The Best First Time Ryanair Travel Tips
The first time I flew with Ryanair, I was so nervous. It was the first time I had ever traveled somewhere in Europe without my husband, Josh, since we moved to Belgium in the spring of 2015. I was an American expat still new to the European travel scene, anxious and alone in the Brussels airport, ready to head to Venice on an unfamiliar airline.
To Americans, it can be nerve-wracking to fly with an unfamiliar airline . . . especially a budget airline. And since Ryanair doesn’t fly in the U.S., I had no idea what to expect.
Turns out I had nothing to worry about. I’ve now flown with Ryanair multiple times, and while there’s nothing scary about the company, there are a few things that are good to know before booking. So, I’ve put together a few tips to make your first Ryanair experience a breeze!
1: Know where you’re landing.
Ryanair doesn’t always fly directly into your destination city, so it’s important to know to which airport you’re flying. For example, Leonardo da Vinci International Airport, also known as Rome Fiumicino (FCO), is actually a 40-minute drive from the city of Rome. Always make sure you know where the airport is in relation to your destination!
2: Read the fine print.
As a budget airline, Ryanair does almost everything “a la carte”; only the most basic transportation services are included in the price of your ticket. That means in-flight drinks, snacks, and entertainment all cost extra. This applies to the check-in process, too. For example, it’s an extra €15 to print out your boarding pass at the airport (so print out your boarding pass at home the night before). It’s €45 to check-in at the airport (so make sure you check in to your flight at home the night before). And so on.
Even though Ryanair can be one of the most inexpensive ways to travel around Europe, those extras can add up quickly to make a Ryanair experience cost the same as a non-budget airline ticket. Take the time to read the fine print so you know what those extra costs are and how to avoid them.
For a full list of fees, click HERE.
3: Check your carry-on dimensions.
Ryanair’s current carry-on policy allows two items, like most airlines: one carry-on and one small personal item. Ryanair is strict on that policy, so make the boarding process smoother by consolidating your carry-ons as much as possible! From the Ryanair website: “You can carry one cabin bag weighing up to 10 kg with maximum dimensions of 55cm x 40cm x 20cm, plus 1 small bag up to 35 x 20 x 20 onboard the aircraft.” (Link here)
Tip: European airlines have slightly smaller overhead compartments than American airlines, so an American-sized carry-on suitcase may not fit as easily in a Ryanair overhead bin. Take the time to measure your carry-on dimensions to avoid an awkward I-can’t-fit-my-suitcase-in-the-overhead scene. Especially since oversize bags will either be refused at the gate or put in the hold for a €50 fee!
4: Don’t forget to get a visa check.
If you’re not an EU resident, make sure you stop by the Ryanair check-in desk to get a visa check. They take a look at your passport, sign your boarding pass, then you’re good to go. It may seem trivial, but you HAVE to do this before you go through security. Ryanair won’t let you board the plane if your ticket doesn’t have that visa check!
5: Wear your heavy/bulky items on the plane.
One of the best ways to keep your travel costs down is to travel with carry-on luggage only. However, this means you’ve got very limited space for packing. Free up as much room in your luggage as possible by wearing your biggest, heaviest items on the plane. You can always change once you get to your destination!
6: Be prepared to walk outside to board the plane.
Almost every time I’ve flown Ryanair, passengers had to walk outside across the tarmac to board the plane. The only airport I’ve been to—so far—where Ryanair used a jetway to connect the plane to the gate was at Palma de Mallorca Airport in Mallorca, Spain. So just in case, be ready to head outside, rain or shine, to board your flight.
7: Get in line right away.
When you arrive at the gate, get in the queue as soon as possible. There aren’t boarding groups to stagger the boarding process, so in this case, the early bird gets the . . . um . . . overhead compartment space.
8: Bring a water bottle.
Like I mentioned earlier, there are no complimentary in-flight drinks or snacks, so prepare accordingly. I like to make sure I have a water bottle with me on flights, no matter who I’m flying with, in case my throat gets dry during takeoff or landing. But if you do choose to purchase in-flight drinks or snacks from Ryanair, there’s a good selection and they’re reasonably priced.
9: Finish hot drinks before boarding.
Before boarding a flight in the Manchester airport, my husband purchased a large coffee to take on the plane with him. He was halfway through the drink when he reached the gate, and they wouldn’t let him through! He had to step aside to down the rest before he could scan his ticket. Let me tell you, chugging hot coffee is the worst. We learned that Ryanair doesn’t allow passengers to bring hot drinks onboard, so drink up before you board.
10: Keep your passport and ticket readily available until you’re in your seat.
Let’s walk through this, shall we? . . . After receiving your visa check, some European airports have a walk-through ticket scanner before the line for security. Your ticket and passport are checked, like normal, at security. At the gate, Ryanair staff will check your passport and ticket to make sure you’ve gotten a visa check. Your ticket will be scanned, like normal, at the gate when boarding. Sometimes, EU officials will randomly scan passports for more thorough background checks while passengers are waiting to board the plane. Once you board the plane, an attendant will check your ticket (and sometimes your passport), then direct you to your seat.
Phew. Basically, have your passport and ticket within reach at all times.
Bonus Tip: Bring headphones.
Throughout the flight, Ryanair attendants will advertise various in-flight purchases, such as scratch tickets, magazines, and refreshments. If you’d rather not listen to the constant announcements during your flight, bring headphones. Then get out a good book, sit back, and relax.
There you have it! These top 10 tips will help you survive your first Ryanair flight and the many more to come. Happy flying!