I’m not ashamed to admit that I am a massive fan of Ryanair. If it wasn’t for their bus fare pricing, Linda and I would never have seen as much of the world as we have.
And for ‘one day only’, Ryanair is offering 15% off flights. My top pick is a long weekend in Gdansk for just £24.79 return (November 10th-14th). Obviously the cost will increase if you add seat selection and luggage, but this is still a great price for one of our favourite cities in the world.
We love Christmas markets – and cheap trips. Usually combining the two to arrange a cheap Christmas market trip is as easy as finding a unicorn.
So how about a three night break in mid-December for less than £275?
Right now you can book return flights on Ryanair from London Stansted to Gdansk between 12th and 15th December for just £56.30.
Using Booking.com, It is possible to find a very decent apartment in the old town for around £115, bringing the total cost to £271.30*.
Which is a bargain by anyone’s standards.
I know we keep banging on about Gdansk, but it’s a really pretty, interesting city. And the Christmas market is routinely rated as the best in Poland – and one of the best in Europe.
Move quick though – flight prices will rise as more people book this deal.
UPDATE: All of the tickets at this ridiculous price have now sold out. There are still a few bargains, but you will need to travel at the end of November to take advantage of them (which is not particularly Christmassy in my opinion).
* As always, flight prices will increase when you add things like luggage, seat selection, priority boarding etc etc etc. To achieve the cheapest Christmas market trip, try travelling with nothing more than a Ryanair approved carry-on bag.
The King’s Speech today outlined UK government plans to ban drip pricing. It will be interested to see how serious they are about this issue – and whether the legislation extends to cruise lines.
What is drip pricing?
Drip pricing describes the way an operator offers a very low starting fare – and then keeps adding ‘extras’ during the checkout process. Budget airlines, like Ryanair, are famous for using this technique to turn a £15 headline price into a £60 (or more) bill by the time you complete the purchase.
It works like this:
You see a bargain fare and select your tickets. Yay, £15 flights!
Next, you’re asked whether you want to take luggage – and you’re presented with various options on a sliding price scale depending on how heavy your bags are and whether they are going in the cabin or the hold (add £7.50 per person, per flight). Your flight just doubled in price.
Then, you get to choose your seat – again, more desirable seats are more expensive (add another £7.00 per person per leg). The flight is now three times more expensive.
Finally, you get a load of additional add-ons, such as insurance, airport transfers, parking, fast track security etc etc etc.
Suddenly your flights cost 4x the headline price. At least.
Ryanair is held up as the poster boy for bad behaviour when it comes to drip pricing, but EasyJet and Wizz Air tend to be way more expensive, particularly when it comes to the luggage uplift.
The truth is, cruise operators behave in a very similar manner. Ever seen a 7-night cruise advertised for £399? I have.
But you want a window? The price just doubled. Want a balcony? Triple the price.
Specific cabin? Add $150.
WiFi? $15 per day per device.
Drinks? $50 for each person in the cabin. Per day.
Port transfers? $80 each.
Gratuities? $16 per person per night.
Suddenly your bargain cruise is 3 or 4 times the advertised price.
If that isn’t drip pricing, I don’t know what is.
Will the government act?
So will the drip-pricing ban be applied across the travel sector as a whole? Highly unlikely.
Why? Because this measure is really only being used as a stick to beat the budget airlines. Cruise pricing isn’t even a speck on the government’s radar, let alone a part of their discussion.
A ban on drip pricing is likely to be used as an excuse to raise airfares across the board – media outlets estimate tickets will rise by as much as £80 each. And a cynic may suggest that this plan is just an excuse to price more people out of flying rather than improving the consumer experience.
The irony is that even the national flag carrier British Airways charges extra for seat selection and luggage these days too.
Are we in favour of a drip-pricing ban? Not really. It would be far more effective to educate people in how airlines and cruise operators use this system – and how it is possible to travel quite cheaply if you know what you are doing.
This is not to say we would not welcome a ban on ‘resort fees’ charged by many US hotels. Resort fees are completely unavoidable add-ons charged at checkout – whereas airline drip pricing uplifts can be dodged. And that’s just plain naughty.
Stansted Airport has received a boost this week with two big announcements – which is great for those of us who use the Essex airport regularly.
British Airways Makes A Return
First, British Airways has announced they are returning to Stansted Airport in 2024. The short haul subsidiary BA CityFlyer will be offering flights to Florence (Italy), Nice (France) and Ibiza (Spain).
Although these destinations are already well-served, I am hopeful that BA uses this as a launchpad to expand their network from Essex. Given that British Airways fares aren’t that different to Ryanair‘s (once you add on ‘extras’ like luggage and seat selection), it will be good to see some competition back at Stansted. Plus the opportunity to earn some Executive Club tier points from our local airport.
Notably, British Airways is was the only airline offering business class services from Stansted Airport, until…
Royal Jordanian Touches Down At Stansted
In something of a surprise move, Royal Jordanian has announced they will be operating 4x weekly flights between Stansted and Amman (Jordan). How popular this route will be remains to be seen, but if the fares are low enough, it might be tempting to hop on a city break to visit Petra.
