Riddle me this… what’s worse than overpaying for a flight?

Getting slapped with MORE fees during the booking the process and even worse, when you show up for your flight!

We see it more and more these days. More budget airlines are popping up which is fab, but not when they drain every last dime out of you for the smallest things.

You want an extra 10 euro for the in-flight entertainment while I’m on a torturous 10-hour flight?

Wait… You actually think food is an option on a 12-hour flight?!

You want to charge me for one of those damn tiny pillows and a blanket when it’s sub zero on this B?

Oh, and on top of all of this, you can’t even provide me an edible meal on my flight either! Ahh… It’s no wonder I actually hate flying despite taking 10+ flights a year.

What is this madness!?

Welp, I’m over it. Here are a few reminders and some pretty sweet ideas (if I may say so myself) on how to make your flight less sucky and most importantly, less spendy. 

Oh, and the best part? You don’t need to master the art of figuring out how not to go in credit card debt while reaching spending goals to earn flight miles and figure out how to spend them before they expire, all while juggling puppies and handing over your first born child because that was in the fine print you didn’t read!

So yeah, let’s talk about how to not deal with that because ain’t nobody got time for that! I hope these flight hacks help!

Flight Hacks that Don’t Involve Airline Miles

Prep pics before flying

You can have trouble finding and connecting to wifi at your next airport, be prepared! Take pics of maps and whatever else you need before getting on your flight. Perhaps you need to get public transport from the airport to your hotel. Take a snap of a map just in case. Snap your hotel reservation and address. Your flight booking. Whatever you might need when you land, just in case you can’t connect.

Even better, if you can, download maps.me. It’s a life-saving phone app that offers maps without the use of the internet.

How does this save cash? Well, once I was told there would be a charge to print my ticket. Incredibly petty, right? It’s only happened once, thankfully. And on arrival at the Miami airport just last weekend, they only offered 30 minutes of free wifi usage which I had to use very carefully and essentially pray to the wifi gods that my Uber came before the wifi cut out (he did)! It’s the little things like this that can either cause a headache or not be a problem at all.

 

Adopt the “one-way to everywhere” method

Use Skyscanner to book one-ways instead of round trips. It all depends on the type of traveler you are and what adventure you want to have, but the myth that a round trip is ALWAYS the answer to a cheap flight is WRONG. Sometimes taking multiple one ways ends up being a way better choice. Using the “everywhere” option on Skyscanner you can find one ways to complete your multi-city trip rather than involve round trips which require you to go backward.

I explain more about this process in my one-way to everywhere guide. This is probably my favorite of the flight hacks that don’t involve airline miles which deserves its own post! 

Avoid extra baggage fees by bringing a pillow

“WHAT?! Nina, you’re the worst, you’re telling me to bring MORE stuff when I’m already overweight on my luggage allotment?”

Hey – hear me out… I just thought of this new travel hack, well I think I did, I haven’t seen it anywhere.

I’ve recently put it to the test on a few major budget airline flights and it was a huge success.

On my recent journey from Phuket to Cologne and Cologne to Miami (using my “one-way to everywhere” method mentioned above), I flew Eurowings. An extreme budget airline. They allow you a measly 8kg carry on and it’s only allowed to be ONE bag (of course, unless you want to pay for more… no thanks!) Wtf am I supposed to do with that?! My computer, GoPro stuff, hard drives… All my travel gear will eat more than half of that and I need to bring a small bag of my clothing (I had purposely booked two long layovers totaling 5 days between Cologne and Miami so I had a weekend bag packed and my suitcase was FULL.)

I had to make this work.. so what did I do? I brought a pillow.

It’s not a regular pillow, though, I brought a pillow case that has a zipper opening so you can stuff it. GENIUS! I stuffed ALL of my clothes (jeans, long sleeve shirt, a beanie, a sweater.. it was going to be cold!) into this pillow. I then was able to fit my electronics bag into my larger carry-on bag making it look like I had only one carry-on bag and a pillow. They didn’t even notice my pillow and my bag was exactly 8kg.

As soon as I left the counter I was able to return everything to its proper place for comfort and hello – I had a pillow for my flight! Remember – budget airline, so no pillows were given, so this worked out even better than I thought. Leave a few clothing items in it so it’s fluffy or just fold it up and pack it away in your bag.

If this is just too much for you and you’re not digging it, just don’t show your second carry-on bag (granted if it’s large, then you’re shit out of luck). I’ve literally rocked up to a check in desk of a budget airline wearing my larger bag but holding my smaller one low to the ground. They can’t see it over the tall desk.

