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Take the Family › Packing Light with Kids, or How to Travel with Ryanair and Not Go Crazy

Packing Light with Kids, or How to Travel with Ryanair and Not Go Crazy

By TakeTheFamily
On the move at the airportOn the move at the airport

Is packing light possible when it comes to family holidays and breaks? Reading Condé Nast Traveller editor Melinda Stevens' recent attack on Ryanair, I started to dread our upcoming trip to Barcelona with the kids. I'd stingily only paid for one checked-in bag, and with the draconian size restrictions on hand luggage I was worried we were going to fall foul of Ryanair's infamous extra charges, otherwise known as fines.

The booking process, too, had enraged me. You start with tiny fares and they go up and up as you proceed towards booking - and that's even if you don't get any of the many possible add-ons that are offered to you and make the booking process seem to take FOREVER. Still, when fairly last-minute return flights to Barcelona cost £250 for a family of five, and when the flight times aren't hideous o'clock and the airport is a handy one for you, you really can't complain. 

Bar a last-minute panic when I found my son's treasured Trunki was technically too large to go on as hand luggage (see below), our experience went remarkably smoothly. Check-in at Liverpool took, unbelievably, less than one minute and the flight arrived in Spain slightly ahead of schedule. However, when travelling back to the UK, I did see a lot of people having to stump up large sums at the boarding gate because their hand luggage was too large or they were trying to sneak in a shopping bag or two in addition to their one piece of hand luggage. Just remember: flying with Ryanair, you have to play by their rules. 

Trips for Travelling with Ryanair with Kids

1) Read all emails from Ryanair prior to your flight and make sure you follow instructions to the letter, paying particular attention to hand-luggage height and size restrictions. Measure your bags, and if you think you do need to check something in after all, book it ahead online or it will cost you much more to do so at the airport. 

2) Be aware that the policy regarding Trunkis may vary from airport to airport. Although I read several Mumsnet forum posts about parents travelling on Ryanair with Trunkis as hand luggage without paying extra, I worried that we may be allowed to take one on the outbound journey but get fined/charged on the inbound journey, so I left it at home. And indeed, while a member of the Ryanair staff at Liverpool told me they'd let them on as hand luggage, she said that she couldn't vouch for what would happen at other airports.

3) Print out your boarding passes, outbound and return, in duplicate, and carry each set in separate pieces of hand luggage. If you don't bring your boarding passes, there's a very steep charge per person to have them printed for you at the airport - with a family of 5, forgetting them could cost you more than £300 EACH WAY! Making duplicates means you're covered if you lose one set while you're on holiday. On our Barcelona trip, one of the return boarding passes was mistakenly (I hope) taken by staff when we flew out from the UK, so having made duplicates meant we were covered. 

4) Practise travelling light with kids. I don't pretend to have any answers to this as a fine art, and although we managed to travel with one smallish case and four pieces of hand luggage, this was only 4-day break in the sun, so it was relatively simple to go easy on the amount of packing. But overall I am getting better at packing the more holidays I take with the kids – partly by seeing how much comes back unworn. Which probably tells you all kinds of things you don't want to know about my family…  

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