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We’ve all seen the unbelievable budget flight deals—London to Rome for €10, Paris to Prague for a hi-five, Boston to Iceland for $99 (that last one is totally real). Fantasizing about jetting off to a new city every weekend for pennies is easy, but don’t be seduced by the bargain prices.

Flying on a budget airline sucks.

Discount airlines like RyanAir and EasyJet, can seem like a steal, but more often than not you’re the one who gets fleeced. Hidden booking fees, inane service charges, exorbitant checked baggage (and even carry on baggage fees), are just some of the more obvious ways budget airlines nickel and dime you into paying a lot for your “cheap” flight.

But, you can beat the system and see the world for just a few bucks. You just have to be savvy as hell. Below is a comprehensive guide to the most common traps and fees of bargain airlines, along with a few ways to enhance even the crappiest flight. Enjoy, bargain hunters.

Always Read the Fine Print: Avoid Unnecessary Fees

Read the fine print on your booking, on your boarding pass, and on the company website; I can’t stress this enough. Budget airlines are designed to screw you out of money by taking advantage of your assumptions. The norms of other airlines don’t apply when you fly on a budget airline.

Some commonly held assumptions are:

  • Online check-in is free and available whenever you want (nope)
  • Carry on bags are free (nuh-uh)
  • Carry on bag size and weight limits are the same as other airlines (hahaha)
  • Checked baggage fees are reasonable (I’m actually crying a little right now)
  • You have a designated seat (pssht)
  • They have free food (no one has free food, what is this 1987?)
  • At least they have free drinks, right? (not for you, plebeian)
  • Not even coffee and water? (seriously, not even coffee and water)

Budget airlines are practically a different mode of travel—like pogo sticks. If you don’t respect them, you’re gonna get hurt.

Arrive Early: Online Check-in Windows are Tiny (and strict)

budget airlines

Budget airlines make a lot of money from “service fees.” This is corporate code for “talking to a human being.” Human workers cost money to hire and train, so budget airlines try to use as few of them as possible. When the robot revolution comes, it will start at Gatwick.

If you miss your online check-in window (typically just 12-24 hours before departure), you have to pay a large service fee just to check-in at the airport. This fee can easily cost more than your original fare; sometimes double or even triple. I’m serious. Make sure you check-in on time and online to dodge this silver bullet.

Budget Airline Check-in Fees (lowest to highest):

  • Southwest — FREE
  • WOW Air — FREE
  • Easyjet — FREE…?
  • Spirit — $10 (airport)
  • RyanAir — €45 (check-in) / €15 re-print boarding pass (if you lose it)

My Brush with Budget Airline Blackmail

A few years ago, I booked a flight from Italy to Spain on RyanAir for just €25. I was thrilled. It was gonna save me time and money. However, when I arrived at the airport counter (3 hours before my flight left) they wouldn’t let me check-in for my flight without paying a “service fee” of €60.

€60 just to check-in for a flight I’d already purchased. I explained that the website wasn’t letting me check-in, so I thought I’d just come straight to the source and get a paper boarding pass. I was so naive.

They explained that online check-in ends 4 hours before the flight boards. I’d missed my chance to check-in for free, and so I now had to pay nearly three times the price of my ticket to print a piece of paper. I was livid. I nearly wasn’t allowed to board the plane, and haven’t flown budget airlines since that run in except on extremely rare circumstances. And believe me—I read the fine print.

Always Fly Carry On: Minimize Baggage Fees

budget airlines

Most people know about the steep fees that budget airlines charge for checked bags. What most people don’t know is that each low-cost airline has their own specific—and significantly smaller—carry on baggage allowance rules. And they are super serious about them.

You know that little suitcase shaped cage thing at the gate that says, “Your carry on bag must fit within these dimensions?” Yeah… budget airlines actually use those. If your backpack is stuffed to the gills and doesn’t fit in that little cage, you’re paying full price to check it at the gate. What’s worse, these size and weight restrictions are subject to change with little or no notice.

