The Complete Guide to Flying on a Budget with Spirit Airlines
Have you ever wanted to travel more but didn’t have the budget to do so?
There is a way to travel more for less, and one way is through Spirit Airlines (if you know how to navigate through their fees).
When I first launched a start-up business, I had to travel a lot (2-3 times a month) but didn’t have a lot of money. We didn’t have those nice corporate accounts either.
So, I had no choice but to fly Spirit Airlines, where as they say “even the water will cost you money.” But hey, at least the bathroom is free!
All joking aside, flying Spirit Airlines ended up being very good to me because they actually saved me a lot of money and the experience really wasn’t bad at all.
I realize a lot of people, including my friends, have sworn they would never fly Spirit Airlines.
And I know people have gotten nailed through their fees, so that’s why I’ve created this guide to help you navigate Spirit Airlines so hopefully you can save money on your next flight.
If you’re wondering if Spirit Airlines is worth the hassle in terms of cost savings, here are some stats of Spirit Airlines:
- Spirit Airlines was rated #1 and had the highest percentage of on-time arrivals (89%) from a report from the Department of Transportation (DOT). Southwest, United, and American Airlines came in #5, #6, and #7 respectively.
- In 2018, Spirit only had 0.2% of operations cancelled (32 flights cancelled), which ranked #4 in all of the major airlines
- Spirit Airlines ranked #2 in the least number of mishandled baggage reports.
- As for safety, Spirit Airlines have had no fatal incidents in its history since inception
- The average fleet age of Spirit Airline is 6.6 years, making it an Airline with one of the newest fleet of airplanes.
So actually, statistically Spirit Airlines is a pretty decent airline in terms of safety, punctuality, and cancellations. They even rank better than all the major airlines in a number of areas!
So how do you start?
1. Start with a Flight Aggregator like Google Flights
Go to www.flights.google.com or any other flight aggregator to find the available flights inputting your travel dates and destination.
I use Google Flights because it lets you compare prices quickly with other airlines. If Spirit Airlines isn’t cheaper than another airline, then you can skip Spirit altogether and just book any airline that has the best prices (with the itinerary you need).
It’s also really important to note the travel times. Sometimes while a flight may be cheaper early AM, you better okay with waking up super early to get to the airport on time.
A missed flight is a lot worse than saving money on an early AM flight.
2. Check Nearby Airports also
If you know of an airport closeby, consider checking prices for nearby airports also. A lot of times it can save you a lot of money!
For example, if you’re flying into Oakland (OAK), it may be cheaper to fly into San Francisco (SFO) or even San Jose Airport (SJC)… or Vice Versa.
If you’re flying from Dallas, it may be cheaper to fly from Dallas-Fort Worth Airport (DFW) than Dallas Love Field (DAL).
There are usually other options from nearby airports you just want to check if flights may be cheaper from an alternate airport.
Here’s an example of a flight from Dallas to San Diego. From Dallas Love Field (DAL), prices are around $325.
For the exact same dates, from DFW airport you can find tickets for as low as $194.
Of course, if you need bags it’ll be more expensive with Spirit, but even with the fees, you still would be saving some money!
3. Decide How Much Luggage You’ll Need
Even if you need to check-in luggage or bring more bags, Spirit can still be cheaper even after you purchase bags.
I’ve traveled with two large check-in bags before with Spirit Airlines and it still ended up being cheaper than flying on another carrier.
You just want to avoid paying for bags at the Airport, where they make it a lot more expensive then.
It may not be the case every time as Spirit has more recently started to increase their prices, but if you use a flight aggregator like Google Flights, you’ll be able to compare flight prices more easily.
4. Decide if You Even Need Luggage
If you’re going out of town for just a few days, you might consider flying without any checked bags. When I travel alone, often times a backpack is sufficient.
Or perhaps just a carry-on bag (that you still have to pay for, but it’s not too bad if paid at booking).
The best part of not checking in bags, is you don’t have to wait to pick-up luggage when you arrive which saves A LOT of time.
5. Be Sure to Follow Baggage Restrictions
Unfortunately, this is the biggest pitfall for most customers. So long as you follow the rules and restrictions, you’ll be fine. If not, unfortunately you’ll end up paying more.
One Personal Item is always free with any fare:This is something like a laptop bag or purse smaller than 18″x14″x8″.
Most of the time, I just carry a backpack and it ends up being fine where nobody even checks. This is the ideal way to travel if possible for the cheapest airfare. However, if you need bags, it’s totally understandable.
Below are the baggage fees on Spirit Airlines (keep in mind this is one-way):
Personal item (e.g., purse, small backpack, etc.): Dimensions must not exceed 18 x 14 x 8 inches (45 x 35 x 20 cm) including handles and wheels.
Carry-on bag: Maximum of 22 x 18 x10 inches (56 x 46 x 25 cm) including handles and wheels. We may require that a carry-on bag travel as a checked bag if it cannot be safely stowed on a particular flight.
