A Ryanair Survival Guide: How to fly with Ryanair and avoid the hassle

There’s no denying Ryanair has a bad reputation in the airline industry. The staff are rude, the additional fees are outrageous, they’re always late and an annoying horn sounds every time you land.

You know how it goes:

“Dooo do dooloooo, that’s another on time flight!”

Me: “Yes it might be on time but you predicted the flight would take 45 minutes longer than it should so it’s not really on time at all!”

Everyone has a Ryanair horror story but at the end of the day, Ryanair are cheap. Really cheap!

Ryanair have enabled many of us to travel more when it was previously too expensive. By cutting down on extras they’ve made flights irresistibly affordable and who am I to argue with a £30 return flight to Paris or Oslo or Milan?

A lot of people hate Ryanair because of their ‘hidden costs’ but if you read the small print you’ll find they’re actually not that hidden after all. But, let’s be honest, no one can be bothered to read the small print so I’ve made things easy with my Ryanair Survival Guide.

Here’s everything you need to know about flying with Ryanair, how to avoid Ryanair’s hidden fees and how to have a stress-free flight.

 

1. Check where the airports are

Before you even think about booking a flight, check where the airport you’ll be landing in will be. Ryanair and other budget airlines often use regional airports because they’re cheaper. This means the airport might be a long way out of the city center and you’ll end up paying extra to travel into the city.

I did this with a flight to Oslo. I paid £35 for the flight but my bus transfer from Torp Airport in Sandefjord to Oslo city centre cost almost as much as the actual flight and took an additional 2 hours.

Don’t rule out regional airports completely because the savings are often worth it and they usually have excellent transfer links and shuttle buses.

 

2. When booking online with Ryanair…

Don’t rush when you’re booking online with Ryanair.

Check and double check and check again that you’ve got the right times and dates because if you book the wrong flight it’s unlikely you’re going to get a refund.

Make sure you untick the insurance box and get your own insurance because it’s cheaper.

Untick the reserved seating or preselected seats. Unless you’re last on the plane it’s unlikely you won’t be able to get a seat with your nearest and dearest.

If you’re going to need to check-in baggage then make sure you do it now and pay the extra for it. If you find your bag is too big or too heavy to take as cabin baggage on the day then you’ll pay a small fortune to get it on the plane. (More on baggage later).

Tips for flying with Ryanair

Before you get to the airport

Check-in online and PRINT OUT YOUR BORDING PASS or use the app!

You cannot check-in at the airport!

Sorry to get all bold and capital on you there but this is the most annoying thing about Ryanair. If you forget to print out your boarding pass they will charge you a small fortune to do it at the airport (about £60 I think)– it could even cost you more than the actual flight.

If you don’t have a printer you need to get someone else to do it for you.

The easiest thing to do is get the Ryanair app. You then check-in via the app and have your boarding pass on your phone. I’ve done this a few times with Ryanair and I’ve never had a problem. You do need to make sure you have plenty of battery on your phone because you’ll be screwed if your battery dies.

 

 

Luggage

For check-in luggage on a Ryanair flight you are allowed:

Size: 81cms (height), 119cms (width) and 119cms (depth)

Weight: Either 15kg or 20kg

There is a £10 fee for each additional kilo

Checked bagged must be checked in 40 minutes before flight departure. I’d give yourself an hour just in case!

Ryanair will not accept bags weighing over 32kg, no matter how much you’re prepared to pay.

 

For carry-on luggage for a Ryanair flight you are allowed:

Size: 55cm x 40cm x 20cm

Weight: 10kg

 

+1 small handbag

Size: 35 x 20 x 20 cms

Weight: Not stated

The one extra small handbag is a recent addition, previously you were only allowed one bag. This is a little vague because it has no weight limit but it’s basically a lady’s small handbag or possibly a camera bag. It’s the kind of small bag where you’d keep your purse, passport and phone.

DO NOT exceed the luggage limitations. Ryanair staff have the most amazing talent for spotting overweight bags and they will not let you on with a bag that exceeds the size limit.

If you’re looking for a suitable carry-on bag, take a look at Cabin Max. They make bags that are the exact dimensions for particular airlines so you know you’re within the size guide but have the biggest bag you possibly can have.