Here’s a guide to the latest Carry On Size and Weight Limits for popular budget airlines in the U.S., Europe, and Asia (in order of smallest to largest with special attention given to weight limits):

Spirit Airlines has the strictest carry on bag size and weight limits of any budget airline. Coincidently, they also have the highest fees. Funny how that works out.

On Spirit, even your first carry on bag costs money. Sure, you’re allowed (1) free “personal item” with their “Bare Fare” rate, but that’s only seriously small backpacks and purses. Think a thick fanny pack. If you go over that limit (which is getting smaller this April), you can look forward to paying one of the following fares for your first carry on bag.

And I repeat, these are CARRY ON BAGGAGE FEES:

  • $35 when booked online
  • $45 with online check-in
  • $55 at the airport
  • $100 at the gate

budget airlines

Fun Fact: The price varies by destination

If you don’t pay an already insane fee for your carry on bag when you book your ticket, you could pay up to $100 for a checked bag. And don’t think they won’t charge you that fee at the gate. Spirit recommends buying your carry on baggage allowance right away in order to “save major moola.

I’m sorry about that anti-Spirit rant there, but I’ve been burned by those guys before. They’re cutthroat. Even savvy travelers can get stung by fees like that, let alone the hapless casual traveler who doesn’t read the fine print.

They’re so blatant about overcharging customers, there’s even a parody twitter account called @spiritairsucks. And it has hundreds of followers.

Budget Airline Approved Luggage

If you’re super nervous about checked bag limits and getting pinged with carry on fees, you can purchase “RyanAir approved” overhead luggage. Seriously. This luggage is built exactly to RyanAir’s ridiculous specifications, and is “guaranteed” to be accepted as cabin luggage (unless your carry on bag weighs more than 10kg).

The Outbreaker 35L travel backpack is well within the carry on dimensions of all of the budget airlines listed here and is your best bet if you’re going to fly with these companies regularly.

Budget Airlines Checked Baggage Fees

If you absolutely must check a bag, book it online well in advance of your flight. Otherwise,you’re really gonna pay.

  • RyanAir€50 for bags up to 15-20kgs. Overage charges: €10/kg
  • Spirit$30 (booking) / $40 (online check-in) $50 (airport) $100 (gate)
  • Easyjet €19-€45 (online) / € 52 (airport) / €70 (gate)
  • WOW Air£31 (booking) / £51.86 (check-in) / £74.09 (gate) (more for international flights. Yes, you read that right)
  • Southwest — First & Second Bags Free

Don’t even get me started on oversized luggage fees or special items, which are brutal. RyanAir for example, charges €60 for musical instruments. Each way. For each connecting flight. You might as well just buy a new guitar every time you fly. Seriously, if you have a large bag, it’s worth it to find a different carrier.

Upgrades & Extras: Nickel & Dime Budget Airline Fees

budget airlines
Carry on and checked baggage fees are just part of the hassle of flying crappy budget airlines. We all know that. The real crazy-town fun happens when you see the list of “options” that you have to pay for.

When you purchase a flight—budget or otherwise—you’re bombarded with optional upgrades, premium add-ons, and options like priority boarding, meals, and status. Some of these are actually worth the extra couple of bucks, and can take a lot of the headache out of traveling on a budget airline. Some of these are the airline equivalent of “rust-proofing.”

Here’s a breakdown of all the options and extras for your next budget flight:

Seat Assignment Fees: Every Flight Counts

Honestly, priority boarding or reserving your seat isn’t the worst idea. The peace of mind from dodging the middle seat bullet and avoiding the “general boarding” call purge are worth a couple bucks. If you’re not an assertive person ready to scrap for your spot, you could end up in the middle of the back row with no overhead space. Say goodbye to your laptop.

Luckily, priority boarding and assigned seating don’t cost that much, and can actually save you checked baggage fees, not to mention the stress of collecting your bag on a connecting flight. Unfortunately, even “priority” boarding has tiers.

RyanAir Priority Seating & Boarding Fees

  • Priority w/ extra leg room — €11
  • Priority Seats (rows 2-5) — €7
  • Priority (general seat assignment) — €2
  • Priority Boarding (no seat assignment) — €5

RyanAir, the lords of larceny, only charge €2 for priority boarding, and the best part: “Passengers who have purchased Priority Boarding will not be asked to place their cabin bag in the aircraft hold, unless necessary due to operational reasons.” They can’t ask you to check your carry on bag (as long as it fits the carry on dimensions). That’s… nice?

