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Let’s be real for a minute. Flying has never been more affordable. Budget airlines are popping up everywhere. They are expanding their routes. Norwegian Air just announced $69 flights from NYC to London. That is a whopping $69 to fly from the States to Europe. Let that sink in a minute.
Some of you reading this, are still paying hundreds of dollars for a roundtrip flight, but what does all that extra money really buy you? It gets you a little more comfort, a free cup of soda, and a checked bag….maybe. What if I told you budget airlines can be not only dirt cheap, but comfortable? I am sitting on one right now. I paid $23 dollars for this entire round trip flight from Orlando to Kansas City, the next closest competitor was $400. For the price of one night out at Olive Garden…love me some Olive Garden…I can fly half way across the country and I do it without sacrificing my pride.
Before we get into my top tips, for making these budget flights comfy, for you and your wallet, let’s address the rumor mill.
Less Leg Room and Frumpy Seats (Yes..frumpy)
This has partial truth, but for the most part is false. I am nearly 6 feet and 3 inches tall. I still manage to squeeze my tree trunk thighs, into my seat and escape with moderate amounts of room. There are certainly more expensive airlines, who offers a few additional inches of room, however there are also plenty that offer exactly the same amount.
Frumpy seats….well not really. The only truth to this is they have no recline. If this is a deal breaker for you…understandable…just understand you are paying, in some cases 100’s of extra benjamins, to be able to recline an inch or so. Plus, if we are being honest, you know as soon as you recline, that person behind you, will promptly knee you in the back, every moment you finally fall asleep, for the remainder of your flight.
This is true….oh no… no pretzels…the tragedy. This one is an easy sacrifice. Listen to me. Step away from the pretzels….set them down and step away. Don’t let a lack of snacks push you to spend extra money…there is an easy solution and more on that later.
Here lies the gamble with budget airlines. They are not always the most reliable. I have seen both ends of the spectrum. I have been severely delayed and I have been relatively early. With the exception of one flight that was overbooked, my delays on budget airlines have been mainly weather related. My simple solution…book a flight with a little extra time padded into my schedule for my destination. Don’t book a flight that is gonna be landing 35 min before you need to be somewhere.
This one might be the biggest lie of them all. A majority of budget airlines have young fleets and are flying on some of the newest planes in the air. Spirit claims they have the youngest fleet in operation. Air Norwegian, the budget airline, bringing cheap international travel to the States, is flying new Boeing 787-9’s (comfy…comfy plane). Pilot talent is the same and they operate under the same rules and regulations as every other airline. Buying a ticket on a budget airline does not mean you are helping flap the wings.
Alas, the rumors have been handled…so now without further delay the tips!
1. Check for Booking Loop Holes
If you are flying Spirit, here is an awesome cheat that has saved me hundreds. Book your flights directly at the airport. I either book when I get off one of my flights, or take a quick drive to my local airport. Why? Glad you asked. Budget airlines often have online booking fees factored into their fares. In the case of Spirit Airlines, these fees are removed if you book at the airport. Now why does that matter and is it worth the hassle of driving to the airport? Yes it is.
Take this flight I am currently on, as an example. Online it was $100 per person, round trip from Orlando to Kansas City, cheap I know, but I can do better. I drove to the airport and booked it for $56 dollars roundtrip for two people! That is $23 dollars per person…roundtrip. I saved $77 dollars by driving to the airport. Worth it!
2. Avoid the Fees
Look, budget airlines are trying to make money too. They make their money back on fees. How else can they afford to fly you one way for $5 dollars. (that is not a joke, I flew Orlando to Atlanta for $5 bucks each way) They recoup their money through high fees for everything. I literally mean everything, every single itty bitty thing. Some people will pay for all the luxuries and when it is all said and done, they pay more than it would have cost to fly a standard airline. That is why I am here. Budget Airlines are a game of cat and mouse. It is you vs them. Be ruthless, get em on the ropes and finish em, Rocky Balboa style.
Here are the most common fees and how to skip them!
Seat Fees – vary from $1 -$200
*These vary airline to airline, however can add up very quickly. Want that front row roomy seat on a Spirit flight? Be prepared to shell out up to $199 per their website. Frontier airline was much less expensive, however was vague on total prices. Selecting one of their stretch seat options will run you a minimum of $20 extra, however can be more depending on the flight. For all of the carriers, buying seating in advance is less expensive. My opinion let them pick your seat, they are all the same. Save that money!
