Budget Airline Travel in Europe, have you flown in one? After arriving in Germany, I began researching budget airline travel in Europe because how great would it be to fly around Europe and not cost an arm or a leg? I read many mixed reviews on an airline that popped up on a few travel sites I followed, and RyanAir seemed to be a popular discussion. After a year of living in Europe and desperate to travel out of Germany without driving, we finally jumped the gun and booked our first flight on RyanAir.
Quick Facts on RyanAir
Before I get to the nitty-gritty of our experience, let’s talk about RyanAir.
- Irish-owned, this low-cost, budget air travel has been around since 1984.
- It’s one of the cheapest ways to get around Europe, for example, their €9,99 fare deals advertised randomly on their website.
- Love or hate them, they’re one of the most talked-about airlines not only due to their low fare deals, but also, their penny-pinching ways.
- For example, if you’re over their carry-on baggage limit, they can make you check your bag in for a hefty fee at check-in.
- For a discount airline, they have a ton of mixed reviews from customers all over.
- However, their cheap flight options, you just can’t beat, enticing customers wanting to save money on travel.
- They have flights out of bigger hub airports, like Frankfurt, Germany; but you can also find off-the-beaten path airports they fly out of.
- Tip: Smaller airports may have cheaper flight options.
First-Hand Booking Experience
Let’s talk about our first booking experience with RyanAir. We booked our first RyanAir flight for Sardinia right before Covid hit in March 2019. We had been so excited to have finally booked a flight and felt like the fare was reasonable, approximately €450 roundtrip on Priority fare (more details on that in a bit). For my family of four for Sardinia, we couldn’t beat that deal. Sadly, the start of the pandemic led to the cancellation of our flight just weeks before our trip in June. Understandably, the world was on standby.
We would first receive a voucher weeks after our cancellation and later a full refund after we requested one.We were worried we would not receive our refund due to horror stories we had read from other people who were having issues with RyanAir. It took time, but we finally received the refund months after our cancellation. We received emails from Ryanair on how to get our money back and filled out their forms that would eventually help us get the full refund.
Finally, 2021 rolled around, and it seemed our luck would be on our side to book this trip, once again, since restrictions were easing for travel. Hesitant, we still didn’t know if we would be able to travel booking our flight so far out in advance. We booked our Sardinia trip again, paying far more for our flights than the last time, perhaps due to booking during peak tourist season and pandemic setbacks, but we were ecstatic it was finally going to happen.
There are several options for booking your flight. At the time we purchased our tickets online, we booked Regular Fare (aka Priority). I’ll talk about the main two options and will link the website for other fare options below.
Value Fare (aka as Standard fare) is the cheapest flight you can snag. But the caveat, you only get one small bag of 40x20x25cm (15.7 x 7.9 x 9.8 inches) carry-on with you that would have to fit their small bag size limit (see photo below) and/or fit under the seat. In addition, there is not an option to select your seat; otherwise, that is an extra fee you’ll have to pay.
Regular Fare (aka Priority) is a little more lenient but will cost more than your Standard Value fare. Priority option gives you a choice to choose from a block of seats they give you at booking. If you book this option, you get the Priority option to board first, a small bag, and an additional bag with a maximum size of 10 kilograms (22 pounds) and 55 x 40 x 20 centimeters (21.6 x 15.7 x 7.9 inches) (again, will have to fit in their baggage limit sizer). This option made more sense for my family to travel for a week to Sardinia.
There are other fare options available; you can find those options and comparisons on this website.
For extra baggage, you have the option to add a check-in bag. Five days before we flew out (bad idea), we purchased a check-in 10kg bag. Had we purchased the check-in bag far out in advance, we would have saved money. Instead of €10 for the extra bag, we ended up pay €20 for our extra 10kg check-in bag. Multiply that cost x 2 for our roundtrip flight to cost= €40 altogether, so it does add up. Tip, purchase your check-in bag far more in advance!
We arrived two hours before our flight departure (0600), as soon as the baggage drop-off was available to take our check-in bag at 0400.
The most important thing we did first is to check-in online RyanAir before checking in our bag at the check-in counter (even if you are not checking in a bag, it’s essential to check-in via RyanAir online as you’ll incur extra fees if you do not do this according to my research). I’ve attached the helpful information online that states the check-in procedure for RyanAir.
As we checked-in in person at Frankfurt Hahn Airport, we were asked for our paper boarding pass (print your boarding pass at home, we had both paper and mobile passes) for each passenger, our passports, and the passenger locator form (this is a Covid-rule to enter Sardinia-we did not have to have this form to leave Sardinia for Germany when we went home). Honestly, they didn’t ask for any of our vaccination and/or negative Covid test results (our trip was at the end of July 2021);. However, we had it ready both in paper form and in the RyanAir app, where we had to upload all of our Covid documentation before our flights. Our 10kg check-in bag was well within our limit for weight, and they didn’t bat an eye towards the Osprey backpacks we had as our carry-on bags and the small backpacks we had as our small bags.
