Tuesday, April 12, 2011

My first Ryanair trip....to Croatia!

Pin It Now! After living in Germany for almost 2 years we finally did it.  We finally traveled via Ryanair.  Just about everyone I know in Germany has flown Ryanair all over Europe and I’ve been hesitant for several reasons.  For one I hate flying.  For two I’ve heard there are lots of rules and to me rules mean hassle.  I deal with enough hassles and inconveniences as it is with 2 little rugrats, so traveling with rules just seemed annoying.  For three the few times I did look up flights via ryanair the times sucked.  Catching a flight at 6am?  Maybe if it were just me and Mr. Wright, but we no longer have the luxury of flexible schedules.

So when a dear friend of mine called to tell me Ryanair had a flight for 7 euro a person each way and the times for the flights were perfect, we decided to be adventurous and go for it. Zadar, Croatia it was for a 4 day weekend getaway.  We had booked it a month in advance and had been so busy leading up to the actual vacation that I never really got excited for the trip.  In fact I sort of dreaded it as it got closer.  The idea of lugging around 2 babies, luggage and flying with an airline I’ve heard mixed reviews about just sounded… stressful.  Exhausting.  Hard.  If I don’t know exactly what to expect it drives me crazy. ( I’m just a bit of a control freak.)

I’m so happy to report the experience was incredible.  It was the easiest flight I’ve ever taken actually.  The thing is you just have to follow the rules of Ryanair.  If you do so, then you will be a happy traveler.  Here’s what I learned:

Read the Rules
Read the rules.  All of them.  And then read them again.  And then a week later go over them again.  Just get it drilled in your head what is or isn’t allowed.  If you’re unsure google it and you’re bound to find somehow who had the same question.

The Important Rules
The most important Ryanair rules in my opinion are:
#1 Print your own boarding pass and check in online.  After you check in online you can print your boarding passes for outgoing and incoming flights.  If you don’t print your own, you will pay.   Keep them in a safe place.

#2 Carry on luggage can only weigh 20lbs and there is a restriction on the dimensions of the bag as well.   It's definitely enough for a 3-4 night trip. If you stuff your bag too full, you’ll exceed the dimensions, so pay attention to that.  I was really paranoid about our bags being too big, but really they could have been much bigger than I thought.  They have a box they sometimes use to check your bag size.  If it doesn’t fit, you pay for checked luggage.  We didn’t have our bag sizes checked nor did we have to weigh them at all.  But I have heard it happening to people, so just be aware.

We had found some backpacks than can also work as rolling luggage.  They were perfect, especially with kids because you need both hands available to hold them or chase them around.   On Ryanair’s website it says that a purse counts as carry on luggage and must go in your backpack, however no one checked or seemed to care that I had a purse AND a backpack.  Be prepared just in case, but they weren’t nearly as strict as I thought.

#3 If you are flying out of Frankfurt Hahn know that isn’t the same as Frankfurt Am Main.  Some people have made that mistake.

#4 If you are flying with younger kids I would personally recommend paying the extra fee for priority boarding.  Unless you’re someone who doesn’t mind just going with the flow.  But for us, it was much easier to get on the plane earlier and pick seats we wanted. (Ryanair doesn’t have assigned seating, it’s first come first serve for seating).  For older kiddos I think you’d be just fine without the priority boarding.

#5 There are two lines (usually): priority and regular.  Regardless of which line you get in, try and get there early to be in the front.  And even when you are in the front haul ass to the plane.  Side note: The ryanair planes don’t come right up to the window like we are used to in the States.  We walked out to the plane, it was kind of fun.  However there is no courtesy if you were in the front of the line.  Basically it’s a race for who gets to the plane first.  That seems to be a common theme in the European cities I’ve visited.  Americans may view it as rude, but it’s just how it is over here.  Whether taking a bus or waiting to buy groceries, it’s first come first serve no matter who was there first.

Mr. Wright took one kid and the boarding passes and walked out to the plane before me.  I then had another baby and the stroller.  When I got to the plane I had to fold up the stroller and give it to one of the security guys.  Priority boarding would have been pointless if Mr. Wright waited with me as everyone passed us.  Gotta have a strategy when traveling with kiddos!

#6 Paying for a checked bag is really easy and worth it if you have a small baby.  Diapers, wipes, baby food, formula, extra clothes and the kitchen sink…ya know…everything you have to bring with you when you have babies.  It cost us 15 euro each way to check a bag.  It is much cheaper to pay for checked baggage on Ryanair’s website than at the airport.  At the airport it is 35 euro each way.  The checked bag was nice because it allowed us to bring back some souvenirs too.  Since most people don’t bring checked bags on Ryanair flights, the baggage claim is super easy and we didn’t wait at all for our bag.  It was right there on the carousal.

Babies do not fly free
Babies 23 months and younger do not fly free, but are required to sit on your lap.  Even if you wanted to buy an extra seat, it’s not allowed.  They cost 20 euro each way and they also do not get a carryon luggage.  They do however get a stroller “for free”.  If you need a booster/car seat, that will need to be checked baggage.

The fares are cheap, but…
You have to pay for all things extra . We got our airfare for 7 euro a person.  But that is per person each way.  The baby was still 20 euro because the baby is always 20 euro.  Isn’t that lame that he cost more, yet didn’t get a seat OR a carry on?? Then there is administration fee.  Online check-in fee.  Priority boarding fee.  Mastercard/visa fee.  And checked in baggage fee (if you use it).  There could be other fees, but that’s all we used.  So total after the exchange rate we spent $300 USD.  That is still really great in my opinion for round trip airfare to Croatia!

All in all Ryanair is absolutely awesome.  The seats were not squishy at all.  They were just as good as any flight I’ve ever been on.  They don’t provide a free snack or drink.  They don’t have movies on the flight.  They charge for everything, BUT that’s what makes it awesome!  It allows people to choose what they want to pay for and allows for very cheap travel throughout Europe.  It was perfect and super easy. 

Can’t wait to share the details of our trip!

[caption id="attachment_1232" align="aligncenter" width="480" caption="Sunset in Zadar, Croatia"][/caption]