryanair Boarding Pass
If you are not an EU citizen, make sure you print out your boarding pass. Ryanair requires non-EU citizens to do a VISA check before passing through security. Basically, you have to go to a desk where they check your passport and either initial or stamp your boarding pass. If you don’t have a boarding pass printed, they charge €/£25. EU citizens can use an electronic boarding pass from the Ryanair app.
Depending on your fare type and extras, you may not be allowed to check in until 48 hours before the flight. You may need to figure out a way to get the boarding pass printed while you are traveling. In some cases, your hotel might be willing to help out.
The Ryanair Boarding Process
Typically, Ryanair will announce the gate assignment one hour before the flight is scheduled to leave. At that time, head to the gate. There will be two lines – one for priority customers and one for everyone else. With the new changes, the priority line tends to be longer than the non-priority one.
Ryanair sometimes starts boarding before the plane even arrives. They start checking boarding passes and luggage and then have everyone lined up ready to get on the plane. Normally, they do not use a jetbridge and instead have stairs at both the front and the back of the plane. The boarding pass says which door to use.
How to Improve Your Ryanair In-Flight Experience
When you fly Ryanair, you can tell it is a low-cost airline. Space is tight and the seats don’t recline. The headrest does not have any wings, so a travel neck pillow will make it much more comfortable to sleep. If you get cold, you will need to bring your own blanket or maybe a sweater or scarf like this one with pockets.
The interior of the plane is covered with advertisements – the trays, seat back, and overhead compartments. The inflight magazine is more like a catalog, which they will give you for free. There aren’t any seatback pockets.
You have to buy all drinks on the plane (yes, including bottled water and other non-alcoholic beverages) so it may be better to either fill-up a re-usable water bottle (like this one) after security or buy a drink before boarding. You can buy snacks too, but again I think it’s better to pack your own. Drinks cost around €3/£3 and snacks like chips start at €2/£2.
The flight attendants won’t be passing out headphones, so be sure to bring those too (like these here). There is no in-flight entertainment so download podcasts, books, movies, etc before boarding. (Amazon Prime has lots of options). Ryanair doesn’t even offer the option to purchase wifi.
Is Ryanair Worth It?
With all the extra fees and confusing policies, you may wonder if it is worth flying Ryanair? Ryanair will never be my favorite airline, but if you want a cheap airline to get around Europe, they have the most options. If you know how to travel with them, it can save you a lot of money.
Do you have any other tips for flying on Ryanair?
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