Checked bags: Maximum of 62 linear inches (length + width + height; 158 cm) including handles and wheels and maximum of 40 pounds in weight (18.1 kg). Any bag that exceeds these dimensions or weight limit is considered oversized/overweight and has a corresponding charge. Unfortunately, we cannot accept bags that weigh more than 100 pounds (45 kg) or that measure more than 80 linear inches (203 cm) in overall dimensions.
It saves you the most money if you book your baggage when you book your ticket. While it may seem steep to shell out $40 for a bag, if you consider the cost savings from another airline, often it’s still cheaper to fly with Spirit Airlines and pay for the bags.
Here are the restrictions for overweight or oversized baggage:
- 41 – 50 lbs. (18 – 23 kg) + $30
- 51 – 70 lbs. (23 – 32 kg) + $55
- 71 – 100 lbs. (32 – 45 kg) + $100
- 63-80 linear inches (158-203 cm) + $100
- Special items over 80 linear inches (203 cm) + $150
7. Decide if You Care About Seats
If it’s over 2 hours, I would consider paying a few extra bucks for an aisle or window seat (depending on your preference).
If it’s less than 2 hours, I would leave it to fate whether or not I get a middle seat. While middle seats probably may not be your favorite, 2 hours isn’t too bad. By the time you’re up in the air, an hour later, you’ll be descending again.
If you’re worried about bad hygiene of other flyers, #1) You wouldn’t be able to dodge it even sitting on an aisle or window seat and #2) Always bring hand sanitizer and/or a face mask.
8.Bring Your Own Refreshments (BYOR)
Although you can’t bring water, you can bring an empty water bottle and fill it up at the airport’s water fountains.
But honestly buying water and snacks on the plane isn’t THAT bad. Hopefully you’ve saved a good chunk of money to justify the few dollars on a beverage you can enjoy on the plane.
If you have food allergies or want to bring your own snacks, this would be a good time.
Or if you want to save a couple bucks, pack a brown bag snack bag!
9. Bring Your Own Entertainment (BYOE)
It’s true, Spirit has no real entertainment… aside from some of their flight attendants being hilarious and poking fun about themselves before take-off.
But if you’re flying Spirit, you’re probably not on an overly long flight.
So just be sure to bring an iPad, book, phone, games, laptop, or whatever you’d like to keep you entertained throughout the flight!
9. Book with a Credit Card that offers Travel Protection / Insurance
Spirit offers optional insurance with each booking. But rather than spending the extra money, just use a Credit Card that offers Travel Protection.
A lot of Credit Cards already offer that benefit or check with your Credit Card company to see if they have any kind of travel protection built-in.
So skip the insurance add-on and save your money there.
10. Sign-up to be a Spirit $9 Fare Club Member
The best way to decide whether or not to join the $9 Fare Club Member is to see how much savings you’ll get with your first booking.
Usually it will tell you how much you would save on your itinerary if you joined the $9 Fare Club.
Normally savings include the price of the fare tickets, baggage (checked or carry-on), and upgrades.
If it covers half or more, I’d highly recommend just joining the $9 Fare club (particularly if you plan on travelling more throughout the year).
If not, I’d just wait until your next itinerary to see if the savings from joining membership is more sufficient.
The $9 Fare Club is $59.95 on your first year, and then $69.95 thereafter until you cancel.
You can also have a 60-day trial period for $19.95.
11. Check-in Online
Up to 24 hours before your flight, it’s always a good idea to check-in online in case you have any last minute changes.
If you need to add bags, this would be the time to do so.
Checking in online is just a good safeguard against any possible last minute changes that will make things a lot more expensive if you try to pay for it at the airport.
The upside to this is it reduces stress when you’re actually at the airport.
So be sure to just do some due diligence in checking in before you leave the house!
12. Don’t Book Hotels/Car Rentals through Spirit
More often than not, you can probably find a better deal just through any other booking aggregator like Booking.com, Priceline.com, or hotels.com.
Plus there’s A LOT more information on other sites than Spirit’s website. You’ll want to know things like hotel amenities, hotel location, reviews, etc.
13. Skip the Spirit Airlines Credit Card
This is how you know I wasn’t endorsed by Spirit Airlines to write this.
After having used dozens of Credit Cards with their bonuses, I can tell you the Spirit Airlines Credit Card offer is just not worth signing up for.
While they claim the bonus points are enough for 3 Round-Trip Off-Peak tickets, it’d be pretty hard to actually find those tickets.
Moreover, the Credit Card doesn’t provide any benefits in terms of savings on bags, in-flight savings, and other benefits other Credit Card companies offer.
I’d recommend skipping getting the Spirit Airlines Credit Card and just getting another Credit Card that can offer you a lot more value.
14. Kick back at an Airline Lounge or Airport Restaurant and Enjoy Your Savings!
One of the most fun things about booking cheap, budget airline tickets like Spirit Airlines is getting to your destination, knowing that you saved $100, $200, or even a couple hundred dollars (especially for families).
If you have lounge access through PriorityPass, it makes the experience even sweeter as you get to feel like a VIP and get VIP treatment at the airport even with a cheap, budget airline ticket.
If not, no worries. Just treat yourself to a nice meal or coffee at the airport, sit back, relax, and enjoy your flight savings!
With the money you saved, might as well… travel more!