It's hard to resist the chance to fly from Madrid to Paris for 40 euros, which is exactly what budget airlines like Ryanair and easyJet offer. That said, there are a lot of tiny details and stipulations in the fine print that we tend to overlook while googling creperies, cafes, and exhibitions at the Grand Palais — like just how far the airport is from the city's center or how few items you're allowed to take on board.
But not to worry! Below, you will find everything you need to know before jet-setting via budget airline (and everything you'll want to double-check before impulsively clicking "Book").
1. One Bag Really Means One Bag
While Ryanair and Vueling allow you on board with an overhead bag as well as a personal item, easyJet flyers are limited to one piece of carry-on luggage (unless you are an easyJet Plus cardholder or have paid for an upgrade). No tote, backpack, or even teensy crossbody bag: just one small suitcase. With this in mind, be sure to pack only the bare essentials (and don't worry about having multiple heel options or three forms of outerwear).
Tip: If there are a few items you want to have on hand during the flight — like a good book, headphones, and lip balm — throw them into a small pouch (or even a plastic sandwich bag), tuck it into the top of your suitcase, and snag it just before throwing your luggage into the overheard bin.
2. The Airport May Say It's in "Paris," but It's Actually in "Middle of Nowhere, France"
One of the ways budget airlines are able to shave dollars off their ticket prices is by flying in and out of smaller, less popular airports — like Paris Beauvais (BVA) instead of the more conveniently located Paris-Orly (ORY) or Charles de Gaulle (CDG). But unfortunately, it will cost you both time and money to get from an airport like BVA into the city (easily an hour by car, double that via shuttle or train). Nine times out of 10, it's better to spend a little extra on your flight to ensure you'll actually land in your destination city.
3. Those Extra Costs Add Up
Let's say you forget the carry-on luggage rule or end up flying into an out-of-the-way airport — the additional costs you will undoubtedly incur add up pretty quickly. Fifty euros to check your bag last minute, plus 120 euros on a taxi to your hotel (or hostel, or Airbnb), will easily surpass the cost of flying on a slightly pricier, more accommodating airline, so be wary.
4. Timing Is Everything
I once overzealously booked a flight from London to Dublin for 20 euros, only to realize that it left at 4 in the f*cking morning. I had to wake up at 1:30 a.m. just to make it to the airport in time and was beyond exhausted when I got to Ireland (which put quite a damper on my 48-hour visit). Be sure to double-check the time stamp on flights before booking, and remember — sometimes it's worth the extra 20 bucks to leave at a reasonable hour.
5. Don't Underestimate Ground Travel.
While they may not save you time, alternative modes of transportation — i.e. buses, trains, and carpooling services like Bla Bla Car — will often save you money and hassle. No mile-long lines at security or luggage limits, plus better scenery (and you can take your own booze on board).