It’s been awhile since we have flown RyanAir (since 2004!) and I see many questions all the time asking what is it like flying RyanAir so hopefully this post will help. I do have to say that there have been some positive changes since we last flew with them many years ago. Yes, there still are some quirks but for what you pay for the flights I think it’s manageable.
First know that RyanAir is a discount airline that has some crazy low rates to fly all over Europe, that hasn’t changed much since 2004. When we lived in Iceland, yes it was amazing, we flew as a family of 5 round trip to Germany for $300 and that was booking fairly short notice. In Jan 2015 we flew on RyanAir twice. We flew to Rome as a family of 5 including 2 checked bags for $303, and to Barcelona as a family of 4 with no checked bags for $120. Here are some tips to help you get good rates using RyanAir.
Keep an eye out for promo codes, I had seen a promo code for 20% off but we hadn’t decided on Rome yet, 2 days later when I booked the code had expired. So if you see a code check when it expires and try to decided within that time frame.
Many people have said that if you visit the RyanAir site multiple times they will increase the costs, I haven’t found this to be true using a Mac and Safari and Google Chrome. However if you are concerned you can always visit the site using a private browsing window.
I like to check the German RyanAir page each month so I can see on the home page where the deals are from our closest airports Frankfurt-Hahn & Cologne. They have some advertised rates in boxes about mid page you can scroll through. If you use the UK page they are based in the UK. After I find where I’d like to go I often use Safari to browse more. Also know that as the month gets closer the rates seem to drop lower. We booked our Jan Rome trip back in Nov because our son was going to be home for college and we didn’t want to miss out. Also we saved $100 by flying on a Wed instead of Tues like we had originally planned, so make sure you look at what days are cheapest and plan your trip around that. On my How to Plan a Family Trip to Rome, Italy on a Budget you can see some of the cost break downs.
Our Barcelona trip was completely unplanned. In Jan I seen they had some rates to Barcelona for €19,99 & 14,99 (price each way) from Germany. It wasn’t until the first week of Jan that I really considered it when I seen the rates had dropped to €9,99 each way making it €19,99 round trip per person! I thought this was too good to miss so we planned an impromptu trip! So be flexible about where you want to go and when!
To buy checked luggage or not, that is a big question. I was unsure for Rome so I went ahead and paid for 2 checked bags. One at the adult rate of €30 round trip and one at the 50% off kids rate for €15 round trip. I then decided I only wanted to take one BUT the weight allowance is not a lot for each bag. I did some research and found that if you buy 2 bags you can take 1 and use the combined weight of the 2 bags, to take 1 bag. We chose to do this so we took 1 bag weighing 60 lbs instead of 2 weighing 33 lbs each. You can read more about it here. We didn’t wait real long to get our checked bags on either end, I think they generally turn & burn so it was a fairly fast process.
Carry On Bags aka Cabin Baggage
With RyanAir you get 1 free checked bag, as long as it fits the requirements (22 lbs and 21.5in x 15.5in x 7.8in), and 1 small item up to 13.7 in x 7.8 in x 7.8 in. So for Barcelona we decided to just use carry ons. I went to KIK, a local store, and bought a small carry on with wheels for €15,99. We had a US one but it was just a tad bit over the dimensions so I didn’t want to risk it. We then also took 3 backpacks as well. 1 had clothes and the other 2 had the electronics, snacks, etc. We wear the neck wallets so I don’t have to worry about carrying a purse. I was happily surprised to find that we can easily travel with only carry on luggage and we’ll be doing that in the future. Plus there is no waiting to get you checked bags, you just get off the plane and go! Plus I love not having to lug luggage around the cities.
This has been a question I’ve seen asked SO many times! I’m happy to say that it has greatly changed since 2004 and there is no more open seating and mad dash to try and get seats together! Starting a week prior to the flight you can check in online and it will assign you seats, if your a family you will get seats together. You do NOT need to pay the extra money to get a reserved seat. Flying to Rome we had 3 seats together and 2 together, all in the same row on both flights. Flying to Barcelona we had 3 seats together and 1 across the isle on the same row, on both flights. If you forget to check in online you will be given a seat when you check in at the airport but I’m sure that will be determined by what they have left, so make sure to check in online! You’ll also be charged a hefty fee if you don’t bring your boarding pass so check in online!
Make sure your print out your boarding passes ahead of time at home, for both your going & return flight! They charge a hefty fee of €15 per boarding pass if they have to do it at the airport. Thankfully I knew and had ours all printed. Also the website says it has to be on A4 paper but after tons of research I found that our standard US paper works just fine, and that’s what we used. Just make sure your ticket all fits onto 1 sheet of paper.
Airport Check In
At the Airport you first need to stop at the RyanAir counter that will check your passports and stamp your boarding pass. After that you can proceed to the check in counter. If you have checked bags they will be weighed to make sure your not over your weight limit.
This was a quick and easy process. At Girona in Barcelona we just had to get our boarding passes stamped and we didn’t even have to ‘check in’ per say. They just sent us straight to security. Each airport is going to vary a little with how they do things. This was also the only flight that morning at Girona as well.
You should be at the airport the standard 2-3 hours ahead depending on your airport. RyanAir will close the check in counter 40 mins before the flight and the gate at 20 mins prior. You should be at the gate no later than 30 mins prior to the flight. If you are scheduled to board to fly at 11 am, you’ll board starting at 10:30 am. Know that people will start lining up shortly after 10 am. You may or may not want to line up, that’s up to you.
We do line up because they we are one of the first ones on the buses to the flight, or in the ramp to the flight. This is helpful for us because it allows you to get on the plane sooner and not be stuck in the aisle as people are entering from both ends and trying to put their bags up.
That is another great thing about RyanAir is that they allow boarding from both ends of the plane, which cuts down on time. Ideally you want to enter on the end closest to your seat. If you look at the bottom of your boarding pass it should show you if you should enter from the front or the back of the plane.
If your on an early morning flight there may be empty seats which will allow you to move if your in a seat you don’t like.
While I did remember that RyanAir is a no frills flight, meaning it’s basic and you pretty much get what you pay for, I did forget that the seats do not recline! While this may not be an issue for some I found it really hard to get comfortable to try and sleep in they chairs. Both of our flights were right around 2 hours, not sure I could do a longer flight like that.
Also note there are no seat pockets, and the airline safety card is a sticker on the back of the seat, cost cutting methods for sure.
There is no free food, snacks, or drinks. Water is €2,50 and they offer you a magazine when you get onboard that will have a menu. We always take our own food & snacks and buy a water at the airport or on the flight.
I found the staff very pleasant on all 4 of our flights, which was a great perk.
I did see some people complaining about flying RyanAir because they try to sell you lottery tickets, truthfully I did not see why this is an issue. They announce that they are doing it (after meals are done) and walk through the aisles. They only stop to sell one if someone wants one, there is no pressure to buy or hassling at all.
We also found that they may sell other beneficial thing as well like bus tickets or maps. Prior to landing in Rome we were able to buy the bus tickets from Ciampiano to the Termini at the same cost it is in the airport, it just saved us the hassle of having to take the time to do so. The maps probably aren’t great deals, we bought one for €3 before landing in Girona, Spain but then also got one for free from the tourism office in the Airport. So that one can probably be skipped.
Tends to go quite quickly if they have both the front & back entrance open. When we landed in Cologne-Bonn they only opened the front due to the weather so it was a bit slower but not horrible.
Overall we’ve had a great experience with flying RyanAir. The new changes like the assigned seating and the extra carry on item are great perks for these discount flights. We’ll be using them again in the future for sure!
Do you have any experiences or tips for flying with RyanAir?
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