If you do reserve your seat, be careful. Seat assignment fees add up when you pay for each segment of your trip. And each flight home. Make sure you do the round trip (and connecting flight) math right.

Other Miscellaneous (Totally Real) Budget Airline Fees

Priority seat fees, tiny carry on bag limits, and boarding pass reprint charges are not the end of the story. Budget airlines are designed to wear you down. You pay so many taxes and fees that eventually you just give up, click “I Agree” and board the plane like the lemming that you are.

It’s ok. I don’t judge you. Here are some super real miscellaneous fees from various budget airlines:

Spirit Fees

  • $110 — “pet transportation” fee
  • $100 (extra) — unaccompanied minor fee (wow)

RyanAir Fees

  • £20 — Infant fee
  • £20 — Infant/child equipment fee (strollers, etc)
  • £160 — Name change fee

What wonderful human beings. Babies, unaccompanied minors, and pets all cost more than you think.

Budget Airline Packing Tips

The little things, comfort items and decent food, make an uncomfortable budget flight bearable. Don’t think the airline is going to provide any of those, that’s entirely up to you.

Pack Your Own Meal

The cost of a terrible meal at 30,000 feet is downright criminal. Odds are you’ll be flying at the crack of dawn or the middle of the night, so try to bring your own snack so you’re not at the mercy of the in-flight meal cart. It’s expensive.

Here’s an incredibly comprehensive guide to delicious carry on friendly snacks from Tortuga writer, Jessie Beck. She even has gluten-free options and snacks for kids.

Pack Good Headphones

Buy good headphones. Use the money you saved on your flight to buy the most expensive and awesome pair of noise cancelling headphones you can afford.

I’m a big fan of the ME05 earbuds from the audio nerds over at Master + Dynamic ($199). Seriously, budget flyers are the worst. We will annoy you.

Pack a Quality Neck Pillow & Eye Mask

I don’t care if you think neck pillows look stupid. They are amazing, especially when you’re flying at the crack of dawn and/or the middle of the night. Budget flights are cheap because they’re often redeye flights. No one with money would ever deal with the uniquely Faustian bargain of trading sleep for a discount flight.

If you find yourself on a redeye to Dallas, make sure you pack a quality neck pillow and eye mask. Here’s a huge list of budget and luxury eye masks and neck pillows (also from Jessie Beck).

Load Your Podcasts & Music

Wi-fi (when it’s available) is terribly expensive on a discount flight. Southwest brings up the rear with daily wi-fi plans for $8, but in-flight wi-fi can quickly climb to $45. If you’re a Spotify zombie and haven’t downloaded your playlist ahead of time you’ll be stuck listening to that one Justin Bieber song on repeat for five hours. You know which one I’m talking about.

TL;DR

Budget flights are a tradeoff—money for sanity. You can get to your final destination unscathed by “service fees” and “happy fun time charges,” but you have to know before you go. Budget airlines are basically traps designed to siphon money. Channel your inner G.I. Joe because, “Knowing is half the battle.”

  • Check-in online
  • Carry on bags aren’t automatically free (or allowed)
  • Pack a snack
  • Bring a portable bedroom
  • Avoid premium upgrades, except for seat assignments (it might be worth it)

Image Credit: ETTTO, Unsplash

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Looking awesome while traveling in a carry on bag is tough.

The TSA has a vendetta against hair gel, it’s impossible to pack more than one pair of boat shoes in a carry on, and silk shirts wrinkle when you roll them. But carry on travel is about more than ease, comfort, and efficiency. It’s also about looking like a freaking boss, and nothing says, “I’m a travel king that knows what the hell I’m doing,” like a sharp dressed man breezing through security checkpoints like a dapper pinstripe ghost with a well-put together dopp kit.

I’ve seen a ton of great travel tips for stylish ladies – which is awesome – but what about us fellas? If I see another scruffy guy in zipper pants/shorts and hiking boots at the Eiffel Tower I’m gonna lose it. It doesn’t have to be that way, guys. You can look great on the road – even with a carry on!

