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Ryanair Tips & Tricks: Guide to Beating Luggage Rules, Pricing, and Hidden Costs

I am LIVID. Ryanair cut its cabin baggage allowance AGAIN and I just paid an additional £6 (one way) to keep my carry-on with me on my Ryanair flight to Lisbon… even after I hit ’em with all the Ryanair tips in the book! But Ryan(air), I thought we were in love?

You took me to Morocco, serenaded me with football hooligans in Poland, and whisked me away to Spain for a romantic beach trip abroad. After a year-long courtship, I can’t help but feel a bit betrayed… and hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.

However, let me be clear… I LOVE Ryanair. Even with all of its quirks and hidden costs… Ryanair has single-handedly given me the ability to see the world on a budget. I could not (and cannot) do it without their incredible discounts and deals… and for this, I salut you.

But on the other hand… I thought we had an understanding. If there’s one thing that solo travelers can’t do without, it’s their carry-ons.

According to the Guardian, from November 1st, 2018 onwards, you’ll only be able to take one handbag-sized carry-on into the cabin on flights unless you pay at least £6 for priority boarding when you initially book online.

It’s been reported that Ryanair will also only allow 95 out of 189 potential passengers book the £6 Priority Offer so you best book early and before the offer runs out! Once the Priority Offer has sold out, customers will have to check their carry-on in before security, at a cost of £16-£20 return. This could mean additional delays to your check-in journey, so be sure to plan ahead.

New Luggage Size Requirements: Previously, Ryanair would only allow a carry-on with the maximum dimensions of 35cm x 20cm x 20cm. But, from 1 November, this will increase to 40cm x 25cm x 20cm. Yay?
In the past, I forgave the delays and the occasional ‘misplaced’ luggage, but now it’s becoming less and less financially viable (and worth it) to travel on Ryanair.

In some cases for the same price, I can travel with British Airways or other mid-level luxury carriers WITH all of my luggage on board. So now I’m hitting back. Here are the BEST of my Ryanair tips and tricks to get you and all of your stuff on board – safely 🙂

In this blog post, I’ll give you the best travel tips on:

  1. Purchasing Tickets
  2. Luggage allowance
  3. Boarding Best Practice
  4. Being Sneaky

Purchasing Tickets

If there is one thing that I LOVE it’s a good deal. For every major holiday, Ryanair (and other budget airlines) will have massive sales or promotions to drive conversions KNOWING that everyone is at home on their phones avoiding family interactions.

For those of us in the United Kingdom, have a look into the government’s bank holiday calendar (website) regarding when the official national bank holidays are scheduled to happen. They normally follow the same pattern – a couple for Christmas and New Year, another two for Easter, two in May, and one at the end of August.

In 2023, there is an extra bank holiday for the Coronation of King Charles, so one of the standard ones in May moves to the start of June and we get an extra day off in May. Bank holidays are prime time for airline sales.

Once you have your bank holiday dates in mind, follow these steps:

  1. Pick a general departure date
  2. From that date, go backward 2 -3 months for an ‘estimated promotion date’ or EPD
  3. Purchase your flight dates on the bank holiday closest to your EPD
  4. BAM! – you get killer savings on an already-budget airline
a woman traveling

For example, if I’m going to Morocco in February… I know I should book 2 – 3 months in advance on the closes bank holiday, which is…. BLACK FRIDAY! – or November 23rd.

Okay so Black Friday is not on the official bank holiday list, but you better BELIEVE it’s a national holiday in America… This is also known as ‘Thanksgiving’ where we celebrate Christopher Columbus killing loads of Native Americans when he first came to America in 1492. It’s not really my jam if you can’t tell.

By sticking to these promotion periods, you’re saving yourself loads of money – especially if you have additional bags and fees to consider when booking. If you’re more of a last-minute kind of person, I would recommend trying different modes of transport (trains? ferries? Blah blah car?) instead of booking Ryanair.

But since you’re already looking for tips and tricks… I sense that you might be a motivated savings seeker so it should be easy for you to plan accordingly!

Remember, book on bank holidays, do not fly on them! With most people getting the same day off, lots of people go away to take advantage of not having to use an extra PTO day. As such, the prices can take a huge hike, and Ryanair is no exception. 

I’d also check both legs of your journey to make sure you’re getting a deal. Ryanair’s sales often shout about £9.99 flights but that’s only one way and the return flights often have their prices hiked up for population duration.

So, flying from London to Budapest might cost £9.99 on the way there, but the popular return flight four nights later might be £50 on its own. Look out for this and work out if it’s still worth the deal!

HOT TIP: I would also recommend that you do all of your trip research in incognito mode to hide your precious data. This will prevent airlines, hotels, and online travel agencies (like Skyscanner) from accessing your data to hike up prices when you return for a second look.

