How to keep low cost carrier costs low

Low cost carriers are everywhere these days but how low are their costs really? We’ve all seen the adverts for flights that cost less than getting to the airport. But have you ever actually managed to pull it off? Read on for my tips on how to keep travelling on low cost carriers as inexpensive as possible.

Book as far ahead as possible

The later you leave it before travelling, the more your seat is going to cost. Lower availability makes the remaining seats more desirable (I use the term loosely) so wherever possible book your seats as far ahead as you can.

Understand the refund / change costs

If you are making plans a fair way in advance of your travel dates then it is worth checking the charges for cancellations or changes made to the booking. It may be that these fees cost so much that booking later, when your plans have firmed up, at a higher price is a better option than jumping on the cheaper fare and later needing to change it.

Travel mid week

Most people want to take advantage of weekends in their travel plans. I know I love to get away for a long weekend certainly. Prices are higher for travel on Fridays and Mondays as a result. If you can travel at a god-forsaken hour on Tuesday or Wednesday, for example, you are likely to get a much better fare. I’m not suggesting it is fun, but it is normally cheaper.

Hand luggage only

I can manage almost a week with only carry-on luggage and no, I don’t just wear one outfit for the whole week. Years of travelling have taught me what I will and won’t wear / use. Basically the trick is to really concentrate while packing and leave the things that don’t go easily with other bits of clothing. It’s also a good idea to wear the bulkier items on your flight (coats, jumpers, boots) If toiletries take up significant space (and weight) in your luggage then don’t forget you can buy those in the departure lounge. Beware of the weight limit on your hand luggage. If you’re not sure what it is, check your carrier’s website before you go.

Pay with a debit card for the lowest surcharges

Before you ask, there seems to be no way to avoid the payment charge. It should be treated the same as death and taxes, inevitable. It is astounding though really that low-cost carriers even charge you to pay for your flight, the thing they are hoping to sell you! Some of the charges applicable for certain payment methods are verging on criminal. There is huge variation, so it is worth checking what you have in your wallet before committing your payment details.

Credit card surcharges are often about double those of debit cards

Eat or buy a sandwich in the departure lounge

Low cost carriers make their money on the extras. This certainly applies to the food and drink options onboard. Unless you don’t mind remortgaging your home to pay for a lame sandwich, I recommend you buy something much tastier in the departure lounge. If you’re going a long way buy two or three. It will still be cheaper (and tastier) than anything you could buy onboard.

Do you have any tips of your own? Please share them here in the comments!


  • Morningstorm

    You can bring empty bottles into the gate and fill thrm up there, this way you avoid getting your stuff thrown away of buy expensive waterbottles in the shop.

    But always check if the water is safe, you can easily drink tapwater in the netherlands but i wouldnt recommend it to try it in singapore for example.

  • Mossy

    Great article. My tip: double check the booking you are making before you press the “confirm” button. If you get the date wrong it costs £££££££ to change it. And yes, sadly, I speak from experience!

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    Hi Vi – Thanks for your thoughts. I wrote this chiefly with UK based low cost carriers in mind, where it is not possible to preorder food onboard and food available in the departure lounges is much better than the food available onboard planes. Also, these days with so much security your sandwich would have to go through the xray machine before you got to eat it which would worry me! I always buy a sandwich before getting on a flight!
    My recent post A drink in Marrakech

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