How to survive a low cost airline flight

I’m a budget traveller, I’m not embarrassed to admit that. Keeping to a tight budget has allowed me to travel to some amazing places and reach countries that otherwise I could only dream of.

Cheap flights with low-cost airlines have been key to my travels. Now that I live in Spain I take advantage of multiple cheap flights around the country and also fly back to London a couple of times a year.

There are some downsides to flying with the low-cost airlines. Of course, I would love to always fly first class, skipping the line, flying in luxury and drinking free champagne. But that is not going to happen, unless I win the lottery! 

I accept low cost flights for what they are, cheap & basic, just getting you from A to B as cost effectively as possible. Most people aren’t keen on budget airlines and to be honest some of them can be really cheeky with hidden extra costs and last-minute flight cancelations. 

But the thing is, we need these budget flights. Without them we wouldn’t be able to travel easily around Europe for such little money. They are making travel accessible for everyone.

How to survive a low lost airline flight

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Low cost airlines are big 

  • Ryan Air fly to 33 countries!
  • Easy Jet carry over 30 million passengers per year!
  • Iberia Express have flights to 31 countries in Europe!
  • Vueling airline has doubled the number of passengers carried since 2012!
  • Air Europa has a fleet of 52 aircrafts flying across Europe!
  • Norwegian Air fly into 14 airports in Spain!

Lets face it, low cost airlines are not going anywhere soon and they most certainly are not going to change their ways when business is doing so well.

So why fight it, let’s all sit back, relax and enjoy the cheap flights.

I have a few things up my sleeve that I always do to help me survive a low cost airline flight. Follow these tips and I promise you too will be having a more fun, stress-free and comfortable low cost flight.

How to survive a low cost flight 1

My 9 tips for surviving a low cost flight 

1. Check the baggage rules

The first thing that will help ease the stress of going to the airport and surviving your low cost flight is to make sure that you have packed accordingly. Check the rules and restrictions your airline has in place for baggage. Annoyingly each airline has a slightly different set of rules. So don’t assume your cabin bag is ok, find the exact measurements and weight on your airlines website to be sure.

If you are traveling with just hand luggage, check out our post on how to pack light – Tips for packing only hand luggage. Be aware that you may only be allowed to take one bag onboard the flight.

2. Make sure you have your boarding pass and passport

Remember to check into your flight beforehand. Some low cost airlines allow you to do this 1 month in advance and some only 24 hours. Nearly all of them require you to do this before you get to the airport even if you are checking in bags. Be sure to either print your boarding pass or download it to your phone. Most low-cost airlines have apps that you can download to your phone or tablet via the app store. This does makes things easier and is handy for accessing your flight info, checking in and showing your boarding QR code. Also keep your passport safe and easy to grab out of your bag with a cute passport holder.

3. Allow time to walk to the gate 

Once you’ve been through security, grab a coffee and browse through the airport shops but don’t get too distracted. Make sure you check the boards for your flight info and updates. More often than not low cost airlines have departure gates that are quite far away. Know which gate you are heading to and allow enough time to walk to the gate. You certainly do not want to get all stressed and sweaty running to the gate as it closes. Also don’t wait for boarding calls, most airports don’t do them now.

4. Be prepared to check your hand luggage bag at the last minute 

When you get to the gate keep in mind that lots of low cost flights can only take a certain number of bags in the cabin. Because it’s easier and cheaper to fly hand luggage only, nowadays most people do. Unfortunately, the smaller planes just don’t have space for everyone to have a wheelie suitcase as carry-on. So, it helps to be prepared for the fact that they might ask you to check your suitcase at the last minute.

How to survive a low cost flight 2

5. Take your own water bottle

In flight drinks are expensive and you are traveling on a budget, remember. Don’t get suckered into buying drinks on board but it is important that you stay hydrated during the flight. I always take a re-usable bottle to fill from the water fountain just before checking in at the gate. This stainless steel water bottle is great. Don’t forget you can’t take liquids though security so you must fill it after.

6. Take your own snacks 

Budget airlines have pretty terrible in-flight food options and again they can be really expensive. However, having a bite to eat on the plane can really help pass the time and make your journey more comfortable. It’s not much fun flying on an empty stomach. Snacks are allowed to go through airport security so if you want to be really thrifty make something at home. I usually grab a sandwich from an airport café or a cheeky bar of chocolate.

7. Google the flight time beforehand 

It really helps if you know what to expect before settling into your seat on the plane. The night before or the morning of your flight give it a quick google just to check how long the flight will take.

8. Get as comfortable as possible 

Before its time for take-off get as comfortable as you possibly can in your seat. Let’s face it there’s never much leg room and the chairs are not very comfy. So, do whatever you can to make things a little better. I always take a jumper or scarf on-board to wear incase the air-con is up too high. If you need to have a nap one of these inflatable pillow sets really help.

9. Have your own entertainment with you 

The last thing you need to survive your low cost flight is some entertainment to help pass the time. A good book, a tablet pre-loaded with the latest Netflix shows or your phones music collection and a decent pair of earphones. I like to take all three!

