27-Day Backpacking Excursion / Ryanair

I have a tablet in my pocket and a purse hiding out under my butt.

Every time I boarded a flight during our month backpacking (which was 7 times), I felt like I had just pulled off one of the world’s most BA stunts. Airport security is somewhat of a hassle when you’re flying regular airlines, so take those hoops you have to jump through and multiple them by 27. Then you’ll have a relatively accurate perception of who Ryanair is. Before I completely ridicule Ryanair, let it be known that I really do like their company and from a business perspective have analyzed and understand why they do things the way they do. But that doesn’t mean what they do is normal. And it definitely doesn’t mean that their practices aren’t relatively comical. First of all, this is their homepage.

Screen shot 2013-05-10 at 2.20.11 PM

If the font and neon yellow/blue theme colors don’t scream “budget”, I’m not sure what does. But that’s fine. It works.

Secondly, from the very get-go-when you purchase your flight-you will be bombarded. You. Will Be. Attacked.

1.) You’ll be asked to buy travel insurance. Pretty normal. You can’t just click ‘no’ though. It gives you an option to choose which country you’re from and if you don’t scroll down far enough, you’ll miss the option that says: “Travel Without Insure”. Insurance costs €11. If you select it, there’s an additional option for Travel Insurance PLUS…only €2.99 more!

3.) Then there’s an option for priority boarding. That’s €7 and doesn’t really make a difference.

2.) Next, you have an option to reserve seating. That’s an additional €10 per person. Unlike other airlines, Ryanair seating is a FREE FOR ALL! Whoever makes the maddest dash to the plane, gets the best seat. But you don’t have to worry about that…if you reserve seating! Here’s how they sell it:

  • Includes PRIORITY BOARDING: aka “You’ll stand in a separate line next to the regular passengers, but your line will be shorter. They may check your boarding passes first, but that’s not guaranteed. And you may get let out first into the gathering area, but regular boarders can weasel their way past you if they try.”
  • EXTRA LEG ROOM in over-wing seats: aka “I’m not sure how much of a difference in leg room the naked eye can see, but technically, there’s more.”
  • Sit with family and friends: aka “You’ll get to sit with your family and friends, just like 98% of the people boarding. The only ones not included in that statistic are single travelers, and perhaps really, really slow ones on full capacity flights.”

Needless to say, we didn’t reserve seating.

3.) After that you’re given an option to receive a text confirmation of your flight details. That costs €1.95. Quite the deal.

4.) Next, you check a box if you wish to carry sports equipment, musical instrument, or infant equipment. And check a box for special assistance. Valid.

5.) Then you check a box to accept their awesome General Terms and Conditions of Carriage. You have no choice.

6.) Then starts the fun ones. You’re asked if you want to buy:

  • Ryanair Talk. There’s a few options. €1.99 for 15 minutes etc.
  • Airport Car Parking. Somewhere around €12 a day.
  • Airport Transfer to the city. Price depends on the city.
  • And my favorite: Buy the Ryanair Official Cabin Bag!Screen shot 2013-05-10 at 2.48.19 PM

7.) Then a Hertz advertisement will pop up and give you some fine CarHire options. You can add them or choose to continue…once you scroll through them all.

8.) Lastly, you get to the payment page. Which includes a few more great offers.

Screen shot 2013-05-10 at 2.50.49 PM Screen shot 2013-05-10 at 2.50.57 PM

9.) Then, you have to print off your own boarding pass. You can only check in up to 15 days in advance. Fair enough. If you don’t print it yourself, that’ll be a €70 charge at the airport. Which makes sense because paper is really expensive.

10.) Finally, you have the boarding pass! When you get to the airport, Non-EU Citizens have to have their boarding passes stamped. If you get up to the gate without having your boarding pass stamped, your reservation can be cancelled and you will be denied boarding. When you get your boarding pass stamped, watch for the nice workers. Don’t go to ones who make people weigh their bags. Politely allow individuals to cut you in line so you can time out which person you go to.

11.) Getting through security is another treat. They have a very strict, 10 kg (22.04 pound) and a ONE bag limit. Size requirements are: 55cm x 40cm x 20cm. They actually walk around with cardboard boxes and at times make sure passengers’ bags fit inside them by placing the box over the bag. Either that, or they make you put your bag into a metal crate that is confined to those measurements. If you get up to the gate and your bag doesn’t fit, that costs you €40, but if you catch it before hand, it’s only €15 to check it.

Here’s how I tricked the system:

#1 Primarily by wearing a backpack. A backpack’s size is deceiving. They usually just said, “One piece of luggage?” and I turned to the side a little, and was golden. My backpack did fit the requirements sometimes, but it got bulgy as the trip went on. Unlike many passengers with wheeled bags (that fit the requirements), I was only asked once to take off my backpack and measure it. I literally had to work to wedge it in the crate. The worker said she’d help me get it out and after it was about 1/3 of the way in, she said, Good enough. Ha. I was lucky we were in Kefalonia and not somewhere more serious.

#2 If it weighs 14 kg (31 pounds) like mine did, make it look like it weighs 8 kg. Put on a happy face and don’t look like your back is snapping. Never had to weigh it once.

#3 Wear layers. My normal flying outfit consisted of my tennis shoes (took up the most room in my bag), jeans (the heaviest pants I had along), a t-shirt or long sleeve, my fleece, and my jacket. Yes I did tennies and jeans. Not proud. It was a little roasty at times, but worth it. On top of that, my fleece and jacket had huge pockets. So inside the pockets of my fleece I had my camera, camera case, and of course rocks and seashells (souvenirs can’t be left behind!). This is where it got ridiculous. In my jacket I had my tablet (7.63 x 4.82 x 0.41 in)  on one side and my journal on the other. Then around my neck I had my passport in a little pocket and my sunglasses hanging off of my shirt. I think that was it. When I got up to the desk I would hold my boarding pass with both hands in order to hide all that was in my pockets underneath my arms. Worked like a charm.

#4 And for those times when you just need a little extra room. Sneak another little purse on board. On a few of the flights I made it through security with my side purse outside of my ONE bag (which is not allowed). All I did was put the purse so far around to the back that it just hid out under my butt/backpack. Worked brilliantly.

12.) Once you get through all of that jazz. You get to go on the plane. At times the locations that Ryanair flies out of are basically converted warehouses, but the planes are always nice. You do have to go outside and climb the stairs to board the plane, but I mean, who doesn’t love a little fresh air after all that.

13.) Once on the plane there are just a few more offers. On top of the normal food and drink from their “Getaway Cafe”, they sell smokeless cigarettes designed for in-flight smoking…in case you just can’t wait! And merchandise like perfumes and such. And they even sell scratch-off game cards! Who could want more?!

So when it comes down to it, I just love Ryanair. But seriously. You cannot come close to beating their prices (€10 [$13] to fly to Greece from Italy!) and their flight attendants have always been friendly. And the plane was like any other. If you can follow their rules (or come off as if you’re following them), and at the same time see the comedy in their business strategies, you’ll have no problem enjoying your flight!


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