By College Tourist, Author, Victoria Humphrey
Let's face it, "budget travel" is essentially the middle name of every student who studies abroad. I applaud Irish-based Ryanair for offering such a wide selection of budget-friendly flights to destinations throughout Europe and Africa (yes, you can take RyanAir to Morocco) and wish we had a similar airline in America. However, there are a few things you should know, before booking that seemingly "too good to be true" 20 euro round-trip ticket, that are guaranteed to make your Ryanair experience significantly more enjoyable (or tolerable, depending on the situation).
1. Map out your trip ahead ... way ahead!
Ryanair notoriously flies out of the most obscure airports in every city, so make sure that time management remains a priority when finalizing the details regarding your departing flight. While public transportation (bus, metro, tram) is usually the most economical option when traveling to the airport, sometimes splitting a cab, regardless of price, with your fellow study-abroaders might be the best option. Not only are Ryanair flights usually at the crack of dawn, but the airport will more than likely be located off the beaten path. After all what is more important, saving a few euros attempting to take public transportation or actually making the unbelievably cheap flight that you managed to book?
2. Hand luggage only.
Always remember to bring hand luggage only -- "hand luggage" meaning a carry-on bag, which for students usually happens to be an oversized (and almost too large to fit in the luggage sizer) backpack. If you don't, Ryanair will not think twice about charging you an arm and a leg! Ryanair is very strict on their carry-on policy, and everything must fit in one bag in order for you to not get charged extra; ladies you cannot even bring a cross-body bag in addition to your one carry-on, unless it fits inside your carry-on, or you are able to hide it underneath your coat without getting caught. If backpacks aren't really your thing, you will see many stores in whatever city you're studying in that offer "Ryanair Approved" roller boards, but why waste the money when you can just stuff the backpack that you probably brought with you from home?
3. Wear as much clothing when traveling as possible.
Wearing three shirts, two jackets, two scarves and your clunky boots may sound like a lot, but when push comes to shove, it is better than paying that additional money for an over-sized bag. Sure, you may feel like you're taking a trip to the Arctic with all those layers on, but I promise you won't be the only one doing it! Remember everyone is flying Ryanair for the same reason... it's cheap -- no one is trying to spend any more money than they absolutely need to!
4. If you have to take a bus from the gate to your plane, try stand as close to the doors as possible.
Most Ryanair flights don't board and deplane directly at the gate since it's cheaper to do it on the tarmac, so more often than not you'll have to take a bus to your plane. There are no seat assignments on Ryanair (unless you pay for it) and whether or not you get a coveted window or aisle seat is all up to how fast you can run... no, but seriously! So in order to have the best chance at a prime seat, make sure you stand as close to the bus doors as possible so you can have a head start on all the other passengers once everyone starts running to the plane (unless of course you are an Olympic-level sprinter, then don't even sweat it).
5. Don't plan on having leg room.
Ryanair truly puts the "ultra" in ultra low cost airline (yes, those are the exact words from the website) because I've never seen an airplane with so many rows of seats! I'm convinced that in order to maximize the number of available seats and profit, Ryanair minimizes the amount of space in between each row of seats, which means significantly less leg room.
Now, I suppose it could have been that I had on too many layers of clothes or that my overstuffed backpack took up too much room under the seat, but nonetheless, nine times out of ten, I was not exactly comfortable. However, at the end of the day what do you really expect when you pay next to nothing for a ticket?
6. Bring snacks.
Ryanair is no different from most American airlines; they charge a ridiculous price for food, too! It's always better to be prepared than hungry, so just bring something with you.
7. Ryanair prides itself on being on time, but don't always count on it.
Sure the Ryanair website states that around 90 percent of their flights reach their respective destination on time, but just like all airlines, sometimes things don't go according to plan. However, whenever your Ryanair flight is on time, make sure you're mentally prepared to be awoken to the blaring sound of the William Tell Overture (yes, the horse racing music) and boisterous applause upon landing. As if it wasn't 7:00 in the morning and you weren't sitting inside an airplane with an all lemon yellow interior right? It's really not that bad once you get used to it, but your first time is definitely a shocker!
To this day I remain thankful to the study abroad student I happened to cross paths with in the security line in Rome who was kind enough to share with me the tips of the trade regarding travel on Ryanair. While Ryanair will always be Ryanair (trust me once you experience it, you will know exactly what I'm talking about) I promise you will come to know and love Ryanair (quirks and all) during your time abroad! At the end of the day, nothing beats "budget friendly" travel!