Carry on luggage from Max Luggage

I’m currently using the Oxford Trolley (£50) which is surprisingly big but is suitable to be used as cabin baggage for Easy Jet, Air France, Wiz Air (large), Monarch, Flybe, American Airlines, Ryanair and Jet2. As long as you don’t go over the weight limit it’s really reassuring knowing you won’t have any arguments over your luggage.

There are no if’s, no but’s, no arguments and no excuses when it comes to luggage on Ryanair flights.

Please, please, please don’t complain when you’re told you need to pay extra for an overweight or oversized bag. OK, another airline may have let you off but Ryanair WON’T.

 

Drinks and snacks

As you would expect, you don’t get any drinks or snacks included on your Ryanair flight. They do sell them onboard but they’re expensive and the hot food is gross. Stock up at the airport or, if you’re a real cheapskate, stock up at the Pound Shop and take them with you!

 

Pack your headphones

Another annoying thing about Ryanair is the amount of announcements they make. There really is no need. They’re constantly trying to sell you something so make sure you pack your headphones and have a good play list to drown out the announcements!

 

Line up early

Because so many people only take cabin baggage on Ryanair flights there often isn’t enough space on the plane for all the cases. This means that the last people on the plane have to put their bags in the hold.

You don’t need to pay for this but it’s just annoying as you’ll have to queue at the baggage carousel and wait for it to be loaded off the plane.

Ryanair Survival Guide

Do you need to pay to use the toilet onboard?

No, of course not. That was just a PR stunt to get people talking about Ryanair. I think it would be illegal to charge to use the toilets.

Ryanair might seem like a lot effort but once you’ve flown with them a few times you soon get the hang of it. If there’s another airline offering similar flights for £20 extra then I’d probably pay the extra but most of the time the difference will be over £100 so it’s well worth the annoying extra effort to fly Ryanair.

Disclaimer: This suitcase was gifted to me from Cabin Max. As always, I would never recommend a product I didn’t genuinely love. Big thanks to Cabin Max, this is my new favourite for hand-luggage.

photo credits: “Stròlic Furlàn” – Davide Gabinoekidrekihartlandmartin 

Do you have any more tips to survive a Ryanair flight?

TheTravelHack

Monica is the founder and editor of The Travel Hack. She began the blog in 2009 when she left the UK to travel around Asia and Australia for two years. She's now a professional blogger and has travelled around the world in search of stylish adventure travel. Monica has recently had her second baby and is determined to prove that travelling with a baby is possible!

SHOWHIDE Comments (46)
  1. We’ve flown with Ryanair three times in the past year and I LOVE them! It’s hard to beat the prices we’ve been able to get on our airfare – only Easyjet has ever been able to beat them when comparing prices.

    I’ve noticed the seats are a little smaller on Ryanair than they are on other airlines in economy class. It’s not a big deal for me since I’m petite, but I can’t imagine it being comfortable to fly like that for heavier or taller folks. Something to think about if the flight will be more than a couple hours…

  2. You do definitely need a checklist when you’re thinking of going on a Ryanair flight.

    However, as you said, they do offer good value for money and just as long as you don;t let the annoying things bug you, you’ll actually have a great flight.

    Flew with them 5 times now and my favourite route definitely is the Manchester to Dublin.

    1. Yes, the Manchester – Dublin route is great. It’s so quick and I love that it’s the last flight on a Friday and last one returning on a Sunday so you don’t need to take time off work and still get a good weekend away!

  3. I would have to say that despite the terrible customer service and bumpy landings, Ryanair are the best budget airline at the moment. I say this purely because you can now take on two carry on bags. I recently flew with Wizzair and their tiny cabin bag allowance is ridiculous. At the gate one poor lady’s hard-cased bag was not even centimeter over the allowance and they made her pay a fee. They are super cheap as well though, so I guess you can’t complain when flights are 100 quid cheaper than everywhere else!

    How to be a Wanderluster

  4. I flew to Poland in August with Ryanair and I was really dreading it. I have heard a lot of horror stories, but I have to say I though they were great for the price. You are right about the food and drinks. I think a small tea was around £2.50. The plane wasn’t the cleanest, but you get what you pay for I suppose.

