Well, summer came and went but, if you’re anything like me, your wanderlust never ceases. Summer travels are constantly on the brain, reminiscing past trips and gathering initial data and ideas for next year’s adventures. I decided to write a post to help everyone look at some budget airlines in Europe that I have had great experiences with.
Budget airlines are a topic that I have mentioned a few times before, and something I am a strong advocate for. Budget airlines, or low cost carriers, can help connect places you never thought possible – you just have to figure out where to look.
When planning a vacation, I like to link distant destinations via airplane to get a few extra sights checked off the list. For example, this year we chose to start our vacation in London. London was an easy point to get to (think, tons of nonstop options from the U.S., potentially even from new low cost carriers adding routes to the States), a great city to ease yourself into your European vacation (you can tackle the city easily since everyone speaks English!), and has a TONS to offer. Another great thing about London, they have 3 major airports that service the city, allowing for hundreds of airline options.
I want to be perfectly clear, however, when booking budget airlines you MUST read between the lines. I took out my notebook, compared different options and costs and decided what worked best for our trip First, I looked at flights from London Heathrow (LHR) into Oslo, Norway (OSL – our next destination). British Airways were obviously the main airline operating that route out of Heathrow. British Airways is an amazing airline and has won multiple awards, but for a two hour flight I wasn’t willing to spend the $300 to Oslo. So I decided to look at other options and found an oldie but goodie, Ryan Air. You need to read deep into the baggage fees, if any, and check in fees, seats fees, any other fees these budget carriers charge and make the decision if it is indeed the lowest option. The only thing consistent in the airline industry is change. Rules and fees are always being updated, be SURE to look up everything prior to booking.
In June of 2016, Ryan Air was not charging extra to bring a carry-on aboard the aircraft. Do make sure your bag is the correct dimensions because if it is oversized they will charge you a hefty amount, 50EUR (about $55). They do charge 70EUR (about $77) to check you in at the airport. This is unique. You must check in either on their app or online ahead of time. They allow check in up to 7 days prior to departure date! Prior to your check in time, you will have to pay to choose your seat. This is usually something you would want to do if you are traveling with others and especially small children. I did not pay for this feature since it was only a 2 hour flight and I can live not sitting next to my sister, mother, and boyfriend for that amount of time. However, thanks to the early check in, our party of 4 all had seats together near the front of the plane. This is a gamble and is not guaranteed. Make sure to buy your snacks and drinks in the airport terminal, as everything onboard the aircraft is for purchase only. They do accept cash, but always be prepared as that will probably change one day. There are no TVs aboard RyanAir, and they do not have wifi. All in all, RyanAir offers extremely low prices (just looked up a flight London to Oslo for December 1st and they are offering $19 fares one way) and have minimal added fees for my low-maintenance travelers. We traveled London Stansted (STN) to a small airport in Norway, Rygge (RYG) for $87 per person.
We had the time of our lives in Norway!! After a week with our amazing family, we had to head onward to Sweden! For this flight, we chose Norwegian Airlines. Norwegian was the only airline that allowed for a nonstop option from Oslo to Stockholm (1 hour flight). This time we flew between both main airports in each country. Norwegian Airlines is unique in the way they restrict the baggage onboard. Usually airlines size your bag in the sizers, Norwegian is concerned with weight. Their limit is 10KG per bag (about 22 pounds). If your bag is under 10KG then it is allowed on board at no extra cost. However, if it is over the allowed limit, it will come at a fee of 400NOK (about $50). Luckily, mine was weighed first at 9.6KG. My mom and sister were not as lucky…(Also I’m obviously the best packer of the family 😉 ). They will weigh the bags before you walk onto the plane and charge you on the spot. However, once on board, the luxury begins. The aircraft did not have TVs, however there was FREE wifi. We all know wifi is crucial to epic mid-air snapchats complete with accurate filters while flying between the two kingdoms. Norwegian also charges to choose your seat for their low fare tickets, but you can check in 24 hours in advance and receive seats for free. Again, we all had seats together. We flew from Oslo Gardermoen (OSL) to Stockholm’s Arlanda Airport (ARN) for $57 per person (except for Brooke and Mom who had to pay the extra money at the airport for their overweight bags).
One quick and windowless (hostel room had no windows…which made for a great night’s sleep…but would NOT pass fire code in the States) Swedish night, we were off to our next destination – POLAND! Brooke and I LOVE Poland, so we decided to show it to our mom and my boyfriend, James. Our first destination in Poland was Gdansk. We took Wizz Air – a Hungarian low cost carrier. Wizz Air has the most fun colors of them all – pink and purple! And really, that’s how you judge an airline after all. Wizz Air is like the budget carriers in the U.S. – they charge for baggage no matter what. Either way, we were going to have to pay for our bags so I made the executive decision to check them. We also paid for our seats, for an extra $3. Again, they charge to check you in at the airport, but it is free to do so with their app or online. They did not have TVs or in flight wifi. All items onboard – again – are for purchase. Welcome to Europe and welcome to real life, NOTHING IS FREE. We went from Stockholm Skavsta (NYO) to Gdansk (GDN) for $120 per person.
Europe is a vast and immensely interesting place to explore, especially for new travelers. Once the option for airline travel opens up, you can cross great distances pretty conveniently and cost effectively. The key to budget airlines is RESEARCH. Plan smart and be smart and you can spend that extra money on a nice cup of gelato or a unique experience. Don’t forget there are always other options, seek them out! Travel wisely.