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How to Survive and Prosper on a Ryanair Flight

***Summer is fast approaching: Return flights to Ibiza from London Stansted  £38.99***

We’ve all been lured into the trap: so desperate to get away from England that the psychological pricing takes us by the neck and holds us ransom to our own bank account. What you don’t consider in the sun-promised frenzy is the fact you have no accommodation,the most unsociable flight times and that for this price, you can only take HAND LUGGAGE. Yes, I’m talking about the loved and loathed, the media storm-inducing juggernaut that is Ryanair.

I’m going to lay all my cards on the table now and say that I have a penchant for Ryanair – two words which don’t often co-occur together. I’m a self-confessed Ryanair-aholic. On a year abroad you become well acquainted with flying regularly. As I and many others have decided to take it upon ourselves to rebirth our year abroad as a gap year (education is lacking), travelling is our main priority. Ryanair is a no frills airline, you get what you see. Except for a £6 admin fee on each flight, online check in fee and a tax levy - this you don’t see until you come to give your card details. You also get an oh- so- generous allowance of one cabin luggage bag which must be no more than 10kg in weight, and measure 50cm x 40cm x 20cm at Ryanair’s behest  – leaving little room for the 10 outfits you had planned for the 3 day weekend break. (Although the International Air Transport Association standard hand baggage allows 56cm x 45cm x 25cm, Ryanair seem to think it’s funny to allow even less. Har har. Unfortunately it’s not a joke and if you take it as one, you will be punished.)
So here are a few tips to make the most of your experience:

I suggest a holdall in lieu of a wheelie case. My justifications for this are as follows:

  • A material bag is considerably more malleable than a hard suitcase with all manner of unyielding wheels and handles which are likely to cause you a massive headache when attempting to fit it in the measuring frame. If a suitcase doesn’t fit, then it doesn’t fit.  
  • Even if your holdall is oversized, from experience, you are less likely to be pulled up by stewards as it’s just a presupposition that bags are a lot smaller than suitcases. So if you can handle (no pun intended) carrying a bag without the aid of wheels, I recommend it.

N.B Perfecting the art of carrying a 10kg bag leisurely with a languid swagger, as though it’s light as a feather, is essential.

Unfortunately the liquid ban is still in full force; although disregarded at some airports, the equation goes something like this:

  • ONE 20cm x 20cm clear plastic bag for liquids
  • One individual container which cannot exceed 100ml
  • The total capacity for the whole bag of liquids must be no more than 1 litre (so you can have 10 100ml bottles or more, smaller bottles)

To get around this you can buy ‘minis’ from any high street chain. I personally prefer to buy ‘empties’ and decant my potions and lotions myself, as this is a lot more cost and space effective. Substitute cleansers and make-up removers for cleansing facial wipes, and foundations for powders. One problem I continually have is with perfume, although capacity wise we’re fine, it’s tricky to fit the bulky, glass bottle into the 20cm plastic bag. This is where solid perfumes come in. Marc Jacobs does a version, but for the more budget conscious Lush offer a range of affordable solid perfumes which solve all your liquid woes.

Tricks of the trade

  • Travel in your heaviest items, if this is heels then wear them and deal with the pain.
  • Wear layers, and garments with pockets. If you think I’m going for dramatic effect when I say that I wear a pair of leggings under leather trousers to fly in, I’m not. Sartorial elegance is regrettably discarded when travelling low-budget.  Even if you’re travelling towards a 30 degrees climate, wear everything that’s humanly possible; you can shed your extra skins when you get on the plane.
  • Abuse your jacket pockets to their full potential. Ryanair hold no prisoners because this is where they make most of their sordid millions; pouncing on unsuspecting travellers, delirious from the early morning call time. A bulging front suitcase pocket, boasting an accumulation of your small in-flight necessities (i.e. water, sandwich, Pringles, iPod) can mean the difference between pain-free flying and a £40 sur-charge. There’s no limit to what you carry on your person. Not a very style-forward option but there is such a thing as a ’Big Pocket Travel Vest.’ This is a jacket with pockets large enough to fit a laptop in. In an ideal world this would be great, but I’ve not heard that Zara have started producing these yet, so I’m opting out.
  • Ooze gaiety when you float through the boarding gate; confidence is key. Wink, giggle, and flash a beguiling smile; do anything in your female power to distract from your over-sized luggage.


Arrive at the gate early. If you’re unfortunate enough to get pulled up for having too large a case at the end of the queue, the likelihood is that you will have little time or patience to repack and organise your bag, or negotiate a positive outcome. If you’re at the fron,t stewards may be less stringent with rules and regulations. Being at the front of the queue also has its benefits in that Ryanair is largely a no reservation airline. (Although they are currently trialling a seat allocation system by which they charge, of course.) But until this is a permanent move, you must fight to your death for a seat. Of course you’ll get one, but it’s nice to have the choice between the chiselled, sun kissed Señor and the shaven headed ex-pat, embroidered with bulldogs and barbwire. So here is my tip: go straight to the back of the plane. Most people fill up as they move along; if you head towards the rear or enter via the back doors, sit on the back row or nearest to it. This way if the plane isn’t full, which usually it isn’t, chances are you will have a spacious row to yourself or empty seat to lay out all your in-flight paraphernalia. If you’re travelling alone, sit in the aisle seat. This deters people from sitting on your row; so you can put your feet up (leg room is minimal to nonexistent) and relax. If all else fails, employ the headphones, and cheese and onion crisps.

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