Shoestring Budget Travels: The Budget Airlines Edition

Marrakech Airport - we landed via EasyJet!
Marrakech Airport – we landed via EasyJet!

One (rude) question that comes up often when I tell people about my travels is “how can you afford to go???”. There are numerous ways that the average person can afford to travel, one which being saving your money :-).

The biggest expense in traveling is normally getting to your location. You can cut this expense by more than half if you utilize budget airlines. No, I’m not talking about Southwest or Airtran – I’m talking international budget airlines like EasyJet, RyanAir and Vueling.

Sample Fares:
Barcelona to Madrid via Vueling: $40
London to Ibiza via RyanAir: $45
Milan to Marrakech via EasyJet: $52

These are fares that I found using dates about 3 months into the future, randomly selecting destinations. My sister and I flew EasyJet to Marrakech, from Milan. Our total roundtrip fare per person was $112. Much cheaper than roundtrip airfare from JFK to Marrakech, which averages $1200! Our entire trip costs less than that!

Now while these are good deals, there are things you do need to be aware of when traveling these airlines. EasyJet has very strict carry-on rules – only one bag per person – that includes your personal item. Your one bag MUST fit into their very small carry-on box at the ticket counter. I’ve definitely been declined before and had to pay 30 euros to check my bag. The fee to check in your bag can vary, I’ve heard of people having to pay up to 60 euros to check their bag.

RyanAir tends to not fly out of major airports. For example, you won’t find a cheap flight out of London Heathrow on RyanAir. This is one of the ways they keep their costs down. If you can find an easy and cheap way to get to an airport they fly out of, such as Stansted, you can take advantage of their cheap fares. In May, I flew from Rome to Paris on EasyJet (for $100), but into Paris Orly Airport, not Charles De Gaulle. I took the Air France shuttle bus from Orly to CDG so I could make my flight back to the States – and it didn’t cost me an arm and a leg, either!

Vueling is a budget airline under the larger airline, Iberia Airlines. I’ve never flown either, but I will say that I haven’t heard rave reviews of either. For some, this may be the biggest drawback of flying a budget airline. You’re definitely not getting the perks of flying Emirates, Qantas, Delta or Lufthansa, but you are getting there safely and on the cheap! Don’t expect free-flowing drinks or amazing snacks. Don’t expect an organized boarding process or to be on a flight full of business travelers. Depending on your route, you may be on a flight with nothing but screaming children, irate, tired, travelers, or young, boisterous spring breakers. I’ve had flights where there was a peaceful boarding and a calm, relaxing flight – and I’ve had flights where I wanted to personally strangle every boarding agent and passenger! It’s the gamble you take.

Here’s a few tips on the budget airlines travel:

+ Book early. The prices go up the longer you wait, like with regular airlines.
+ Pack light – you don’t want to incur baggage fees.
+ Bulk up! If you have a lot and don’t have space in your carry on, you can always wear more than a few items of clothing and stuff your pockets to the brim. There’s no rules against that! Although going thru security could be a pain.
+ When you book your travel from the States, check the route maps of the budget airlines first! You don’t want to fly somewhere and find out you have no options.
+ Get travel insurance.
+ Bring your patience! I’ll keep my fingers crossed for you, but it could be a stressful experience.
+ Keep the flight time to about a 2 hour max if possible. I don’t recommend flying long distances on budget airlines, for peace of mind reasons!

Obviously you save more money when you utilize these airlines if you find cheap airfare from the States to begin with. Keep your eye on my blog – I’ll post how you can get great international airfare deals!

EasyJet Route Map
RyanAir Destinations
Vueling Route Map
Budget Flying Within Europe by Rick Steves

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