When it comes to flight travel, there are two major schools of thought. The first school belongs to those who believe the flight itself should be an experience in itself. They do not mind paying more for the better experience. The other belongs to those who are willing to save on the flight cost so that the money can be better spent on their travel plans. For the latter, budget airline is often the preferred choice of travel. However, budget flights come with its own share of issues.
From a “nothing-to-brag-about” service and red-eye flights to lack of additional perks and exorbitant charges for last minute changes, budget flights can sometimes spoil your travel mood. But that doesn’t stop the travellers like you and me from deviating away from the budget way of travel. Here’s a little secret for the budget travellers: There are actually ways to make your budget airline experience more enjoyable without paying an arm and a leg. Below are our tips.
1. Bring your own source of entertainment
One of the easiest ways to spend your time while on a budget flight is to be entertained by either your Netflix or Spotify account. (P.S. They come at a fraction of the cost of what you would have paid for an in-flight entertainment device from the budget airline.) With Netflix, you get access to thousands of TV shows, movies and documentaries that you can simply download onto your smartphone. All you need is S$10.98 to sign up for one month’s worth of Netflix to binge watch on flights.
Sometimes, you might feel like listening to some music while on board. Thus, it is highly recommended for you to get a premium Spotify account as well to tide you through the flight time. Spotify music is a good way to soothe you into your sleep mode, especially if you are taking a red-eye budget flight. For S$9.99 a month, you get unlimited access to more than 30 million songs on Spotify and the playlists that users have created.
2. And don’t let your device run out of power
If a smartphone or tablet is your preferred entertainment ‘superhero’ device on your budget flight, then a power bank is its most trusted ‘sidekick’. A power bank is especially important if you are on a long haul budget flight (think Scoot’s flight to Athens or Berlin). Based on the latest aviation guidelines, power banks can no longer be kept in your checked-in luggage. You MUST bring your power bank along with you in your cabin bag. There are some airlines that have implemented their own capacity limit on power banks too. So, make sure you check out the power bank capacity limit before bringing it on board. Don’t let your power bank get confiscated and be left hanging when your smartphone runs out of battery.
3. Fill your tummy before boarding
A hungry man is an angry man — every budget airline knows that. Thus, they know that you will be tempted to purchase their in-flight meals when you are famished. If you do not want to spend a whole lot more on in-flight food, have a heavy meal before you board. We recommend arriving early at the airport so that you have ample time to fill your tummy.
4. BYOM (Bring Your Own Meal)
For longer haul flights, you might want to consider buying takeaways (such as sandwiches, wraps or pastries) to bring on the flight. You could also get chocolate bars, nuts or chips to snack on to keep the hunger pangs at bay. But just a note of caution. There are some budget airlines that forbid passengers from bringing food on board. Check with your carrier before boarding the flight.
5. Pre-order food to save some bucks
If you are like me and prefer your food to be hot, then your only choice is to go for the food on the flight. But there are also tips for buying food on the flight. One of them is that you should always aim to pre-order your food. It is a good practice to book your food while you book your air tickets. Pre-ordered food is typically cheaper than buying on board too.
6. Carry your own water bottle
It is scientifically proven that a human can go for more than three weeks without food. Water, however, is a different story. Water is a necessity that you need to carry along with you on board any budget flight. The cost of plain water at airports are typically expensive. Luckily, most airports provide water coolers where you can fill your water bottle. So, the most cost-efficient way to have water is to bring your own water bottle and filling them at the water cooler. For Singapore’s Changi Airport, you cannot start filling your bottle until you have reached the waiting area just before departure. This is because you might still need to go through one more round of security check before you can board your plane. Thus, you cannot be in possession of any liquid exceeding 100ml until you pass through the final security check.
Tip: Make sure you arrive at the waiting area early so that you can finish your security check early. Based on past experience, there are always loads of people trying to fill their water bottles before boarding. Most water bottles are at least 1L in size. Some passengers will even bring two water bottles (1L each). Because of the tight schedule of budget airlines, you might not get a chance to fill your bottle if the queue is too long.
7. Carry these items for a comfortable journey
Unlike full-service airlines, budget airlines do not come with additional perks. For example, budget airlines do not provide passengers with a blanket for some much-needed warmth from the air conditioning. Most full-service airlines also provide passengers with a small toiletries kit that includes toothbrush and toothpaste to wash up and feel refreshed. As a budget airline passenger, you will need to do your own smart packing if you want the same level of comfort.
Every budget airline passenger should bring their own set of these seven items. For instance, you need to bring your own earpiece to plug into your own smartphone to listen to Spotify or watch Netflix. It can also act as a noise cancelling earplug if you value your sleep. In addition, you need to bring a jacket/shawl and socks to help you sleep better, especially if you can’t take the cold. If you like to enjoy your sleep in the dark, an eye mask is also essential to block off all rays of light.
Your 7-item smart packing list should include the following items:
4. Toothpaste (< 100 ml) & toothbrush
5. Facial cleanser
6. Eye mask
8. Get the right travel insurance
One of the greatest perils of budget flight is the delay. Delays of flights can put your travel plans in serious jeopardy. This is especially so if you have already booked connecting flights to visit other cities or countries upon arrival. In December last year, Scoot passengers were stuck in Athens for almost three days before being flown back to Singapore. The passengers, who boarded and disembarked the flight on three separate occasions over the three days, were left in limbo. In such situations, you will be left rueing why you hadn’t gotten the right travel insurance when you had the chance. While travel insurance can’t prevent your budget flight from getting delayed, it does give you sufficient financial compensation for the trouble and discomfort that you may have to go through.
9. Avoid the red eye flight if it isn’t worth the discount
Sometimes, budget airlines will add some of these red-eye flights to their flight schedule. We suspect that it could be because the cost of flying at those times are cheaper due to lower airport fees for the airlines. But as a passenger, a red-eye flight is the one thing that you may want to avoid. The risk of taking a red-eye flight can go as far as disrupting your travel plans in the first few days. You might have to spend your first two nights trying to adjust your body clock to the local time. That being said, it doesn’t mean that red-eye flights aren’t worth taking. Red-eye flights do come with extensive discounts. It is important for you to find a balance between saving costs and sacrificing some convenience in the process.
10. Use a credit card that gives complimentary lounge access
It’s common that you will have a quarter to half-a-day to spend in a foreign airport before you catch your connecting flight. In such a scenario (especially if you’ve taken an economy red-eye flight, to begin with), all you need is some quality rest to rejuvenate yourself. And spending this time relaxing at an airport lounge is probably the best thing that can happen. However, lounge entries may be expensive. So we recommend using a credit card that comes with complimentary lounge access. Here are some you can consider.
This article first appeared on BankBazaar.sg, a leading online marketplace in Singapore that helps consumers compare and apply for financial products such as credit cards and loans.