*Couples that are worried they may be stranded without their partner, or those couples that are hoping to be separated…(hey no judgement) If you booked together, you will be seated together… even if you let them pick your seats.
Ticket Printing Fees – $5 – $10
Want the gate to print your ticket for you? Some budget airlines will actually charge you to have the paper ticket printed at the airport. Solution…print it at home or the office. Problem solved and it will be free that way. Spirit and Allegiant are the main culprits for this fee, as frontier typically will print your boarding pass for free.
Pro Tip: The airports all have self-serve ticket kiosk for these budget airlines. You can check in and print your boarding pass from these for free. I recommend checking in online, night before and printing the pass via the self-serve kiosk day off.
Snack Fees – vary from $4 – However much you wanna spend you high roller you!
Snack and Drinks all cost on a budget airline. Simple solution pack your own. Trail mix or beef jerky makes a healthy, high protein, filling snack and is easy to pack in your carry on
Baggage Fees – Checked bags and Carry On Bags all cost
If you absolutely must take a ton of luggage, then you can check a bag, however keep in mind checked bags are usually cheaper than carry on’s when it comes to budget airlines. Below are the baggage prices for three popular American Budget Airlines, though you can typically find this information for any budget airline, by visiting their website.
Spirit Airlines *$9 Fare Club Members Priced in Yellow
Frontier Airlines – * New Prices taking affect are for March 2017 and Beyond
Allegiant Airlines – Prices vary from location, however most are the same
It is also substantially cheaper to check bags in advance than at the airport and Heaven’s to Betsy do NOT wait till the gate. You will be penalized! Big time, like as much as 100 dollars big time! However, if you are like me and are looking to avoid ALL fees this next tip is key!
3. Invest in a quality “Personal Item Bag”
Personal Items are free on all budget airlines. Most budget airlines have pretty large parameters for their personal items. Below is a quick list of the sizes you can get away with on most budget airlines both in the States and international.
Spirit Airlines – 18 x 14 x 8 inches (45 x 35 x 20 cm)
Frontier Airlines – 14″H X 18″W X 8″D
Allegiant Airlines – 7 x 15 x 16 inches (17.8 x 38.1 x 40.6 centimeters)
You can see that each airline has different interpretations of personal item size. I personally typically fly spirit, however have flown all three and have used the same bag for each flight with no issues.
I personally invested in an Osprey Farpoint 40. It is a dream bag. Organized, sleek, tons of space, and can hold 40 liters of stuff all while being around 20 inches. I never pack more than that, even for international trips. Packing light simply makes life easier. I have even slowly convinced my closet toting girlfriend of this.
Now 20 inches is a little longer than allowed, however I like to live dangerously. Too this date I have never had an issue bringing this pack as a personal item. Knock on wood. Book bags seem to be easy to get on and are rarely questioned, however I wouldn’t push anything bigger than 40 liters. If you are looking for the Osprey Farpoint 40 you can buy that snazzy thing by clicking the picture below!
Alright, this is a weird one I must admit, however If you are following along step by step, set on saving every penny, then you are planning for a personal item. Now, that personal item technically is supposed to live at your feet, under your seat. (Hehehe that rhymed) I have a size 13 shoe. That ain’t happening…no way no how. Budget airlines are every man and women for themselves. Once you get on that plane rules are made to be broken. Technically, your personal item belongs under your seat, but as long as there is extra space in the overhead, smuggle that puppy up there and give you feet their space.
Now be respectful. If it is a packed flight and other paying customers have carry on’s and need space don’t be that person who took it all up with your personal bag, however in all my flights I have never encountered a flight where there was not enough space, when it was all said and done, for me to place my bag in the overhead bin. Don’t be a hero. Put the bag in the available space.
5. Bring an empty Water Bottle
I personally prefer a Nalgene bottle like this one, because they are BPA free, indestructible, and keep me looking fresh to def and like I am still in college. (alright maybe that’s an exaggeration) They really are durable though and light weight. The big opening makes filling it at the airport water fountain much easier and of course free. Empty water bottles can be carried through security no problem. This one is mine and it is great! NALGENE Everyday Tritan Wide Mouth Travel Water Bottle – 32 oz – Seafoam w/Platinum Cap
If you are simply too cool for water fountain H2O, still buy your Evian or Aquafina at the local magazine shop. It will be a bigger size and probably cheaper.
6. Bring Your Own Comfort
This goes for snacks, pillows, blankets, or whatever else you need to feel comfy. Now keep in mind we have some size issues we are working with. (Remember luggage size) Here are my travel hacks for comfort.