Royal Jordanian also offer ‘Crown Class’ on all their aircraft too. Which puts a dent into BA’s claim to be the only business class offering at Stansted.
What About Lounges?
Although BA is pitching their Stansted service at the budget market, their planes will still have a Club Europe section. And one of the perks of business class is lounge access before a flight.
Currently Stansted Airport only has one lounge, The Escape Lounge, which costs a (frankly ridiculous) £31.99 per person for a very basic offering. The lounge will certainly not impress anyone travelling Crown Class on Royal Jordanian – or Club Europe.
Top tip: You can get access to the Escape Lounge for £20 per person if you are a member of Priority Pass. If you have an AmEx Gold card or a Revolut Metal plan, you already have free Priority Pass membership (worth $99 USD).
Bonus tip: £20 is probably still over priced for the Escape Lounge at Stansted.
WARNING! The Escape Lounge is quite small and frequently full. The only way to guarantee entry is to pre-book – which means you won’t be able to get a discount rate or use your Priority Pass membership.
Personally, I hope BA sees enough success in their Stansted offering to encourage further investment. A BA/oneworld co-branded lounge would be great – but they would need to significantly expand their flight schedule to justify that outlay.
However, Stansted Airport recently received planning permission to extend the terminal building by 30%. So there is always potential should BA and Royal Jordanian services take off (sorry, awful pun).
How to reduce stress when travelling? It’s an important question. Travel should be fun, inspiring, exciting and, to some degree, relaxing.
But for many people, including Linda, the airport is an incredibly stressful place.
How to reduce stress? Get rid of the other passengers, obviously.
So it was quite interesting to see Condé Nast Traveller publish a top 10 list of ‘Least Stressful Airports in Europe’. More interesting still is what their choices tell us about choosing less stressful destinations. Here are three factors which could help to reduce airport stress and anxiety:
1. How to reduce stress – Choose your destination
The first observation is choice of destination. Eight out of ten airports listed could be considered ‘regional’; they do not serve a capital city. So if you want a less stressful airport experience, don’t visit a capital.
2. Reducing travel stress – Choose a “small” country
The two capital cities which do make the ‘least stressful’ list are both situated in relatively small countries – Luxembourg and Lithuania. They boast small populations and geographical footprints – so think small for your next stress-free trip.
3. Stress-free airports – Choose unpopular
None of the ten airports listed serves more than 4.4 million passengers each year. Compare this to Luton Airport, London’s third, which had 13.3 million in 2022…
It seems that those airports which don’t have to handle tens of thousands of passengers every day tend to be more relaxed. Who would have thought it?
Are these three tips guaranteed to help reduce stress? Sadly not. We have visited plenty of smaller, unpopular, regional airports over the years with mixed results. Gdansk and Wrocław (Poland) and Karlsruhe-Baden (Germany) have all been excellent. Tuzla (Bosnia) was chaotic and quaint, queuing out onto the tarmac to go through immigration. Munich (Germany) is a total disaster and should be avoided by even the most laid back travellers.
And if you’re interested, the Top 10 Least Stressful Airports in Europe as identified by StressFreeCarRental.com and Condé Nast Traveller are:
I should point out that we have visited none of these airports, so cannot personally verify whether they really are stress-free or not. It’s perhaps also worth noting that Ryanair fly to eight of the ten listed, so airline choice may have less to do with airport stress than people think.
An email from British Airways this morning announces a genuinely useful change to the Executive Club frequent flyer program. From 1st April 2025 all club members will operate according to the same tier point earning period dates.
Earning tier points should be rewarding – and simple.
With British Airways, frequent flyer status is earned by collecting ‘Tier Points’ (not to be confused with Avios). Tier Points are awarded based on the flights flown with British Airways and essentially, the more you spend on your flight, the more points you earn. Flying long haul first class from London to Sydney earns more Tier Points than a short haul economy hop from London to Paris for instance.
If you earn enough Tier Points during your annual collection period, you qualify for frequent flyer status and all the benefits that brings.
Simple enough, right? The only problem is that the Tier Point earning period varies wildly depending on when you joined the BA Executive Club. Currently my earning period begins and ends on the 8th September whereas Linda’s runs until June.
Having failed to complete enough flights during my Tier Point earning period, I have been bumped down to Bronze status. Linda on the other is still sitting pretty in Silver, despite having flown no more times than I – she just got lucky with the timing of our trips, meeting the earnings threshold at a more opportune time than I did.
BA simplifies the Tier Point Earning Period
The news that the Tier Point Earning Period is being standardised is good news for travellers like us. Previously, achieving and retaining status meant carefully calculating when to fly to maximise Tier Point earning potential – and to ensure we got full value from our frequent flyer status. In future we know that our collection periods are the same – and our membership levels.
Usually an email from an airline about changes to the frequent flyer program contains bad news (such as the value of miles being downgraded again). However, this is one change I think will benefit us – especially as the Executive Club will apply ‘Tier Point adjustments’ to address the shortening of the collection window.
You can learn more about the changes in BA’s FAQs.