How to Pack for a Budget Airline

Getting Around By Stefan Zechner July 31, 2017

€40 from Prague to Milan, £50 from London to Rome, $99 from Boston to Iceland: Budget airline prices seem too good to be true. But if you’ve ever flown with one, you know that what the they offer in savings, they lack in luxury.

For many airlines, your ticket price only covers your seat. Anything “extra,” including an oversized bag, will cost you. There have been instances where the additional fee for one checked bag was more than the flight itself. When on a budget airline, you may want to forgo the checked bag altogether.

Here’s how to use every nook and cranny in your carry-on to fit everything you need on a budget airline.


Read the Fine Print

Free check-ins, seat assignments, and complimentary snacks aren’t givens on budget airlines. Scan the airline’s guidelines, paying special attention to carry-on baggage sizes. If your bag doesn’t meet the requirements, chances are you’ll be paying extra.

Check out the latest size and weight limits for carry-on and personal items* among popular budget airlines below:

Aer Lingus

Dress Smart

Before you start packing, plan what you’ll wear to the airport. Layer on your heaviest and bulkiest items, like boots, sweaters, and jackets. If you’re struggling to fit everything, you can invest in clothes that double as baggage, like Stuffa Odyssey and The Airport Jacket. You might look silly, but there are no style points when traveling on a budget airline.

Next, put aside all the clothes you’ll need to fit in your bag. Check your destination’s weather forecast and consider your plans. You’ll want versatile clothes that you can wear more than once. Consider a color scheme so each piece can be mixed and matched.


Condense and Compress

The infomercials may be cheesy, but compression bags really work. Rolling these bags tightly removes excess air, creating a more compact bag.

You can make your own, cheaper version with sealable plastic bags; simply roll excess air out the same way you would with compression bags and zip it tight.


Bundle Wrap

Folding, rolling, or bagging? Travelers can’t agree on their favorite method for packing clothes. We recommend a combination of rolling (to save space) and bundle wrapping (to reduce wrinkles).

Check out this explainer video to learn the ropes.


Fill the Holes

Don’t leave any space unused – including your shoes. Place your socks, underwear, and other small items inside your footwear. This will also help shoes keep their shape after cramming them in.


Zip It

When you’re trying to decide where to stuff your last few items, do a zip test. Close your suitcase completely (by squeezing, sitting on it, whatever it takes) then open it back up to see if any “new” spots have revealed themselves, especially in the corners.

When you think you’re all done, do a final size and weight test. If you plan on doing any shopping, remember to leave a bit of extra room for the return trip.


For more frequent flier tips, check out our guides for last second travel planning and minimizing foreign transaction fees.


*size and weight limits as of July 7, 2017

**Personal items include purses, briefcases, cameras, food containers, or laptops (case included). They should be small enough to fit under the seat in front of you. Pet carriers are considered either a personal item or a carryon item, depending on the airline.