How to survive a low cost flight 3

Low cost airlines that I have flown recently and the pro’s and con’s 

Ryan air

PRO: Quite comfortable seats, very cheap flights

CON: The online check-in really pushes you to pay for upgraded seats, must print boarding pass, often delayed, infamous for cancelling flights

Easy jet  

PRO: Let you check in 30 days ahead, really easy to use app, ok on-board food options, good inflight magazine

CON: Gate often announced late, only 1st 90 bags fit in the cabin, really strict with 1 bag per person only


PRO: Efficient boarding, gate announced approx 1 hour before flight, all passenger bags fit on-board, let you have cabin bag plus small hand bag

CON: Very little leg room

Iberia Express  

PRO: Fairly comfortable seats, decent leg room, room for most cabin bags

CON: Limited in-flight food options, you can only check in 24 hours before flight

I hope these tips will help you to survive your next low-cost airline flight. If you’ve found this post useful, please save it or share it using the icons below.

If you regularly travel on budget flights and have some tricks to make life easier let me know in the comments box 🙂

Other advice articles by Seeking the Spanish Sun that you may find interesting…

How to avoid feeling homesick when traveling

Tips for packing only hand luggage

How to keep your valuables safe when traveling

Traveling by car in Spain

Here are some Amazon items that you might need for your flight…

Also check out our Spain travel guides for holiday inspirations and tips…

A weekend in Madrid

My trip to the Costa del Sol

A guide to eating pinchos and tapas

The best cities to visit in Spain

Why Spain is great for winter sun

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  1. Live, Love & Voyage
    27th April 2018 / 2:07 pm

    Wow this is great! I have only been on Vueling once when I was in Europe and I didn’t even realize it was a budget airline! I thought everything went well, but maybe just got a good day! Haha very nice review! Very helpful for in the future!!

    • 27th April 2018 / 2:41 pm

      Vueling are certainly not the worst budget airline in Spain. I find them really professional, its just the planes are so small and the leg room is not comfortable if you have long legs! 😉 Thanks for reading and commenting

  2. 24th February 2018 / 3:12 pm

    I’ve become more and more a fan of these low cost airlines. I agree that you really have to know the rules of each airline though, in order to avoid all those extra random fees! I’ve also found that you don’t really notice the difference in air carriers when you sleep the whole flight! 😛

    • 24th February 2018 / 4:03 pm

      As a regular flyer it’s great to take advantage of cheap flight deals isn’t it! Knowing a little info about the airline rules is so useful. Haha if you can manage to sleep during your flight that is awesome!

  3. 24th February 2018 / 9:58 am

    Hi Perri, those are great tips – especially the one with the luggage. In the past I had troubles and almost missed my flight because of that. I also like the list of cheap airlines.

    • 24th February 2018 / 2:59 pm

      Thanks Verena 🙂 Oh yes, trying to repack and re-arrange your bags at the last minute before boarding can be a nightmare. I hope that my pro’s and con’s list will help you pick a better low-cost airline for your next travels!

  4. 24th February 2018 / 8:27 am

    I’ve used sooo many budget airlines… my main gripe is the insistence on printing your boarding pass beforehand!! I was once backpacking Europe a few years ago with a very outdated phone and rare internet connection. I arrived at the airport without my boarding pass already printed and they charged me $50 just to print it for me! That was more than the cost of the plane ticket!

    • 24th February 2018 / 2:55 pm

      Yes, I’ve been caught out by that in the past too! It’s hard when airlines don’t let you check in until a day or two before the flight, so you cant even get organised. Especially difficult if you are backpacking and don’t have access to a printer. I’ve found myself begging hostel receptions to print boarding passes for me and I’ve also gotten away with a screenshot on my phone but I think most airlines need you do download their app now.

  5. 23rd February 2018 / 10:46 pm

    The hidden extra costs are everywhere, you really have to keep your eyes open! The baggage rules are also much more tight nowadays. Bummer 😦

  6. 23rd February 2018 / 5:09 pm

    Great post. I’m constantly flying low cost airlines between the Canary Islands and Spain and I definitely have my favorites and my never evers. For me, Air Europa and Norwegian Air are among the best and most comfortable and I always take them when I can! I detest RyanAir – the most uncomfortable seats and the stingiest! They recently changed their onboard bag policy to only allow a personal item (purse or laptop case) and don’t even let you bring a small carryon suitcase! Happy (budget) travels!

    • 23rd February 2018 / 5:39 pm

      Thanks Erica! I will be sure to try Europa and Norwegian for my next flights. I think its a good idea to try them all and pick your favourites. When you know what to expect it does makes the journey a little easier.

      • 23rd February 2018 / 10:59 pm

        You’ll love ’em! Norwegian even has free wifi on most of the domestic Spanish flights!

  7. 19th February 2018 / 10:31 am

    I always choose budget airlines but it is true that they’re often delayed. However, I LOVE the flight delay compensation laws in Europe. Twice I’ve been refunded 250€ for my ticket (which was less than 100€). It is inconvenient, but it does take the sting out of a delayed flight.

    One more thing about Ryan airlines—have you seen that as of January only those who pay for priority boarding are allowed to bring a cabin bag on board. Otherwise, they force you to check it at the gate. How lame is that?!

    • 19th February 2018 / 4:14 pm

      Hey Danielle, wow that’s great compensation! That really would take the sting our of the annoyance of your flight being delayed. I heard rumours about that Ryanair cabin baggage rule but didn’t realise it was happening! My last few flights with them have meant putting bags in hold at the last minute because I never join the boarding gate queue early. Making you pay priority boarding is essentially charging you to have hand luggage… that sucks! Will look into it more. Thanks 🙂

      • 20th February 2018 / 8:10 am

        It totally does! But on the other hand, you can’t beat the prices so what are you gonna do?

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