Exchange Rates Warning: If you’re using a non-UK or European credit card, Ryanair will provide an ‘exchange rate’ for you and you’ll see it at the very END of your booking journey. DO NOT allow them to do this because there’s a markup of $10-15 USD. Instead, try using Revolut to exchange currency automatically without hidden fees.

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Luggage Allowance

We’ve lost the battle, but we will win the war. Whilst you cannot get around Ryanair’s luggage allowance scratch-free anymore, here’s how you can best game the system.

  1. Purchase ‘Low Fare’ tickets
  2. Click ‘No, Thanks’ for seat reservation
  3. Choose ‘Priority & 2 Cabin Bags’ Luggage Allowance
Ryanair's cabin bag policy

Unfortunately, there’s just no other way to get around the luggage requirements, unfortunately. But there IS a way to sneak on even more weight… See ‘Being Sneaky’ below for more details!

Be sure NOT to wait until later to book the 2 Cabin Bags. Ryanair will charge you additional money for this and you’re already paying an arm & a leg to have your arm & legs squished up against a stranger/chair for an extended amount of time.

It’s also worth noting that it’s often cheaper to buy hold luggage than cabin bags and you can bring more with you. It’s not a huge price difference, but the sizing is. For around £3 less each way, you can have a 15kg hold bag.

If you buy a cabin bag, it’s done on size, not weight so you’re super limited to the tiny cases. With 15kg for a weekend or even a week in a hot country, you’ve got more than enough space and weight. It might even be worth sharing the bag with a friend and splitting the cost.  

Boarding Best Practice

When boarding, timing is everything. However, there are two different schools of thought in the travel blog space:

  • Board last to snag an empty seat
  • Board first to secure overhead space

In my opinion, I would rather board first to secure overhead luggage space, but TBD to how the new luggage laws of the land will impact this process.

Originally, I would try to get in line and board first to ensure my carry-on wouldn’t be placed in ‘hold’ – or under the plane – because I hate being separated from my things. 

I want to make sure everything makes it from Point A to Point B so you’ll have to rip my baggage out of my cold dead fingers before it goes into hold! I’m not being dramatic, you’re being dramatic.

But now that people have to pay to get their carry-ons on board – we will see what’s most practical.

If you’re more inclined to go for Option 1, then board from the back of the plane so you’ll have an unsuspicious view of all the remaining seats.

You’ll have the pick of the litter BUT some Flight Attendants will fight you on this because it disrupts their passenger identification process…. i.e. if the plane goes down and there’s nobody in your seat, no one will know what happened to you. Dark *shutters*.

Honestly, most Ryanair flights are overbooked and you’re given an allocated seat at check-in. Unless you’re precious about sitting together, you don’t need to pay for early check-in or seat selection.

If you’re on a quiet flight, you might be able to move from your allocated seat to a freer row – after all, it’s not like there’s a dinner service or anything where you need to be in your given seat.

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Being Sneaky

Next time you’re in an airport, purchase something from the Duty-Free shops and ask for a large bag. Save this bag in your carry-on so you never forget and use it to smuggle additional weight onto the plane.

Before the new luggage rules, I would put my little backpack into my reusable Duty-Free bag and that’s how I would bring on “one piece of luggage” whilst still getting all of my camera equipment onto the plane.

Now I know what you’re thinking, ‘those rules are there for a reason‘… but my naughty little crime isn’t killing anyone – as airlines budget for additional Duty-Free weight in their calculations – so I’m going to carry on my good sir (see what I did there).

In reality, the article also points out that “Small weight deviance (people, 7 kg handbags) don’t affect (the plane) much” so it’s a victimless crime really.

I’ve seen a lot of people on TikTok wearing big coats and stuffing under their shirts with clothing to make them seem fat or pregnant. This is getting caught out a lot, especially at security when you have to take off bulky coats or jumpers.

The other sneaky way is to stuff a travel pillow because you’re allowed this outside of your baggage allowance. Yeah, that’s not a thing on Ryanair.

Super low-cost airlines allow minimal extra luggage for free as we’ve outlined pretty concretely here.

The other way to get more weight in your baggage allowance is to opt for a soft-sided bag or rucksack as your carry-on. You can squish these under your seat and in overhead lockers so they don’t tend to take up as much space.

Most of the time, the attendants are looking out for roller cases that are too big. If you think about it, you can only fit like three, or maybe four small roller cases overhead and they definitely don’t fit under your seat.

You can fit a lot more rucksacks on a flight without having to move anyone’s bag into the hold. Soft-sided bags do not get checked for size as much!

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Summary

So, even though the base flight ticket might be super affordable, with new baggage allowances, prices can add up really quickly.

Although other airlines might be more expensive on the face of it, if they include baggage in their standard tariff, it’s worth doing a cost comparison, especially if you need a large bag or multiple carry-ons.

There are plenty of tips and tricks to get deals with Ryanair and dodge those pesky hidden costs. The key is to pack light, wear all your heavy gear on the flight, and grab a duty-free bag for any overspill you might have along the way. You’re welcome.

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