Several weeks ago, I was getting out of an Uber at the Portland airport.
“You don’t have much,” commented my driver looking at my backpack, the one and only backpack I brought on my journey.
“Well one of my life goals is to screw Spirit Airlines out of the money they try to screw out of us. It was nice meeting you!” I said.
I left him laughing (which I always love making people laugh). However with this trip, there was a lot of truth to that statement. The thing with these budget airlines is the price you initially pay is often not the price you pay in the end. The word budget can be deceiving unless you are smart about it. And in this post, I will show you how.
I had flown not only Spirit Airlines but Allegiant and Frontier in the past, and knew that added fees is what they do. However one of both my best and worst qualities is that I ALWAYS think there is another way. With everything. I’m always on the hunt for the creative alternative and Spirit was no different. “They can try, but they will not succeed,” was basically my mantra and thought process as we prepared for the trip.
Also I created a budget airline checklist. You’ll want to download and print this handy thing. You’ll have it ready to check off next time you fly.
1. Your boarding pass
I’ll be honest. Airlines such as Delta and American have spoiled me. When flying on any major, non-budget airline, I just print my boarding pass at the gate. It’s one less thing to worry about in the stress of preparing for a trip and those kiosks are so user-friendly.
When flying on a budget airline, do not print your ticket at the airport. These airlines love to tack on that fee. With Ryanair, I read that it’s 40 Euros. That’s absolutely ridiculous. Spirit charges $10 and Allegiant charges $5. I’m sure Frontier charges something too. Here are a few tips to avoid this whole thing:
- Check to see if the airline has a free app. Most do. You can oftentimes check in on the app and some airlines will issue you an e-ticket on your photo so you don’t even need to print a boarding pass. Just make sure you download the app with an ample wifi connection before getting to the airport. When I flew Allegiant, I was not that smart about it.
- If you have access to a printer, print the passes at home.
- Are you traveling and need them printed? Check with your hostel or hotel. The hostel I stayed in in Portland offered printing for 50 cents a copy. That’s a heck of a lot cheaper than $5.
- Don’t have access to a printer? In the US, Fedex Kinkos can print them for you for like 15 cents. I’m sure there are similar printing places in other countries too.
But whatever you do, make sure you check in before arriving at the airport. Many let you start the check in process 24 hours before your flight.
2. Your baggage
My friend Cece and I opted to avoid all baggage fees. We did not even pay one. How did we do that?
Well you see, there’s a tiny loophole to the whole paying for baggage thing. These airlines would love for us all to pay for our bags at the gate. They make more money this way, of course. And if they can’t get us at the airport, they want us to pay for bags online.
However there’s another way (see, I told you this is my thing). What they want you to gloss over is that you can take one personal item free of charge. On Spirit, it can be no taller than 16 inches, no wider than 14 inches and no deeper than 12 inches. In other words, just the size of my purple LLBean backpack that I’ve had since high school.
If you’re only going on a shorter trip, I urge you to look into this option. I was able to fit everything I needed for a 5-day trip in my backpack.
I packed light but smart. I loaded up on small bottles of shampoo and conditioner at Target. I also bought a travel tooth brush case.
To save space, I wore my bulkiest items on the plane. So the Chuck Taylors and jeans were worn while the sandals and dresses were packed. I rolled up my clothing for ample space.
If you are smart about what you bring, you totally can fit your whole life in a backpack for five days.
If you are flying on a longer trip where you need to take more baggage, paying online in advance is the way to go. It is much more affordable to do it online.
So this is a fly at your own risk sort of thing. You are not obligated to buy your seat but they kind of make you feel like you have to. If you don’t, you get assigned a seat at the gate. I almost did not get on a Frontier flight once because of this.
Reserving your own seat usually costs between $6-$25 or so. Yes it sucks to have to pay more. I always just buy my seat to be safe. Perhaps it’s the one fee I’m a sucker for.
No frills at it’s best
If you want food, you’ll have to either buy it in the airport or on the plane. The seats are not anything ridiculously comfy. It’s more or less a bus with wings. However if you keep these things in mind, you’ll save money time and time again. In fact, I made you a little checklist. This is your budget airline checklist. It’s just the thing to use next time you fly any one of these airlines.
Have you flown on one of these budget airlines? If so, what was your experience?