Really cheap travel
December 3rd, 2008 by eve

I have just written a piece for the next Holiday Villas magazine about how to really get one of those ‘free’ trips advertised by Ryanair. Here’s the gist of it:

Firstly, you need to get yourself a Visa Electron debit card. Then, you book and check in on line using this card. If you use any other debit card or credit card they will charge a £4 booking fee for each person checked in. If you use the Electron card, it really is free (sorry if this sounds like a puff for Electron cards. I don’t get commission!) If you put in the card details, the ‘cost’ will come up as £0.00!

OK. You’ve got the card from your bank. Are there any other snags you need to know about before you start the booking process? Well, yes, there is a problem but it’s not too weighty. Quite light, actually. If you check in on line to get your free flight, you are only allowed to take hand luggage with you – that’s just 10kg in a holdall or cabin trolley bag. 

Can you travel that light? You probably can, though most people think they can’t. Remember that your villa or apartment will be equipped with a washing machine, towels, probably a hairdrier and possibly, toiletries. Books are often available, too (there are plenty in the flat I rent out, from Danielle Steele to Ian McEwan and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, plus DVDs and even Scrabble, if you get really desperate). 

If you pack enough clothes for three or four days, it should be possible to wash and re-wear them without a problem all holiday. If you’re mad on clothes and like variety this will be a nuisance. But just remember that all those people who go off on gap year trips travel light, and they don’t have a terrible time because they happen to be wearing the same clothes a lot.

For the beach and pool you don’t need much: swimwear, shorts/sarongs, a top or two and light sandals or pumps. Then you need a sightseeing/day-out outfit or two, and a couple of evening things. If you intend to go walking, wear trainers or walking boots during the journey, or the first bit of it at least. Wear your heavier layers for travelling. Tie extra things – jumpers, shirts – around your waist. Put on all the jewellery you’re taking. You may look a bit, well, ridiculous but does that matter? There are no laws against it and you are beating the system. Anyway,  once you’re through security you can stick them in your bag which should be expandable for this very reason.

Furthermore, if the villa or apartment does not provide books, you can buy them – after the security checks. You might have to leave them behind but remember, you’re still saving money.

How much money? If you take a suitcase, you won’t be able to check in on line and, apart from all the nuisance of the check in queue, you will have to pay £6 for your suitcase each way. And then they will clobber you for a £6 each way booking fee. So that free trip will then cost you, actually, £28 –  £56 for two of you, rather than £0.00 with an electron card and a squashable cabin bag each.

Final tip: take your own food. In-flight grub, as I’m sure you all know, is a ridiculous price (though, unfortunately, you can’t take your own drinks but have to buy them after security at the airport or on board).

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