Budget Airline Survival Guide: 4 Things to Know Before You Fly

Air plane wing flying above the clearly sky at sunset

Written by Caroline Eubanks on

Caroline Eubanks is a freelance writer from Atlanta, Georgia whose work has been published by BBC Travel, Afar, Thrillist, and National Geographic Traveler and is the author of the book This Is My South: The Essential Travel Guide to the Southern States. You can follow her work at CarolineEubanks.com.

Air plane wing flying above the clearly sky at sunset


Flying budget airlines doesn’t have to be stressful, especially if you have the right carry-on luggage for your trip. Here are four tips to skip the unnecessary baggage fees and packing everything into a strategic personal item.


If you’re looking to save a bit of cash on your travels, you might have to fly a budget airline. In Europe, it’s EasyJet and RyanAir, as well as regional carriers such as Vueling, Eurowings, and others. In the United States, it’s Frontier and Spirit. In Asia, it’s AirAsia, Nok Air, and JetStar. 

No matter which budget airline you choose, most tend to have strict requirements when it comes to luggage. Checked bags and even carry ons will cost you extra—in most cases only a personal item is allowed for free. So skip all the fees and pack strategically into one small bag, around the size of a computer bag or large purse. But you don’t have to fly budget to incorporate these minimalism tips!


1. Wear Basic Pieces

Despite what you’ve heard, you don’t need multiple outfits for every day. Most places have laundry facilities and items can be mixed and matched for different looks. For example, you can pack one top that might work with pants or a skirt. A scarf also doubles as a sarong. Pack shoes that can be casual or dressy. Solid colors and patterns work best for this system. 


2. Pack with Cubes

When you have everything laid out to pack, think to yourself: What would Marie Kondo do? Do I really need this? Will it bring me joy (on my trip)? 

If you have to think about it, probably not. 

So when you’ve purged any unnecessary items, it’s time to pack them up. Packing cubes are the best way to do this, putting shirts, pants, and undergarments in their own cubes to keep you organized. That way, you’ll know where everything is in your bag and won’t have to take out every single item. The compression packing cubes are ideal for maximizing as much space as possible. Small packing sacs are also great for easy organization of electronics and cords. 


3. Measure Your Bag

The worst case scenario is getting to the airport and finding out the airline wants to charge you a fee because your bag is too big. So measure and weigh everything up in advance! A luggage scale is important to keep at your house. And keep in mind that the restrictions vary by airline and whether they’re domestic or international flights. 

The best carry on luggage for budget airlines? A bag with plenty of compartments makes for easy flying, especially the Wayfinder 30L Backpack, which has a slot for your laptop and your bags with cords and everything else. 

If you prefer a rolling carry on bag to easily get around the airport, opt for the Gear Warrior Carry-On. Choose the lightest weight versions of what you bring as possible, like smaller toiletries. Don’t forget that you can always buy items at your destination! 


4. Fly Strategically

In addition to the airlines that charge you for every bag, there are some that give you a free checked bag, like Southwest. This allows passengers to strategically pack their carry on knowing that they don’t have to stress over fitting everything in. You can take advantage of these policies when you’re ready to bring home souvenirs from your destination.

By packing light using a small bag, you’ll be able to easily navigate the airport and skip the counter to pay and check a bag!


Related Links (from Eagle Creek blog):

Around the World Travel: How to Pack For Your Trip

How to Pack for 2 Weeks in a Carry On

Airline Baggage Fees and Luggage Restrictions