I usually avoid budget airlines, but an $18 Spirit Airlines flight changed my mind

  • I take over 50 flights every year and usually avoid budget airlines, but this time I tried Spirit.

  • I flew from Charlotte, North Carolina, to Orlando, Florida, for just $18. It was great.

  • I had a good experience, but I'd only fly Spirit if I were traveling light for a low-stakes trip.

I'm a frequent traveler who takes over 50 flights a year.

Recently, when planning a quick weekend with friends, I decided to keep my budget tight. The less I could spend on airfare, the more I could spend when I landed.

While using my go-to search engine for travel, Google Flights, I spotted a one-way flight from Charlotte, North Carolina, to Orlando on my desired date for just $18.

It seemed to good to be true since other nonstop flights were about 10 times that price — but the catch seemed to be it was with Spirit Airlines, which is regularly named one of the worst airlines.

I usually steer clear of budget airlines, but the price was so good that I decided to try my luck.

I used the airline's mobile app to book my flight.

Spirit airlines mobile flight ticket
Booking my Spirit flight was easy. Carly Caramanna

I booked my flight using the Spirit mobile app. I was surprised by how quick and convenient the process was.

During the booking process, I was able to choose if I wanted add-ons, like advanced seat selection and carry-ons.

Since Spirit is a low-cost carrier, everything from onboard beverages to carry-ons is an extra charge.

While booking, I was also informed add-on prices would significantly increase If I waited to purchase them at the airport. I didn't add anything.

I let Spirit choose my seat and I brought only a personal item.

Small personal item bag on airport sea
I was packing light, so I didn't need a carry-on.Carly Caramanna

With my base fare, my seat was selected for me, and my only permitted luggage was a personal item, which could be no larger than 18 inches by 14 inches by 8 inches.

I prefer to travel light, which helped me keep my flight costs down. Adding a carry-on would cost about $40 if I booked it while buying my ticket — it'd be even more at the gate.

I even managed to fit my small purse inside my personal item during the boarding process so I wouldn't potentially be charged for having an extra bag.

We boarded zone by zone, and it went smoothly

Line to get on spirit flight
Staff could check the dimensions of personal items and carry-ons.Carly Caramanna

Checking into my flight was also a breeze within the Spirit app.

Once it was time for boarding, passengers headed onto the plane zone by zone with the number indicated on their tickets.

This process went smoothly, and a gate attendant was at the front to confirm we were within the baggage allowance for our booking.

Baggage sizers were nearby in case someone had to test if their carry-on or personal items were within Spirit guidelines.

I was hesitant about getting a middle seat, but it actually felt spacious.

Row of seats on Spirit flight
I wasn't surprised that not paying extra for a seat resulted in my getting a middle seat. Carly Caramanna

Since I saved money by not preselecting a seat, I was automatically given a middle seat.

It was more spacious than I had expected and was fine for my short 80-minute flight.

As I only traveled with a personal item, I wasn't permitted to put my bag in the overhead bin and had to store it below. I was pleasantly surprised by the decent amount of legroom I had available, even with my bag tucked by my feet.

There was no in-flight entertainment, but I had a small tray table

Small tray table above writers' knees on Spirit Flight
I didn't mind not having in-flight entertainment because I'd brought my own. Carly Caramanna

In keeping with the bare-bones theme, my seat was outfitted very minimally with just a small table tray and no in-flight entertainment.

This was fine by me. It was such a short flight and I had my own entertainment — I'd brought my Kindle and AirPods.

Food and beverages were available for purchase during the flight.

In-flight purchase menu on Spirit flight
You can order beer and juice on Spirit flights. Carly Caramanna

To keep prices low, Spirit doesn't have complimentary beverage or snack service like many other airlines.

Instead, the airline had a wide range of items available for purchase, including bottled water, wine, beer, cocktails, and snacks.

The prices seemed pretty affordable to me, with most drinks under $10.

To avoid spending extra, I'd brought my own snacks from home and a refillable water bottle I'd filled just before my flight.

We arrived at my destination on time, and I'd gladly fly with Spirit again ... with a few exceptions.

Author Carly Caramanna smiling at Spirit airlines terminal
Although I won't be booking every flight with Spirit anytime soon, I realized the airline could be a great value on certain trips.Carly Caramanna

Overall, I was really pleasantly surprised by my experience, and I'd gladly fly Spirit again for a quick trip.

I arrived at my destination safely and cheaply. I liked that my $18 flight left me with more money to spend on the rest of my trip.

The staff members I encountered were very friendly as well, further adding to my pleasant experience.

Although the flight was bare bones, I had no issue with it.

I think Spirit flights can be a great value if you bring your own snacks and travel light, therefore avoiding additional baggage fees and extra food costs.

If I were on a longer flight, I might consider paying extra (about $5) to choose an aisle seat, my preferred spot on a plane.

But although I had a good experience, I wouldn't book Spirit for a super-important or time-sensitive trip.

Spirit doesn't have as many routes as larger air carriers, so I'd be concerned about getting stuck in my departure city if my flight got canceled. If that happened, I'd probably have to fork over a lot of money for a last-minute flight with another airline, defeating the purpose of booking a cheaper flight with Spirit in the first place.

But for casual trips like these — when I'm looking to keep money in my pocket and travel light — Spirit is just fine.

Read the original article on Business Insider