If you're here to complain about budget airlines, I won't stop you; the comment box is down below. But if you're on the fence about budget airlines, as I once was, perhaps I can convince you to join me in the land of cheap and easy travel.
What Is a Budget Airline?
If this is a new term for you, I'll summarize real quick. When you book a flight on a low-cost carrier, the only thing your ticket guarantees you is a seat somewhere on that flight. The price may be jaw-droppingly cheap, but it won't include things like food or drinks, carry-on or checked luggage, seat selection, or entertainment.
Budget airlines include domestic carriers like Spirit, Allegiant, and Frontier, and dozens of international airlines, from WOW air to Norwegian to the infamous Ryanair.
But That Sounds Awful! Here's 4 Tips for Surviving Budget Flights
I've flown about two dozen budget flights in the last three years, and I'll probably fly a few more before the decade is out. Trust me when I say it's not as bad as it sounds. In fact, it's a pretty liberating way to travel.
1. No Food or Drinks? No Problem!
This is actually one of the easiest issues to solve when it comes to flying. If your ticket doesn't include anything to eat or drink, you can just...bring your own. No one's stopping you. I'll normally snag $5 worth of snacks at the grocery store before heading to the airport (which beats stale pretzels, by the way). Along with a reusable water bottle to refill after security, I'll be set for the flight.
Another odd benefit of not having a meal service? No one bothers you when you're trying to sleep through the flight. It's glorious.
2. But What About My Legroom?
I'm not going to pretend that all budget airlines have comfortable seats—some of them feel like they glued craft foam to your desk chair from third grade. And it's annoying that your seats are randomly assigned unless you fork over an extra wad of cash to snag a window.
It's a matter of weighing what's important to you when traveling. If you're traveling with kids, you'll probably want to sit together. If you're extra tall, you'll probably want extra legroom. But if you're of an average size, traveling solo or with a friend, you can probably survive five hours in a middle seat between Mr. McSnores-a-lot and Chatty Cathy.
3. Baggage. It's Always About the Baggage.
Some budget airlines will charge up to $70 EACH WAY for checked or carry-on bags. It's a racket, and everyone knows it. But there are ways around it, and surprisingly, some benefits that accompany it. First off, it teaches you to travel light, and that's something you may appreciate when you get to your destination. I personally love only having to worry about one bag. And second, no checked bags means no lost luggage.
If you really need extra space, consider splitting the cost with a traveling companion. I once spent a week in Disney World with a friend, and we fit all of our things into one rolling suitcase and two backpacks. It cost us an extra $50 each ... but our tickets were still $60 cheaper than the next closest airline.
4. But What About The ... ?
Delays? Cancellations? Flight change fees? I hate to tell ya, mateys, but you're going to experience at least one of those airplane inconveniences in your life — and they can happen with any airline. Delta once left me stranded in JFK for over eight hours.
Budget airlines take a lot of flak because, well, it's easy. But Spirit Airlines, for example, ranked better in 2018 for keeping to a schedule than American, United, and jetBlue, according to MONEY. They're not perfect — few airlines are — and you definitely need to read all the fine print when buying your tickets, but if you just need to get from point A to point B, give budget airlines a chance.
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