Budget Airlines – Deciding Which Airline to Book

budget airlines - deciding which airline to book

So you see that really cheap ticket to a city you've been wanting to visit, then you realize it's on one of those budget airlines. You immediately wonder, is it worth it? Should I spend the extra money and go with a nicer airline with more perks or should I book with a budget airline to save?

There are many things to consider when thinking about which airline to go with and honestly, I almost always go with the cheapest ticket possible (always on a budget after all!). For me the idea of saving money almost always wins, but sometimes, the cheap ticket isn't worth it. Here are some things to consider before your flight to help you make your decision about your upcoming flight!


How long is your trip?

This one is key because if you are going on a trip for a weekend, a budget airline is perfect because you won't need bags, it'll be short, and you don't have much time at your destination so why spend a lot? On the other hand, if you're going for a week or two, fitting all your stuff in one carry on or getting the nicer plane with TV and wifi might be worth it if you need relaxing after a long trip.

How long is the flight?

This is HUGE! Cross country flights on a budget airline are NOT fun let me tell you. I took a flight on spirit cross country DC to LA and it was a tough 5 hours. No wifi, tv, drinks or snacks. It was a long 5 hours... Sometimes its worth the extra $50 for that long flight if you can enjoy some of those amenities. Many budget airlines don't offer food service, wifi, tv, or other perks that are nice to have on long flights. I can deal without entertainment for a few hours, but find it hard to read a book for 6 hours without getting sick to my stomach!

Are you going back with more than you packed?

Let's say you plan on shopping or you're going over a holiday... You will probably be bringing back more stuff. If you're going to need a second bag or even just a heavier one, a budget airline won't be the best option. It can be okay but you have to plan ahead. I always fly Southwest home for Christmas because they allow two checked bags which is the perfect thing after getting gifts! When I came back from China, I brought home three more bags than I left with! China is really good for shopping...

Is the parking or baggage fee going to make it the same price as another airline?

Sometimes I'll see a ticket at a nearby airport for $50 cheaper than the closest airport to me and I think oh! Cheaper! But really - is it cheaper? If you have to pay for an Uber, parking, or other transportation then it may actually not be any cheaper. Check this first because it won't be worth your time or save you anything if it's actually not cheaper with fees!

Did you check all nearby airports? Is it still the best deal?

Sometimes a nearby airport will have the same price ticket, but on a nicer airline. Check this out first before booking!

How much are you actually saving? Is it worth $20 to be in a cramped seat instead of a larger one?

Seriously, the seats on some budget airlines like Frontier are basically fold up chairs made for an airplane. They are not comfortable! I recently took a four hour flight on Frontier and let me tell you, my neck hurt so bad the next day! Long flights with those cramped seats are not worth $20 to $50 in savings for me. Side note: does this mean I am getting old?! NOOO!

How much are you spending on the rest of your trip?

So if you are spending a lot on the rest of your trip, it's a good idea not to spend a ton on the plane ticket. Save and book with the budget airline. If you're not spending much, splurge on the ticket and get a nicer seat on your plane!

So, there you have it! Those are the questions I ask myself when I'm booking a flight whether with a budget airline or not. It's important to plan ahead and save as much as possible, but even the cheapest option isn't always the best one. Have you flown with a budget airline before? How did it go? Would love to hear what others consider when they book their flights!

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  • This is SUCH a great post! So many things to consider with cheaper airlines. We don’t use them as often, just because we have so many built up points with my husband traveling for work so much, but we just booked him two different ones to fly back and forth to meet me in the mountains. It worked well given the circumstances, because he was able to leave some of the bigger things with me (I had taken the car) and didn’t have to worry about the extra baggage. It was a short flight, but this is good to keep in mind if we ever consider booking for a longer one in the future! Thanks!

    • Thank you! You are definitely lucky to have so many points built up – I am working on my credit card points slowly and steadily haha. That sounds like a good idea, especially on a short flight!

