March 21, 2018

Discount Airlines: Cheap flights that make your life easier, or do they?

Ryanair flight

European airline companies such as Ryanair, Easy Jet and Wizz Air pride themselves on having the cheapest flights around. As a poor college student or frugal backpacker these are usually the first websites you visit when booking a trip. Unlike the mainstream providers back in the U.S, these discounted airlines advertise monthly specials for twenty pounds (around $40) or less. By forming partnerships with hotels, hostels, trains, and car hire companies, customers do not only get deals on flights, but they receive help with all of their travel needs. As tempting as these “special offers” sound, it is important not to fall into the typical travel trap.

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Anyone that has flown with Ryanair, Easy Jet, or Wizz air, knows that it is never a smooth ride, unless you come prepared, and even then sometimes you have a strong urge to yell at someone. The number one mistake newcomers make, when dealing with these airlines, is to bring a bag that fits regulations. I was just as guilty as the next person in thinking that an average sized carry-on was perfectly suitable to bring on one of these smaller planes, I was wrong. All three airlines state that each passenger is permitted only one piece of cabin baggage for free, including handbags, briefcases, laptops, cameras etc. So everything you have essentially has to fit into one bag. Ryanair and Wizz Air demand that the carry-on have the maximum dimensions of 55x40x20, and doesn’t exceed a weight of 10 kilograms. Which essentially means, if you pack like I do, you’re shit out of luck. Luckily, Easyjet allows a slightly bigger carry-on at 56x45x25 and no weight restrictions, making it my favorite out of the three.

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Obviously, for people that don’t mind spending the extra money, checking bags is the easier route. However, for me, checking bags seems like the absolute worst thing imaginable when traveling. It must have something to do with the fact that Continental airlines lost all five of my suitcases when I moved from the U.S to London two years ago. I loved having my entire life floating around two different airports on two different continents; yea, good times. Also, when you travel alone, and you plan on hopping around a lot, the best thing to have is clothes, not an irritated lady on a phone telling you they will come in a few days.

Ever since that particularly stressful move, I force myself to only travel with carry-on’s, which is especially difficult with these airlines. However, even with all of the ‘small print’ and added fees, these flights are worth it, so get used to packing light. For most of my trips, I would bring this little red square rolling carry-on that I knew met protocol, and then July of last year I went backpacking and was forced to bring something different. My sister and I backpacked for six weeks throughout Europe and most of our stories come from our airport experiences. Now instead of my perfectly sized red suitcase, I had a slightly wider and longer backpack that pretty much became the death of me. On several occasions I had meltdowns in the airport trying to reorganize my bag, so that it would fit within the bag regulations case. Yup, my underwear and bras laying out in airport security was definitely one of the highlights. I was constantly trying to flatten my bag and wear as many clothes as I could just to board the plane. Let’s just say at two flights a day, it was a stressful experience that could’ve been made easier with a smaller bag. So next time I insist on packing the high heels I never wore, or the 18 tank tops that were overkill, my sister has promised to remind me of this hell we endured together.

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The worst moment was when we were flying from Milan to Athens, and we were both already sweating to death underneath layers of clothes, and Jenelle realized Ryanair had a scale out. I thought I was going to cry right there. After I weighed my bag at 14 kilos and Jenelle’s was much the same, we spent an hour ripping everything we could out of our bags and putting it onto our bodies. After wearing almost everything I owned at once, and my bag still was 1 kilo over I threw it down and started to undress. Ryanair charged us 40 euro each to check our bags which total averaged 150 dollars.

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Often times, when you approach the gate, the stewardesses’ will size your bag, and if it doesn’t meet protocol, they will put it into the hold and charge you 60 euro. Other times, I’ve actually seen passengers meet protocol, but there isn’t enough room on the plane so they will take your bag, put it into the hold, and still charge you anyway. If you’re not careful, all of the added fees can actually make the flight cost more money than if you’d originally gone with a different airline.

Destination-wise, Wizz Air has the most flights to the Eastern countries, like the Czech Republic, Hungary, Croatia, Romania, Serbia and Turkey. Wizz Air also flies to the mainstream parts of Europe, but it is most popular for covering so many eastern countries. Ryanair is known for flying basically everywhere; the only advice I want to pass onto my readers is that they usually fly into the second popular airport in each country, rather than the first, which can make it difficult transportation-wise. Sometimes, the second-rate airports don’t have train stations and only cabs or buses, so you just need to be prepared and research beforehand. As for Easyjet, it doesn’t fly to as many places as Ryanair, but when it does fly, it typically goes to the main airport.

No matter how much frustration I have flying with these airlines at times, they can save you a pretty penny, if you can abide by the rules. And although package deals seem great, someone other than you is walking away with a profit, so use these flights to your advantage and plan your own vacation. Get risky, fly to new places, and whatever you do pack smart.

Greek Islands – Sunset in Santorini


When my family and I visited the Greek Islands last summer, specifically the island of Santorini, there was one place the locals kept referring us to, Oia. According to the Greeks, this small town has the best sunset view on the island; I was instantly intrigued. What photographer would pass up the opportunity to snap some pics? Furthermore, what traveler would pass up an adventure? None that I know off. So, we were off. Since we were staying in Fira, the main city on the island, it was only a twenty-five minute drive to this picturesque village, making it a wonderful little day trip.

With my mother driving, me navigating the map, my sister snacking in the backseat, and my noni (that’s Italian for grandmother) complaining she had to pee, the ride there couldn’t have been more entertaining. Three generations of Reale women trekking through the island’s grasslands, with a winding dirt path as our compass, it’s lucky we didn’t kill each other or even better, end up at sea.

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As we entered the village, there was a small parking lot as well as a few paved streets that several cars parked along. The parking lot is not overly large, so I recommend heading into town earlier rather than later, undoubtedly you’re not the only person interested in this small town’s charm, and especially at sunset. As we walked up through the town’s narrow streets, it became clear this was a walking town. It looks small because the streets are so slim and clustered together, but in actuality, it was a decent walk from one side to the other. Amazingly, Oia is filled with cafés, galleries, boutiques, restaurants and souvenir shops, yet it still maintains a quaint calm environment. Its houses and buildings are mainly painted in white and blue, but there are the occasional pale pinks and yellows. The center square is rather small, but it houses a rather large church, and as you walk across the square, away from the church, you approach a beautiful Cliffside. From here, you can see the volcano as well as the island of Thirasia.

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During our stay in Fira, we visited Oia twice. Both times, our goal was to eat at places that had balcony seating and a clear view of the skyline. With people standing on the stairs to our restaurant, patiently positioning their cameras, and tourists and locals alike waiting for the sun to set, it felt like the entire town was holding their breath in anticipation. Once the sun started to set, the cameras started flashing and most people eating took a moment from dinner to take some of their own pictures, including me of course!

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On both nights the sunset was gorgeous, and totally worth the trip out.

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The skyline was splashed in yellow, orange, red, blue, purple, making it look like a painting rather than real life.

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The second night we ate dinner there, we met a couple that loved staying in Oia as much as we loved visiting. Since we were visiting in June, I was expecting every town on the island to be overflowing with tourists, but amazingly the couple reassured us that it had been a relaxing get-away, and oddly quiet. If I ever get the luxury/ privilege of revisiting this fantastic island, I wouldn’t hesitate to book a hotel here for a few nights.