There are now dozens of low cost carriers flying across Europe’s air space, although these flights are not as cheap as they used to be, and they might not go where you think you are going. But, if you do your homework you can bag yourself a bargain.
Understand Arrival Airport Location
If landing charges are cheap and there is demand for tickets, low-cost airlines will land a jumbo at any tin pot airport. Which can be good, as long as you’ve researched where it is you’re actually landing. And by this I mean pin point that airport on a map and measure the distance to the town it is named after.
You don’t want to arrive to discover that you’re in the middle of nowhere at the back of the queue for the taxi rank that is serviced by two cabs an hour.
London Southend airport, for example, has just had an overhaul and Easyjet is offering lots of new routes from there this summer. Southend, however, is not in London, it’s on the Essex coast and tagging London on to its location is really pushing it!
On the other hand, these little known airports could enable you to be first tourist in the queue to some of Europe’s undiscovered beauty spots. Ryanair, for example, flies into Nïmes, which is a relatively sleepy area of Southern France.
Stock Up on Food
Most of these low-cost airlines charge extra for everything they can think of. There was even a rumour that Ryanair would start charging for toilet usage at one point! Consequently, you will find a limited, and often very expensive, range of food and beverages on board.
So, leave some time between going through security and boarding to stock up on takeaway airport food. Buy it before going through security and it could be confiscated. Major airports generally have a good supply of food stores, but smaller ones are much more restricted so definitely eat before checking-in, in this case as your next decent meal is likely to be another country away.
Weigh Flight Timing Challenge Versus Savings Benefit
The cheapest flights are often at the most unreasonable hours. So check and double check the timing before booking. Short-haul night flights with kids aren’t worth saving a few bucks for.
This Ireland-based airline with around 200 routes across Europe, is the airline we alI love to hate. You take your first flight with them and you vow never again. Then it comes to researching your next holiday and yet again, despite all their chutzpahdik extra charges, they come up with the best offer and, because you’ve been with them before, you know what to expect and you prepare for it and you know what, it’s not that bad.
So if you haven’t been with them before, here are my tips. Be prepared to travel light. They not only charge you extra for each bag you stow in the hold, they have a 15kg weight limit on each bag you check-in. To give you something to compare this too, Virgin Atlantic has a 23kg maximum weight per hold bag for an economy ticket. In our first family trip with Ryanair we had to unpack three suitcases in the luggage hall in an attempt to redistribute the extra weight of each into our hand luggage. They slap an extortionate extra charge fee for every kilogram your check-in baggage is over.
To overcome this annoyance we have now bought extra light suitcases and have invested in a cheap luggage scale so we arrive at the optimum weight limit.
They also charge you extra for priority boarding and reserved seating. I don’t bother with either of these. The kids sit on their Trunkies, and we stand in-line, the priority guys are not that far ahead of us. With regards to reserved seating, I gamble on the fact that I am sure there is some law about separating a minor from their guardian, so they can’t not seat us with our kids.
You feel slightly less like cattle when you travel with Easyjet, which claims to be the UK’s largest airline, with over 600 routes across Europe. Their maximum hold luggage weight is a more doable 23kg, but they also add an admin fee and like Ryanair have a charge for infants travelling on laps. They also charge extra for Speedy Boarding. Again, I don’t bother with these optional extra charges.
This airline is not limited to Europe, but it can offer up some surprisingly cheap cross Europe flights and there are fewer added extras too, so the price you are quoted is much closer to what you will eventually end up paying. There is complimentary food and beverages and they don’t charge an additional fee to stow baggage up to 20kg per economy ticket in the hold.
This is a charter airline that largely serves the package holiday market, but they’ve entered the low-cost airfare market as a way of offloading unsold seats. You could be sandwiched between large family groups travelling en-mass and hen and stag weekenders, but it’s great for people watching.
They do charge extra for check-in luggage, but there is a 20kg weight allowance. There is an extra charge for food and you have to pay extra for reserved seating.
This airline has over 200 routes across Europe. It specialises in regional areas and is particularly good for accessing European skiing resorts. All seats are allocated before boarding, but there is a charge for economy passengers to use the hold for luggage.
If you fancy exploring the further parts of the British Isles before heading on to mainland Europe, Jet2 flies from dozens of UK regional airports. Although its ticket prices are cheap it again piles on the extras. Extra leg-room, hold baggage, reserved seating, it all comes at a cost.
This Budapest based airline flies over 200 routes across the continent and serves Eastern Europe particularly well. If you fancy visiting a place you’ve never before heard of, check out their route map. Baggage is chargeable if checked in and there are also booking fees, priority boarding fees and reserved seat fees.
Photo courtesy of EasyJet
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A very timely post for our family as I am researching ways to go from London to Switzerland to Italy to Sicily and then back to London 🙂 Still debating train or plane or a mix of both. Oh and it will be me traveling between cities with 2 kids under 3 alone most of the time. 😉 Wish me luck!