  5. Great tips Monica. I think Ryanair is a great option (even if the plane interiors give me a headache) and as long as you play by the rules, it’s usually worth it. I get quite annoyed when people complain about being paying huge fees for printing out boarding passes at the airport or over-size luggage because the airline makes no secret of the consequences.

    1. Same here. Whenever I see someone at the airport without a boarding pass I think, ‘How did you not know that!?’ but there’s obviously still a lot of people who don’t! I think it’s because their rules are different to most other airlines and we just expect each airline to be the same.

  6. Last night I booked Ryanair from Oslo to London for New Year’s and then I had a crazy dream about sneaking heavy baggage onto my flight! Haha anyway, this is super helpful – I hadn’t realized they added an extra personal item!

  7. I always used to forget to check where the airport was. I have definitely learned my lesson from that many times over! Good tips for flying with any budget airline, thanks for sharing!

  8. I am not enjoying Ryanair either, but with their prices I think it’s okay to suffer for an hour or two. Regarding luggage: a while ago I read something about a giant jacket with giant pockets that you can use to take an enormous amount of stuff on board without paying extra. (It doesn’t count as luggage because it’s on your body) So that might be an extra tip 🙂

  9. Interesting article. I’ve been boycotting Ryanair for years now as my card was cloned when I purchased plane tickets to Italy on their website. At the time their site wasn’t supporting Chrome, so I had to make the payment via a different browser. Two days later I noticed that two more flights had been purchased with my card from Ryanair – one to Oslo and another one to Malta. Both flights had already been taken. This was at the time when you needed to show the card you made the purchase with at the airport, so not sure how they got around this. My bank refunded the money, but no more Ryanair for me. Fly with Easyjet or WizzAir. That’s my tip.

  10. Really great article, thanks! I have always been put off by Ryanair and thought it was just easier to pay extra but know exactly what I am getting and not face any surprised charges. A lot of my friends have travelled with Ryanair and say it really is the cheapest method once you’ve figured it all out so thanks for all the information. Maybe it is worth a try!

  11. Thanks for this great post! I prefer easy jet whenever I can and been using them a lot, never complained, but since we will be going to Dublin in February it will be Ryanair we are going to use – they really cheap! Looks like with buying flights with them is somehow like with renting a car when abroad – read everything and stick to the rules! Luckily the flight is not very long so we will just put headphones on and ignore the selling crap crew 🙂

  12. I love Ryanair – thanks to airlines like them they are really helping to connect the north of England with the rest of Europe. I suppose if you live near a massive airport or the numerous ones in London, you can choose who you go with. I last flew with them to Tallinn for about £50 return, it was awesome. I simply can’t travel without a suitcase (too much crap to take), £30 each way.. could be worse! Still loads cheaper (for me) than using a national carrier. Agree some of the destination airports are quite a distance away (ie Barcelona Girona). I’m 5ft8 and I find Ryanair’s seats roomy compared to some of the other budget airlines. I flew with Jet2 to New York, now that was a squeeze for 8 hours! (In fact, I should write about that!)

  13. I am thinking about flying Ryanair soon, I have a question about the boarding pass situation. If I have the app do I still need to print out the boarding pass? I am going to be in Hostels and I do not know if Ill have access to a printer. Thanks!

    1. No, if you have the app, you DON’T need to print the boarding pass. Very handy if you’re staying in hostels without printers.
      I’d recommend screenshotting your ticket and having it as a photo on your phone – just in case you lose signal in the airport and can’t access the app.

  14. I’ll be travelling with Ryanair, for the first time, at the end of June to Portugal and this is by far the most useful article I have read about them.
    Thank you.
    x

  15. A great article.
    We have flown with Ryanair many times over the last 6 years and never had a problem.
    If you accept that they are a budget airline and play by their rules you can fly all over Europe for a very reasonable price.
    Like you, it annoys me listening to people at the airport bitching about Ryanair. If you don’t like their service, use another airline.

  16. I do not agree with your statement that other low cost airlines are usually 100 GBP more expensive. I fly all the time and the difference with Easy Jet is never more than 20 GBP and by the time you have added the bus fares to exotic airports it is actually cheaper. As much as I can I avoid Ryan Air. The service is just too bad and unfriedly even for a low cost airline

    1. I love EasyJet, I’ll usually pay £20 extra for EasyJet too but I often find that Ryanair and EasyJet don’t fly at the same times or to the same places so it’s not always an option.