The woman asked me to weigh my carry on bag, I took it off, and weighed it – it was under but I KNOW my smaller was over since it carries all my equipment. She tagged it and I walked off still holding my smaller one inconspicuously lower to the ground. Nobody will say a thing after that.

If someone did, I have my pillow method to save the day as my plan B. I would simply state it all fits in one but I prefer to separate it so I can have one at my feet during the flight, I’d be happy to condense if necessary. It’s never come to this, though. (and if it did, I would excuse myself from the line and commence the pillow process so they don’t see it.)


RELATED POST: I’m a traveler and I hate flying!


Two is better than one

Another method to avoid baggage fees if you’re sans pillow or hate that idea (waaa, I thought it was a good one!) applies to only those traveling in groups of two or more. If you know you have more carry-on weight than allotted, let one person sit with the extra bag while you check in, and then switch. This way the counter people never see that extra bag or make you weigh it. Remember to show up early in case there’s a long line.

 

Checking in and extra purchases

You know those “check-in online” emails you get? Check-in online… It’s so much easier and most of the time you actually don’t need to print anything either. Checking in online, regardless if you have bags to check in or not is way easier. The line is shorter and goes quicker for these people and if you’re running late, you’ll be glad you did this.

I also find them to be less strict with questions and luggage in these lines from my experience. A few times they never weighed my carry on while in the regular check in I saw them weighing everything.

If you want to add anything like more luggage or meals, remember to do it online as it’s often far cheaper. At the check in desk, they hike up the price.

 

Bring your own snacks

Not ideal, but those budget airlines are getting ruthless. Apparently, a 12-hour flight now has optional food. I’ve never heard of this and recently forgot to add a meal. I was stuck paying 11 euro for a crappy bowl of dry ravioli.

While getting a hot meal (despite it being borderline inedible) is nice, if you want to save a few bucks, or just simply forget to book a meal for the flight (but remembered before boarding), bring your own food! It’s well worth not going hungry and not spending the equivalent of a decent meal out on slop given out by your middle school lunch lady.

Make an emergency ditch bag

Is your luggage bursting at the seams? Are you pretty damn sure you’re going to be over the luggage allotment? Are you already dreading going through all of your shit to sort through it in hopes of getting your weight down? STAHP!

Make an emergency ditch bag. This means when packing all your stuff, make a bag of items you’re willing to part with. If your luggage is over and you’re not willing to pay more, you might need to get rid of stuff on the fly. So instead of having your bag throw up all over the check-in line while you’re drowning in your tears because you think you’re going to miss your flight or be out $100 something bucks, just make a handy bag to chuck out right there. Boom!

If you have room in your carry-on, you can just pop that bag in your carry on as well. Make sure it doesn’t contain any “check-in only” things like liquids. This will save you time and a huge headache.

 

Be a veggo for the day

DON’T think I’m getting preachy and telling you what to eat. I promise I don’t actually care. I’m a pescetarian who is more often than not a vegetarian, but I swear I have a good reason for telling you to order veggo on your flight.

First, I want you to think really hard. What’s the ONE sketchy item on your plate when flying?

The meat. Don’t even try telling me differently, you know, I know, your mom knows it, even your dog knows it. The meat is often borderline inedible (at best), but let’s be real, it’s fucking gross.

The veggo meals are often far more palatable and better. Don’t even try to defend that sorry ass looking piece of bacon that’s 90% fat and in a river of oily fatty juice that’s now completely saturated your eggs. Yeah… That’s what I thought.

Order a veggo meal. It’s like one extra step when you book the ticket and doesn’t cost a dime more.

Extra benefit? The veggos get served first. That’s right, my meal is better and I get to chow down like 20 minutes before you do. Win for me! Possibly you…?

 

Keep the kits

You know those cute little kits that are often included on your flights? It usually contains socks, a mask, maybe a comb or a toothbrush. Keep those! Not the contents inside, but the actual little bag that it comes in. They are reusable and a perfect size for organizing your stuff.

I’ve collected far too many now and I’ve stopped, but if you collect a few, use it to separate your stuff. I have one for my jewelry, small wires, my contacts, my odd and ends… They come in handy and are freeeee.

So! What do we think of these tips? Yay or nay? Have you used any of these before? Do you have flight hacks that don’t involve airline miles to share with us?

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Expat nomad and travel blogger. I’ve been epically failing at the American Dream for six years and counting. I’m a professional beach bum, nature lover, and I’m in a serious relationship with bread and cheese. I slow travel because I get distracted easily, I never purchase round trip tickets, and I enjoy playing with hula hoops.

My blog aims to give it to you straight in every aspect without skimping on details. I talk about the realities of making a life abroad by working for it while maximizing on your travel experiences.