Security checks took longer than intended, but the staff was so kind and patient with us. Tip, be sure to have all liquids in clear plastic bags; each passenger is required one clear bag per liquid of 3.4 oz (100mL). I had mine in all bags but in separate backpacks, which took us to organize as one. Again, the security staff was so patient with us. Also, be sure to have all electronics out and ready as well.
Finally, upon boarding, as Priority Fare, we had the opportunity to board first. I was worried they would for sure say something about our carry-on right as we boarded, but no one batted an eye on us, and we were free to get on board the plane.
Upon boarding our plane, all of our bags fit the overhead cabin, so that verified that our backpacks are for sure considered carry-on compliant, but not for a small bag compliant. The seats looked normal in size from all other planes we’ve flown in the past. Though the plane is not fancy, it was still a flight to our dream destination. The staff spoke both English and German, but mainly in English to all the passengers. Intercom instructions were given in both English and German. For a short flight (2 hours) to Sardinia, we didn’t get any snacks (we didn’t expect any), but they did sell snacks and drinks on the plane and randomly sold perfumes during our flight (lol). Overall, the flight from Frankfurt Hahn to Alghero Airport was smooth. For Covid purpose, we just had to wear our masks the entire flight.
- Book your flights far in advance (months out) or during their fare sale (€9.99 fare sale anyone?)
- You can upload RyanAir’s App and or subscribe to their emails to find out when they have their low, low prices for flights
- Search flights in the middle of the week, sometimes they have random deals then
- Standard Fare will only get you a small bag (40x20x25cm)- I think they will be more strict for those with Standard fare bags
- Priority Fare will get you a small bag plus a carry-on (55x40x20cm), it will be much more than the Standard Fare
- Check out smaller airports that fly RyanAir, they have cheaper flights
- Check in atleast 2-3 hours (3 hours for bigger airports) before your flight and also check-in online (you don’t want to incur extra charges if you do not do this)
- Here is the link for RyanAir’s check-in procedure
- Be sure to print out your boarding pass at home, just in case (some will accept your mobile phone pass, but they asked for our paper boarding pass)
- Have your passports, boarding pass, Covid tests and vaccine cards ready at every station (check-in, security, boarding), and passenger locator form (if needed for the country you are entering)
- Covid test results and/or vaccine informaton should already have been uploaded onto RyanAir’s app prior to your flight
- Check the Covid rules for entry to the country you plan to enter (arrival and departure)
- Covid rules, check out their up to date notice here.
- To purchase a check-in bag, be sure to purchase way in advance for the cheapest rate, prices go up one week prior to your scheduled flight
- Have all of your liquids you are carrying on in a clear plastic bag (one per person according to the security folks), 100mL (3.4 ounces) max limit per bottles.
- Have all of your electronics ready at security.
Flight Home from Sardinia
On the way home, our experience boarding in Sardinia to Germany went rather much quicker and smoother. Security was easy peasy, and we already had all of our items organized (we learned our lesson in the beginning), but the staff didn’t have us take everything out, go through the scanner. The staff did ask for our updated negative Covid results and vaccine (all uploaded the day before our flight on RyanAir’s App). Finally, we purchased items from the store in Sardinia after security and did not need to claim them for anything. I only bought extra virgin olive oil from Sardinia to bring home.
RyanAir, love em or hate em, we took the risk of booking our first European budget air flight with this budget travel airline, and it was a heck of a lot better than I expected! I don’t mind booking more flights with them in the future. Don’t get me wrong, I was very reluctant to book with them due to mixed reviews, and there will still be hesitancy in the future, but so far, our first experience has been much better than I imagined. Would I recommend them? Yes, but be aware of all of their extra fees (mostly hidden fees), purchase your baggage if you need any extra bags far in advance, and read the fine prints! The flights aren’t glamorous, so be prepared for when they say it’s a discount airfare; it’s not going to be a fancy flight. Honestly, it wasn’t any different from other standard flights I have taken in the past.
Be sure to have the correct size baggage (ours was within the limit for Priority/Regular Fare), but for Value fare/Standard, I’d be more mindful of how the size of your small bag and if it will fit the sizer so travel light! In the future, for shorter trips, I would like to try the Value/Standard Fare option to see how easy it is to fly with the standard/value fare.
I hope you’ve found this post helpful! Leave a comment below if you’ve ever flown RyanAir and have a tip or two I may have missed or what your experience has been with this budget travel airline. I’d love to hear them! Until next time adventurers! Be sure to follow along for more posts of our Sardinia trip, coming very soon!
Added January 2023: I was featured in a Bored Panda RyanAir article. If you’re interested, you can find that article here!
Full Disclosure: All views expressed on this site are my own and do not represent the opinions of others and by no means am I an affiliate to any of the companies discussed. I received no compensation for this review.