Here are a few tips I’ve learned along the way when flying on a student budget.
One of the main reasons I chose to study abroad in Europe was the ease in which I could fly and travel continentally. While a two-hour flight in America might take me right outside of Florida, a two-hour flight in Europe could take me between Prague, Rome, Paris, Berlin, and more, all at an affordable price. The key is finding the best flights for the lowest price, which for me included a lot of flying on budget airlines. What I didn’t know is that sometimes you’ll end up paying more at the back end of your travels if you don’t know their protocol. So here are a few tips I’ve learned along the way when flying on a student budget.
How to find the cheapest flight:
1. DO look for websites that take you directly to the airline’s websites to book. Skyscanner. Momondo, and Student Universe all show the cheapest options while taking you directly to the airline’s webpage.
2. DON’T buy through third-party sites like edreams that charge additional fees. If you do, make sure to look up their reviews online before putting your card through.
3. DON’T be fooled by the cheapest option:
- Early morning or late night flights: At face value, these flights are usually the lowest price, but make sure to take into account how you are getting to and from the airport. While public transportation is usually the cheapest option, most cities metro systems close around midnight and don’t open again until 6 am. So if you’re having to get to-and-from the airport in that limbo time between daylight, it might not be worth it to try and struggle to use the (mostly inefficient) “nightbuses,” and have to end up paying for a taxi that was the price difference of a later flight (and more sleep) anyways.
- Far away airports: Lots of airlines like Ryanair and Easyjet have airports located sometimes an hour or an hour and a half outside of the city center. Look up transportation options. Usually there’s a shuttle for 7-14 euros each way, but when you factor in a round-trip ticket, and the transportation once you get into the center of the city, the “cheaper” flight in the air, might not be so cheap once you hit the ground.
How to survive the cheapest flight:
1. Ryanair: Ryanair almost always has the cheapest flights up front. But they make all of their money in their fees at the airport. Necessities when flying Ryanair:
- A backpack: Get yourself a very spacious backpack. Not a giant camping backpack, but a reasonable sized backpack that expands enough to fit all your needs for a weekend. You have to fit everything in your carry on, this includes: a purse, food, or anything you purchase in the airport. Their carry-on restrictions are extremely strict with 55cm x 40cm x 20cm. Bring a tape measurer because they make everyone fit their bags in the bin before boarding. If it doesn’t fit, you have to pay 180 euros to check it at the gate. But if you have just a backpack, no matter how stuffed it is, they don’t even look twice at you.
- Printed boarding pass: Print your boarding pass out at home, there’s an 80-euro fine if you don’t have your boarding pass printed out ahead of time.
- Check-in at least 2 hours before your flight: Check-in opens 14 days before your flight and closes 2 hours before, so don’t hold out on printing your ticket to the last minute.
- Passport check: You have to get your boarding pass stamped before you go through security if you’re not a EU citizen. Look for the stand that says “Passport check” to get your passport checked and boarding pass stamped, or you won’t be able to board.
2. Easyjet: Easyjet is a little more lax version of Ryanair, but still follow the same guidelines besides the passport check. All of your belongings have to fit in one carry-on and you should check in beforehand to avoid the lines at the airport.
3. Vueling: Vueling is by far the most relaxing experience of a budget airline. It’s possible to have a carry on and a purse and you can reprint your boarding pass at the airport if you need.
Flying cheaply in Europe is very easy if you know what you’re doing. It doesn’t have to be stressful as long as you follow the system. Some final tips:
1. DO figure out your travel plans before. You won’t always have Wi-Fi where you go. Google maps “public transportation option” is a lifesaver when trying to find the most efficient way to get to the airport and you can screenshot the map every step of the way.
2. DO travel with people whenever it’s possible. Not only is it cheaper when sharing taxis or hostels if ever in a rut, it’s a far more pleasant and relaxing experience to travel with friends.