Pack a Hat
Guy’s or Girls clip or strap a hat to your pack. Hat’s are useful all through out travel. Have a day you don’t wanna fix the hair…throw on a hat. Sun is a little to fierce…throw on a hat…have a weird seat partner staring at you on a budget airline…throw on a hat. Need dark space to rest…pull a hat over your eyes. Hats take up little to no space and are super functional. If you are not a hat person substitute a bandana. These make functional sweat bands, injury rags, can be pulled over mouth in smelly or dirty situations, and make great sleep aids.
Bring a Jacket
I never leave home on a trip with out a jacket. Rain Jacket in the summer and small down jacket in the fall and winter months. Jackets are great aids on budget airlines because they can make a quick blanket or pillow. They are a flexible travel garment that will increase you personal comfort.
Dress comfortable. It is a day of flying, airports, planes, and cabs. Budget airlines can be a little tight, and we already spoke to the possibility of delays. You will be more relaxed and comfortable if you wearing clothes that are functional and comfy.
Dress in layers. This way you can regulate your temperature, even if the person sitting next to you has every air vent on full blast. Long sleeves are a plus for this, especially if you don’t appreciate skin to skin contact with strangers around the arm rest. (I mean really, who wants that?)
7. Do Your Business Before Boarding
Here is where I sound like your mother on a road trip. Everyone go use the bathroom…but I don’t have too…I don’t care you go try right now cause your Dad is not stopping.
Seriously, go use the restroom before boarding your budget flight. We already said the space is little tighter, but it is gonna feel a whole lot tighter squeezing by two other people packed into their seat. Comfort will go out the window when you squeezing your bladder into oblivion.
Lastly, it is a budget airline. Quick turn around, and limited interaction with flight attendants. This can sometimes equate to less than ideal bathroom quality. Now this isn’t just a stab at budget airlines, the worst toilet implosion in the sky I ever walked in on, was on a very nice Air Canada flight, so it can happen anywhere…be warned.
Now if nature calls…please answer it, sincerely all your fellow travelers.
8. Ignore the Reviews
Hopefully by now your thinking…Hey, saving money sounds nice…this budget things doesn’t sound too bad…I think I might try it. If you are like me, just before you book it, you will search the internet for a plethora of reviews. Ignore them. It has taken me a long time to learn that there are a lot of personality types in this world.
You have your complainers and you have your easily pleased. You will find both ends of the spectrum when it comes to reviewing budget airlines. There will be the guy who says it was the best experience he has ever had in the air and that Becky the flight attendant was the sweetest most caring professional he had ever met. She wasn’t and the flight wasn’t the dream he made it to be. You will have the guy who swears his seat was broken, that he developed a back issue from the lack of space, and that he had to foot pedal the wings for landing. He didn’t…he just likes to complain.
There will also be some fair accurate reviews, however if you followed all these steps, you are essentially flying for pennies on the dollar of what it would have cost anywhere else. You can afford to give it a try and see for yourself. Don’t judge a book by its cover as they say.
9. Pack your Patience
It is a budget airline. The service will not be that of United Emirates or even Delta, certainly not Southwest (Hey man Texan’s got to represent, plus Southwest Rocks!) You will not be wowed by the service you receive at the gate, on the plane, or after. If you have followed this list however, there are limited areas for screw ups. You have all your luggage with you, you are not in a rush, you have your own snacks and beverages, and you are controlling your own comfort.
Exercise a little patience. Don’t be that person yelling in the terminal. Trust me you look silly, that employee doesn’t deserve all the blame, and they are going to turn around and make your life miserable…remember that 20 inch bag that’s not 18 inches…yeah your about to pay $100 dollars to carry that on now. Be nice, be patient, and you will thank me later.
10. Remember those Savings!
Look, I would say 80% of my travel on budget airlines has gone every bit as smooth and felt the exact same as any other airline. I have also had some one-off weird moment or down right poor experiences, however regardless when I reach my destination, I have in most cases a couple hundred extra dollars to spend on my experiences and my adventure. In the end that makes it beyond worth it.
Well there you have it. Your on the way to lots of savings in the sky! Have any tips or tricks for Budget airlines I didn’t mention? Comment below so we can all learn and share! If you have any questions or if you found this helpful shoot me a comment or a message! As always, subscribe to my blog, and like or follow me on social media! If you love Pinterest be sure to Pin my article using this nifty pin logo right below!
Talk to y’all soon or maybe I’ll see ya in the sky on your next budget flight! Till Then….