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Italy has long been one of the very few remaining European countries that I have wanted to visit but never had the opportunity or funds. On a whim a few weeks ago I decided to book a few days away for the Easter holidays next year for me and the kids. Never one to trust a travel agent to get me a good deal and being a single parent I refuse to pay supplements on my holidays, which I feel, is a rip off. So with no specific destination in mind but a preference for Rome I started to check out the budget airline web sites.
Ryanair.com was the early winner purely because it was the only site that actually quoted prices that far ahead; Easyjet and Flybe were only able to quote prices up to the 26th March, which was no good to me, as I needed dates in April. Hence I plunged into the Ryanair web site in search of a bargain and I was not disappointed.
Usually I do not trust those fantastic sounding offers of flights being from £0.99 but on this site I was not let down and I was soon looking at some great deals. So how is the site to use?
Nice and bright with a lot of information however it does manage to present this in an organised way. The predominant colours are blue and yellow with black typeface. A headline banner proclaims the latest deals and there are links to three or four current news stories or press releases about the company. Also across the top is a list of the languages the site is available in although these are a little small.
Underneath this there are lists grouped by originating airport of all the destinations from this airport and the cheapest flight price. In total Ryanair have over180 routes to more than 90 destinations in 17 countries with new ones being added all the time.
On the left hand side of the page there is a content list that helpfully include a link straight to the terms and conditions, which you are advised to read before booking. I found the Destinations Link very useful and the Timetable link when planning my trip.
On the right hand side of the page their are\ advertisers banners for all the usual hotel and airport parking sites.
Top right is a Book Now link, which I must admit, did take a bit of time to find at first.
There is a simple search facility, which asks for originating airport destination airport date of travel and number of passengers. Children over two pay a full fare. Once you have selected the starting airport from a drop down list the destination drop down only shows those airports available from that destination.
I found the Destination link particularly useful before using the search facility. This has a map on it and if you move the mouse over an airport all the destination routes are shown up linked by lines. As Stanstead is the main base for Ryanair when you highlight it then the map does become messy, it is far easier to drag the pointer over the city you want to visit to see which UK airports have flights their.
You do have to be careful when selecting an airport as some are a distance away from the destination city however there is a link that provides information on each airport including transfer times and in some case whether Ryanair provide a transfer service and the costs involved.
Ease of Navigation
The site is very easy to navigate and there is always a link back to the home page. Despite the large amount of information available I found the site easy to get familiar with and the whole search and booking process only took about 30 minutes.
Once you have selected the route that you want and the dates that you want to travel then all the options are presented to you with flight times and prices. All of the prices exclude tax (about £14) however there is a calculate button which will give you the full price of your trip. The more flexible you are the better the deal you will get as I found changing my flights by one day saved an additional £45 on my trip.
There was a minimum of information required and before accepting the booking clear links to the terms and conditions and the rules regarding customer travel documents that are required.
A surcharge exists for credit card payment but nothing for switch or visa debit card.
Once you booking has been confirmed a booking reference is provided which you are asked to print. This booking reference is in place of any tickets and you need to quote this upon arrival. A confirmation e-mail is also sent containing all of the information that you require.
There is a telephone number provided should you have any questions however do check the charges, as these are often premium rate in some cases for information or 10p per minute for bookings.
You can also go back and check your booking at any time on the site and should you want to make any changes the cost of this is clearly set out.
Once you have booked you are also invited to search for a hotel through Ryanair and also links to car hire and airport parking. I did check out the hotel link and while there was plenty of choice I knew that I could get better deals booking direct with the hotels.
I certainly found this an easy site to use and you cannot argue with the bargains that are available. Given that the three of us are travelling at Easter to Rome for £105 makes it a very affordable visit. I have flown Easyjet many times for business and basically you get what you pay for so I have similar expectations of Ryanair but for that price as long as we land on time and in one piece I will be happy, oh and our luggage arriving with us would be good as well.
To find out more check out the website for yourself