Up your travel game with this dapper dude packing list full of essential grooming, wardrobe, and style tips to ensure that you’re the best dressed guy at your hostel.

Dopp Kit Essentials Packing List

Here’s the short version, read on to “unpack” it.

  • Bosca Dopp Kit Bag
  • Harry’s Shaving Kit
  • Travel Bottles (3-pack)
  • Gold-infused toothbrush (seriously)
  • Marvis Classic Mint Toothpaste
  • Floss
  • Malin+Goetz Deodorant
  • Gold Bond Medicated Powder
  • Hurraw SPF Lip Balm
  • Sun Bum Sunscreen Face Stick
  • Baxter Pocket Comb
  • Aspirin 2-pack
  • Nighttime Sleep Aids
  • Ear plugs
  • Electrical Tape
  • Swiss Army Nail Clippers
  • Refillable Atomizer (swag for days)
  • Condoms

Dopp Kit Bags

The clothes may “make the man,” but the toiletry bag “makes the man smell good on a layover.” As much as we like to focus on chic travel clothes, a truly dapper traveler puts their focus into their bathroom bag—or dopp kit—first and foremost. And if you don’t know what a dopp kit is, read on, friend. It’s time to embrace the finer things in life. Here are four of the best travel toiletry bags on the market.

Ultralight Dopp Kit

TOPO Designs Dopp Kit ($19)

dopp kit

This little pyramid shaped bag—the flat bottom design is great for smaller shelves—has all the style and sophistication of an expensive designer bag in the portability of a ziploc bag.

Water-resistant with a wrist loop strap and sturdy zipper, this bag is great for weekenders, and at just 3.5 oz, you’ll hardly even notice it in your bag. Click to continue…

Saint Patrick’s Day is just about a month away and now is a great time to plan a little late winter-early spring getaway to celebrate with green beer, clover leaf kitsch, and and your “Kiss me, I’m Irish!” shirt. This year St. Patrick’s Day falls on a Friday, which provides the perfect excuse to throw a few things in your Outbreaker travel backpack and take a long weekend. Fly out Thursday after work, and be back Sunday night late.

St. Patrick, a priest and missionary to the Irish pagans, died March 17 461 CE. Hence, St. Patrick’s Day and the celebrations occurring on the day of his death. At first, March 17th was a religious holiday. According to rumor, Americans are the ones who turned this somber religious day into a drinking fest mashed with a parade.

The rest, they say, is history… and lots of green celebrations happening the world over.

In no particular order, here are 10 of the best destinations to visit to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day:

Dublin, Ireland

Ah, the motherland; let’s start here. It doesn’t get better than St. Patrick’s Day in green Dublin. This is the St. Patrick’s Day trip to make your other St. Paddy’s Day trips green with envy. (Green, get it? Ha.)

For more in-depth reading, Cailin, of Travel Yourself, has great tips for making your Dublin St. Patrick’s Day trip a success.

Why are you still reading this article? Just go and experience Dublin on St. Patrick’s Day already!

Best Irish Pub

Want the true old-fashioned Dublin pub life? Go to Grogan’s. Enjoy a Guinness at an outdoor table or inside at their bar where famous Irish writers once chased the muse in a pint glass.

Need something a little harder? Opt for The Palace Bar in Temple Bar. Upstairs, it’s a temple dedicated to Irish whiskey.

Must do:

  • Festival Treasure Hunt: Explore Dublin on an urban treasure hunt as you solve clues and see a new side of Dublin.
  • St. Patrick’s Day Parade: Starting at 12:01 p.m. on Friday, March 17, this St. Patrick’s Day parade is full of spectacular pageantry and imagination brought to life. Best advice: get there at least an hour early for a good spot.
  • Wander Dublin at Night: In celebration of St. Patrick’s Day, Dublin goes green. As in, many of the iconic buildings are lit up by green lights at night.
  • Guinness Storehouse: Tour the original location of the Guinness beer factory, but do it before or after the 17th. This tour is not to be missed.

Click to continue…

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