Ryanair is a bit like Marmite – you either love it, or hate it. Many people I know swear they will never fly Ryanair ‘ever again’, after some horrible customer service/luggage experience. I have flown Ryanair several times, and never had a problem. But this was pre-Little Miss. Could I put myself through it with a toddler in tow? Yes, actually I could. The allure of really, really cheap flights was too much and one day in September I found myself booking the three of us to Valencia in October for half term for ONLY £150! My enthusiasm wasn’t even dampened when I came to book luggage and discovered that to take 20kg would cost £50 – basically another seat.
So, was it really that bad? Actually, no, it wasn’t. I found the check-in staff friendly (even though it was 5.30am), the staff at the gate were making jokes with passengers and the air stewardess made room for the three of us to sit together, even though we were some of the last on.
So, next time you are thinking of going on holiday with the kids, do think about going Ryanair, it just might surprise you. Here are 7 of my top tips for a smooth flight.
Be prepared for a really early start
Lots of the really cheap flights depart at some gawd-forsaken hour of the morning. Factor in being there two hours before (yes, we really did need two hours), and any driving time; and you’ve got a really early start. We had to leave Peterborough at 3.45am to be at Stansted airport for a 7.15am flight. Little Miss was the last thing we loaded in the car, and then off we went.
I did think about booking a hotel at Stansted for the night before, but to be fair, we still would’ve been up before 5am to be at departures for 5.15am. And I never really sleep that well before flying, so I decided not to bother. But you can get some cheap deals which also include car parking.
Consider paying for valet or meet & greet parking
Valet and meet & greet services allow you to drive your car right up to the terminal (or as close as you can go, depending on airport). You then hand in your keys, and an attendant parks your car in an airport car park for you. When you arrive back, you go to a designated point and get your keys/car back.
I’ve never done this, but I’ve got a friend who always does this and says that it only buys about 15-20 minutes in time, but it’s the convenience of being able to unload all your luggage, buggy, kids etc right outside the terminal, instead of unloading it all in some long-stay car park, then onto a bus, then off a bus again. I see her point, and I think for larger families, this would be a good option.
Know your luggage allowance
I realise this sounds really obvious, but seriously, make sure you read all the fine print in Ryanair’s conditions. If you’re overweight, they’ll sting you. If you turn up with an extra bag, they’ll sting you. If you’ve paid for two bags (15kg each), but then turn up with one bag, say 18kg, they’ll charge you for being 3kg overweight – you can’t pool luggage.
Remember the Ryanair cabin baggage size is slightly smaller than most other airlines (55cm x 40cm x 20cm). And they are complete sticklers to this. At both Stansted and Valencia, gate staff were making people put their bags in the measuring guide.
And, a word about Trunki. Trunki is about 1cm larger than the Ryanair allowance for cabin baggage. So do you, or don’t you? I read lots of forums and blogs about this prior to going, and the general consensus is that, yes, Trunki can travel. However I decided not to take Trunki on this trip as I found it a bit of a pain on our last trip with trying to pull Little Miss on it, and push the buggy, and tow a wheelie suitcase as well. I’m glad didn’t take it, as the airport was so busy. But I saw at least two people on both my flights with a Trunki, and they had no problems.
Know what infant equipment you can carry for free
At this risk of stating the obvious again, make sure you read the small print of Ryanair’s T&Cs. You can take a buggy for free, but you need to pay for any other infant equipment (travel cot or car seat). This is different to Easyjet who do allow two pieces of infant equipment for free (so buggy and car seat for instance).
Be prepared to queue and queue and queue
As mentioned, when we flew out from Stansted we arrived a good two hours before departure, and we needed every minute of that time. First we had to queue at bag drop to check in our suitcase: 30 minutes. Then we queued at security: 30 minutes. Then we had a 10-15 minute walk to the Ryanair gate, where people were already queuing to board our flight. Little Miss was still in her pyjamas and I needed the toilet, so we left hubby in that queue, sorted ourselves out, and came back to find him about 10 people from boarding!
I’ve only ever had queues like that the last time I had an early morning flight with Ryanair. I guess it would be the same from the other London airports for cheap early morning flights.
My advice for those early morning flights is to really allow two hours at the airport.
Don’t pay for priority boarding
Ryanair does NOT board families first. If you don’t pay for priority boarding you will have to board with everyone else. If you’re just travelling with one or two kids and a partner, I wouldn’t bother paying for priority boarding. On our way out, the stewardess allowed all three of us to sit in one of the ‘reserved’ rows at the front (no idea what they were reserved for, no one ever sat in them). On the way back we were one of the last on, and straight away a man offered his seat to me, as he had a spare seat beside him. Hubby got a seat right behind us.
We had originally planned on getting to the gate early so one of us could queue while the other entertained Little Miss. At Stansted we had no time. At Valencia we didn’t bother as we decided it didn’t matter if we got split up.
Take your own food on board
I have never, ever bought food on board a flight. I usually take something from home, or buy from the airport. But on our way out to Valencia I had to break my rule. We just didn’t have time to buy anything from the airport before we boarded. I had made Little Miss a sandwich and bought some other snacks, but she ate all this in the security queue! So I found myself handing over £15 for a bottle of water, packet of mini cheddars, kids snack pack and a croissant. And I got no change. A very sad day and my pride was dented.
On our way back I was much better prepared, and we didn’t even have to buy anything at the airport. My pride was restored.