  • Meghna Malhotra

    Great post and very informative! Totally agree with the hidden costs part! By the way, I loved the infographic you have put at the end…sums up the entire post so well!

  • Elle Pollicott

    I really enjoyed reading your article. I nearly always travel on budget airlines because in Europe, they’re much cheaper than national airlines. However if I’m going long haul to America then I’d rather pay extra for comfort – and I don’t have to pay to put my luggage in the hold!

    • Yes! Same thing here in the US – definitely cheaper. It is worth it on long flights though to have the extra comfort and luggage. Just depends on the type of trip you are going on!

  • Victoria Hawkins

    Great advice! Where I live, I don’t have too much choice of airlines but thanks for putting this together!

  • Ania Ewelina

    I agree with you, sometimes the budget airlines just aren’t worth it, but other times they totally are, you need to do your research first before you make a purchase.

  • Leigh

    Good thing to think about! I have actually never flown a budget airline in the US! I’m pretty loyal to American and United, although that may change when I’m no longer living so close to O’Hare which is a major hub!

    • Oh wow! American is a great airline though and they fly basically everywhere. There are perks to being loyal to specific airlines, just like there are to flying budget airlines.

  • Elaine J Masters

    These are great tips for a new flyer. The biggest thing I go with is to pack as lightly as possible and I’m with you juggling getting the cheapest flight but not giving up too many amenities. Cross country with no entertainment would be a struggle.

    • Thank you! Exactly – have to pack light. It’s definitely a struggle for me haha

  • Anna WouldBTraveller

    Thanks so much for sharing! I’ve been a bit of an airline snob recently, only going for the airlines that offer loyalty points and I’m afraid budget airlines don’t do that! I’m saving up for a trip on first class to Australia so I might be some time 😉

    • Loyalty points exist for budget airlines too! Spirit actually has a pretty good low fair club, but saving up and flying the nicer airline is a great idea too!

  • Alice ford

    I totally agree. Everytime I book a budget flight inside the USA I am super annoyed. I do however love AirAsia for flying around southeast Asia but you definitely have to be pre prepared for the baggage fees and food scenario.

    • I’ve flown AirAsia too! Yep, I feel like I will see a cheap flight and then forget there are bag fees – then it’s actually the same price! Haha Just have to know ahead of time what to expect!

  • Kim Bui

    Great advice, and thanks for sharing your experience! I love flying SW for the two free bags, but unfortunately money plays a larger factor for me and they’re usually never the cheapest.

  • Elise

    I have heard terrible things about budget US airlines! Not flown one myself but have done plenty of short-haul ones around SEA, where there often isn’t much difference! The length of the flight makes a HUGE difference! I once accidentally ended up on an Air Canada ROUGE flight instead of regular (no TVs, booze etc) and I rage slept for 9 hours haha.

  • Brianna

    Great things to consider, but I almost always go with the budget flights! At least while I’m still young and can put up with being uncomfortable 🙂

  • Céline CLudik

    Thanks so much for sharing ! I often fly with the EasyJet airline in Europe. I fully agree with you: sometimes the budget airlines just aren’t worth it and other times they totally are ! You really need to do a research before making a purchase !

  • Jess Harling

    Great article. I have gone through a lot of the points you’ve listed in the past when booking a flight. I often think it’s worth paying a bit more. My boyfriend however always wants to go with the cheapest :/ so I have to convince him

  • Steph Huff

    These are such great tips and things to think of. I automatically divert to the cheapest ticket too but sometimes time is money and I always forget to take into account the cost and time of traveling to the inconvenient airports that the budget ones often fly out of. I just realized Paris has an airport I had never heard of that is like an hour away and almost made the mistake of booking out of there, would have been so inconvenient lol 🙂 Great tips !!

  • Ana Grozea

    Hahaha.. I always go for cheapest ticket also. But as you said, if it’s not a long fight.. I can take it like a champ. The advantage of being in Europe is that the flights are not that long. The one thing you can get stitched at is with cancellation, fight delay and such. So better chose a good insurance!