When looking at our flight options to Iceland, we came across the discount carrier WOW airlines, and couldn’t ignore the low cost fares they were offering. After researching fares for over a week, they were our best option by several hundred dollars so we decided to give it a try! They are a no frills airline with a strict baggage policy…so was it worth the savings?
Baggage Allowance and How to Maximize It
Packing for a family of four heading to a foreign country is a challenge – add in the strict guidelines given by WOW Airlines, and its nearly impossible! I did a lot research on the exact dimensions, weight, amount, etc. of items you could bring, and read other travelers reviews trying to maximize our space.
Each person flying gets one personal item for free. Your personal item cannot exceed 17x13x10in or 22lbs. Easton, although a lap child, still got to take one personal item on (yay! I will take a free bag). Carry on luggage and checked luggage are fee based (when we flew, your carry on luggage was free. However, that is not the case anymore and fees begin around $40). Your carry on luggage cannot exceed 22x18x10in or 26lbs . Your checked luggage cannot exceed more than 62 inches or 44lbs.
For each child, you can check either a car seat OR stroller for free. Not both! You can still check both, but you will need to pay for one. We opted not to bring the car seats and rent them with our car rental, mainly to have one less thing to bring. Would I do that again? Read here. We did check one stroller with Easton at the gate.
If you are need in some extra space, you are allowed one Duty Free shopping bag on for free. If you want to throw a few snacks/toys/gloves, etc. in a large bag, just purchase a water bottle at the counter and ask for the biggest bag, and you just got yourself a little more free room 🙂
Also, to save space in your suitcases, I recommend wearing your larger snow boots and carrying your heavy jackets. You are allowed to bring on heavy jackets at no extra costs. I also put our gloves and baby wipes in the jacket pockets to save space. The only downside is you have to carry them in the airport, but it wasn’t that much of a hindrance for us.
The check-in process
BWI (Washington DC) to Keflavik
We flew out of BWI (Washington, DC) and had a very easy and pleasant experience. It was an extremely small line, and we only waited about 5 or 10 minutes before an agent was available.
I was extremely nervous about our baggage situation I had read they are extremely strict on their size and weight. I cannot guarantee you will have the same experience as us, but here is how mine went.
- Our checked suitcases were an inch or two longer than the size listed on their website. However, they never measured our checked luggage, the only weighed it. It was an exact 44lbs, so we were fine.
- For our carry on luggage, we had two small children size roller boards and a duffel bag. They don’t take a measuring tape out to measure your items, but they do make you put them in the metal bin with the appropriate size dimensions. And they must fit. Even if your bag is two inches smaller in length but over in width, it doesn’t matter. It has to fit in the bin. Luckily, all of ours did, and we were fine, but the people in front of us were livid as their roller board wouldn’t slide in because of the wheels, so they made them pay $60 for a checked bag.
- For our personal items, they never measured or weighed them. They simply but the tag on the bag. Our personal items were not large, so we might have not sent off any flags.
We had plenty of time before our flight as the check-in process was smooth, so we grabbed dinner at the airport before boarding. It is important that you get food & water before you board the plane as WOW airlines does not provide anything to you on the flight, even water. You can purchase a few items on board, but it is a very limited selection.
A little FYI, BWI has the nicest play area at the airport I have ever been too. We had some time before our flight, so this was the perfect way for the kids to get some energy out before boarding.
Reykjavík to BWI (Washington, DC)
Seeing as how smooth the check-in process was at BWI, I didn’t think we would need more than 2 hours to check-in at Keflavik, but boy was I wrong! It took longer to return the car than expected, so we arrived about 1.5 hours before our flight, only to find an enormous line of about 100 people at the check-in counter. The do have kiosks to use for faster service, but since we had a lap child, we had to check-in at the counter. I could not imagine a more slow moving line than the one we were in. I was terrified we were going to miss our flight. We waited over an hour and moved maybe 30% of the way closer. Finally, at about 35 minutes before our flight was supposed to take off, they called anyone going to BWI to move to the front.
After finally checking in, we ran to security only to find another long line. Luckily the agent let us go to the front as she saw our flight time, but we still had to clear customs after security as well. Once we got passed customs, we literally had 10 minutes until our flight time, and the screens were saying “final boarding”. The KEF airport is long, and has no tram to help you out, so I bolted down the hallway to the gate, which was about a 10 minute run. I was literally sweating. Turns out, all for nothing. The plane was still boarding with a very long line, and we had about 20 minutes to spare.
I would recommend giving yourself at least 3 hours at the KEF airport before your departure. It was not fun to try and haul but with a toddler and 5 year old, in heavy coats and loads of bags. I do not recommend it, so allow plenty of time!
The flight experience
We departed from BWI about 45 minutes late, but our pilot made up for it in the air and we arrived pretty close to on-time.
The airplane was newer and clean, but definitely no frills – no screens to watch TV, blankets or pillows. The seats do recline (the button was near the bottom of the chair) and were decent enough for what I expected. The staff was very friendly, and we had no trouble storing our bags. The plane was at capacity, so there were no empty seats to try and stretch out onto.
You can rent an iPad from them with some movies on it for a fee, but we brought our own iPads and Amazon Kindles on the plane to entertain the kids. We also brought our own snacks and bottled water on.
It was a smooth plane ride and not much different from any other airline I have flown.
The cost – did we really save?
WOW airlines may seem like a crazy cheap flight at first glance, but just know that the base price is no where close to what you will pay. Once you add on the seat selection and high baggage fees, your ticket will significantly increase.
However, in our case, it was still cheaper than the alternative options for us. We ended up paying around $1600 for three tickets and a lap child, including all the additional fees. We choose to drive to DC to fly out on WOW airlines as the alternatives of flying from closer to home, like Atlanta, started at $900 a ticket.
So in the end, was it worth it? It was worth it for us. I think if you are saving several hundred dollars once you have calculated all the fees in, it might be worth the long line at the airport for the extra money in your pocket.