  17. Hard to take you serious when you make such a bold claim in your opening paragraph. “.. always late”. Where do you get that from? I’ve used them for years to get between Norway and Ireland for a very affordable price. They were never late once, on the contrary we often landed a few minutes early.
    Ryan Air have never had a hidden cost. Ryan air have always delivered what is written on the box. People can’t be bothered to read what the deal is and then get all bent out of shape when they are not getting “proper service”. Though they conveniently forget they are actually being flown across the north sea cheaper than a bus fare.

  18. Hi There and Thank you..thank you. Flying Ryan Air for first time to Poland next month and googled looking for advice as you do here scary stories! I note the article was written in 2014 does all still apply?

  19. I’m flying with my daughters (13 & 8) later this month, wondering if I should book seats to ensure we can sit together as when I flew with Ryanair 2 years ago there were so many priority boarding passengers that when I got on the plane it seemed like there were only individual seats. Advice please, thank you. Jane

    1. Hi Jane. I fly Ryanair a lot and I’ve never booked seats and always managed to sit next to the people I’ve been travelling with. If you booked the flights together then I’m sure they’ll always assign your seats together.
      Worst case scenario (which is very unlikely) is that you don’t get seats together but I’m pretty sure the air stewards would help move people around to keep you together – especially when you’re with children.
      I *think* you can probably even check-in online and don’t opt for seats together. And then if you find your seats are apart you can log back in an pay to upgrade and have them together.

  20. Thank you veryyyy Much for that article..

    It was cery usefull, but i still have some questions..

    I am planning for my euro trip in september from casablanca morocco

    Barcelona paris rome zakynthos

    One of my bags is 1 or 2 cm over the dimentions accepted as carry ons..and who knows maybe it would look fat (but still 10 Kg)

    So if it’s spotted by them as a not fit bag for carry on..what is the fee for that?

    and what about the handbag carryons..i have an adidas backbag for training..is that allowed or not?

    Any further advice you can help me with my destinations..barcelona paria rome zakynthos?

    Thanks man

    1. I 100% recommend making sure your bag is within the recommended dimensions. It’s unlikely they’ll notice 1-2cm but they might and then you have to pay a lot to check it in. Also, when the bag is full it can bulge out so it can look bigger than it is. They do have a little rack which is the ‘perfect size’ and they often ask if your bag will fit in this rack before you board. If it won’t fit they won’t let you take it on. I don’t know how much it costs if your bag doesn’t fit but it’s much more than checking it on.

      For Ryanair, you’re currently allowed one carry-on bag and one small handbag – I doubt a backpack you use for training would be allowed as it’s probably too big. If you end up flying with easyjet you’re only allowed one carry-on bag.

  21. Hi, Great post. I have read from a review on Ryanair that the disembarkation process off a plane is chaotic and also that it takes some time to retrieve your checked in luggage. Any commetns ?

    1. No I wouldn’t say disembarkation is chaotic at all. And getting your checked luggage isn’t any more of an issue than any other airline. I may be wrong but I’m pretty sure they don’t use airline staff to do the luggage, it’s done by the airport staff or contractors, so it doesn’t matter what airline you fly with. It’s more about the airport than the airline.
      I hope that help!

  22. Im planning a flight to Hamburg and my two-way ticket is ~33 euro BUT I read in their “fees info” something about a 45 euro “airport check-in fee”. Am i gonna pay 45 euro everytime when I enter the airport or…please help me

  23. What if I don’t have a printer? Can I make a booking on my computer and print tickets/passes later using my booking details on another computer. Do you have an account or get anything in an e-mail I could use to go to another computer to print out later ?

    1. If you don’t have a printer you can use the app. But you can also print it out at any time from any computer. You’ll be emailed your tickets so you won’t need to log in or anything.

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The Travel Hack is a blog about stylish adventure travel and affordable luxury.

We believe luxurious travel can be affordable and isn't just for the rich. Follow along with our worldwide adventures as we share our trips and tips for incredible travel experiences on a modest budget.