HOW TO PACK FOR EUROPEAN BUDGET FLIGHTS
You are a long way from home and you want to make the most of your holiday and your Schengen visa. I mean you are in Europe and in an hour flight you can be in a different country… Paris, London, Milan, Barcelona… They are all just around the corner. You want to take advantage of this, right?
Most of you are on a long vacation or business trip and obviously cannot fly around with a little trolley, as the one accepted by most European budget airlines. You have no choice than paying huge unnecessary baggage allowances with airlines that were supposed to be budget, but soon turn out to cost you almost like a normal airline with the difference that you cannot even have a glass of water without pocketing more money and obviously, comfort wise, let’s admit it… they are not the best.
There is an easy solution to this problem that not only is going to allow you to fly around the continent like a European on a weekend gateway would, but also gives you the comfort of moving around without cumbersome luggage. We all know the lovely well preserved historic European cities are often not the best place to be dragging around a huge suitcase on uneven roads and multiple steps
Here is it. When you make your luggage, use one big suitcase (as big and heavy as your airline would allow) as main storage. Then carry a trolley of the required dimensions (see below) and use it as hand luggage. In the unlikely case your airline does not allow such a big hand luggage, just check it in and pay the extra weight if necessary. You can make it as light as a few kilos and trust me it will still work out cheaper than finding yourself to have to check in your big suitcase with a low cost European Airline. Naturally, you can also check in the small trolley if you wish to have a different hand luggage.
Once you arrive at your first destination, you can now build up your mini suitcase for the short trip you are taking to another city or country and leave you big suitcase either with the hotel you are staying, in case you are going back there, or at the luggage storage you can find at train stations or airports. In case you are flying out immediately, without checking in a hotel first, I highly recommend to have the small trolley ready to go with your toiletries, clothes and anything else you might need. If you are passing through the hotel, you can comfortably make it when you are there.
THE MAGIC BAG
One advice, carry one or more strong fabric shoulder/tote bags. Most of the European budget airlines not only are very strict on the size and weight of the authorised cabin luggage, but also on the number of pieces. If they write one, that means one: your trolley and no more, so even a small handbag will not be accepted and will incur in extra charges.
What I do is simple. I carry a cross shoulders mini bag I can wear on my body where I keep my passport, money and credit cards. It goes under my coat, jacket, trench coat or big buttoned jumper, whatever the season requires, and it’s not visible. It’s always on me, if I fall asleep or need to go to the washroom and has the additional advantage that I don’t need to ask people to move or make a mess to get my wallet if I fancy drinking something during the flight. Remember? You won’t have an handbag if you don’t pay extra so that means your wallet would either be in your pockets or in your trolley and the latter will be in the overhead compartments, so even having a cup of tea becomes quite inconvenient when flying budget.
I also have a fabric bag neatly folded in my pocket or on the top of my trolley. As soon as I board the plane, I quickly open my trolley and remove, books, iPad or whatever I wish to use on the plane and slide it in there. That one can go below the seat in front of you. I then close my trolley for good and store it in the overhead locker. This way, I have all I need without having to open and close the trolley during a short flight on a plane with very limited body space. Nobody minds how many pieces of luggage you have when you get off the plane so I don’t have to put it back in, if I don’t want to, before I leave the aircraft.
ONE BAG IS JUST ONE BAG!
Remember also that unless you pay for a checked-in luggage, all budget airlines follow the strict regulation on liquids for cabin luggage, so make sure you don’t have liquid bottles that exceed 100 ml and if you do have liquid bottles up to 100 ml, have them prestored in a zip transparent plastic bag that you can easily take out during luggage control and then slide back in. Check also regulations for batteries and power packs. My advice is to carry as little as you can. Liquids are heavy and all hotels provide you with basic toiletries so just leave them with your big luggage if you can stay a couple of days without your favourite shampoo.
If you have a laptop, just go through controls and board the plane with it in your trolley and then store it in you fabric bag. If you have a camera, you can keep it around your neck or do the same you would for your laptop or other electronics.
SECRETS TO HAPPY BOARDING
One more advice and not an irrelevant one. Despite you have an allocated seat on these airlines, they normally don’t board the plane based on seat numbers. Aircrafts are pretty small and the boarding procedure is simply first in queue first in. Some of them, soon run out of space in the overhead lockers. It’s so very frustrating! You have the right to one piece of cabin luggage as long as it’s within their sizing but in reality, if the plane is more than half full, there is no space for every single piece of luggage. They count on people travelling with just a very small bag that can be stored under the seat or on less than full occupancy. In all other cases, which is most of the times by the way, they have a problem so they go around while you are queuing to board asking for volunteers to put their luggage in the hall, still fine, or sometimes, just force you to give it to them to be stored in the hall. Not ok!
This is most annoying when you have valuable or electronics in your trolley and you are bluntly told to remove them if that makes you nervous so you end up carrying half of your suitcase in your hands. It’s a despicable procedure but it’s widely practised so I think you better know it and learn how to go about it to avoid fruitless discussions with the airline personnel.
There are two tricks you can use here to avoid to be asked to hand over your luggage. The first doesn’t cost money but it’s pretty annoying. Go to the airport early and be among the first in the queue. No restaurants or shopping, just go to the gate and stand in the queue. They never force the first people boarding to hand over their suitcases because they are sure there is place. This is pretty bothersome because it means standing in line for more than an hour sometimes but it’s as good as it gets without reaching for your wallet. The other alternative, available with many airlines, is to pay for speedy boarding when you purchase your ticket online. Speedy boarding passengers are treated like business class passengers in normal airlines and they will be asked to board before anyone else, regardless of the fact that they are still comfortably sitting while the others have been standing in a queue for more than an hour. You will never be forced to hand over your luggage and you will enjoy priority boarding. It’s not too expensive and I highly recommend it.
So, these are more or less the few tricks I use to make my flights with budget airlines more pleasant. They are still worth the effort since the flights often cost really very little compared to normal airlines and in some cases, the place you are heading to is connected directly only by low cost flights so you really don’t have many alternatives.
THE MAGIC NUMBERS
Most airlines accept, included in the ticket price, one piece luggage with the standard sizing of 56 x 45 x 25 cm and a maximum weight of 10 kg. If you carry one with these specifications you are almost 100% sure to be able to hop on different flights of different airlines with no problems. In any case, it’s always wise to check also because regulations on luggage allowance keep on changing every day so I link here below the luggage allowance pages of the most popular low costs airlines.
Enjoy flying around Europe and discover its many beautiful capitals or islands or anywhere else you are planning to go. Travel well, travel light, travel curious.
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