08 Nov

One World….Three Ways

When it comes to planning a trip around the world, it seems you can do it one of three ways.

We haven’t decided yet which, of the three, we will go with. Each has merits, downsides and comfort level. On the travel sites I’ve visited, and the travelogues I read, one method does not stand out above the others as being more popular. That’s what makes the decision difficult – there doesn’t seem to be a ‘right’ way, or a ‘wrong’ way, to do this.

Here are the three options:

1. Purchase an ‘Around the World (RTW)’ ticket.

These tickets are offered by a couple of airline ‘alliances’ – OneWorld, StarAlliance to name a couple. The alliance part means that the tickets are all issued on airlines that are within their ‘family’.

The benefits of this are that the airlines are well known, frequent flyer programs can be utilized, flight costs are known (and paid) ahead of time, and the flight dates can be somewhat flexible (although there is a charge).

The downsides are the restrictions: travel must be within a one year period and must continue in one direction, the number of stops is restricted (right now, it’s about 16 stops) and/or the mileage is restricted or charged for.

There is more about RTW tickets here.


2. Buy a series of one-way tickets before you leave.

There are a couple of ways to do this too. The first is to plan, find and purchase the one-way tickets yourself, either on line or through a travel agent. The second is to use a service such as AirTreks. This on-line service has a cool interface that lets you select all the cities in your itinerary and then links them all together using discount one-way tickets. Then you can hook up with an on-line travel agent who will help you finish it off.

This can be less expensive than the RTW ticket option, the flights are all still known and paid for before departure, there is no time limit on the flights, flight direction is irrelevant and there is no restriction on destinations.

However, I’m not sure if flight dates and times can be changed and some of the airlines may not be the large airlines that we are used to – meaning that not only will frequent flier miles not be possible, but that the economic stability of airlines is unknown…Zoom anyone?

3. Get one one-way ticket to your first destination, and then buy all other tickets as you go.

This would be the most ‘vagabonding’ option of them all, and the one that would really mean taking a giant step outside of our normal, comfy, all-planned-out life. Just buy one ticket to the first destination and then, from there, buy the next ticket…and so on.

This is said to be the least expensive option and has the most flexibility as nothing is pre-booked, so changing flight dates and times is not an issue. Nor would there be a time limit, or stopover limit or direction limit…you get the drift.

The downside is loss of security and comfort of knowing that it’s all taken care of ahead of time. Will it be stressful trying to arrange flights in foreign countries when we don’t speak the language?


I’m leaning towards option #3 – mostly because it would make us ‘step out’ more than the other options…and isn’t that what this is all about?

16 thoughts on “One World….Three Ways

  1. I would buy the tickets as you go, why get locked into anything. The only reservation I made in the past year is the original one-way flight to Cairo and the hotel for the first five nights in Cairo.

    I have not booked, nor have reserved anything at anyplace in the last year since my arrival in Cairo.

    Why restrict yourselves, you never know what type of situation is waiting for you. I never thought of house/cat sitting for two months in Beirut, but that is what happened.

    I did decided to buy a flight to Israel, but that is the best way for me to get there, there were not other options.

  2. As a practitioner of the last method, I’d also vote for Door #3. Good for all sorts of reasons that you’ve probably already read about. Works nicely for me because I tend to like staying in one place longer, getting a feel for it, and making some friends, rather than constantly moving around.

    One comment, though, regarding stress and flight-booking in other languages. This has never been an issue for me because I always just book the tickets online. I’ll go to Kayak, Momondo, Expedia, or a budget carrier’s website and just book the ticket on an English website. Easy, cheap ’cause I’m flexible, and quick. No physical tickets to worry about because they’re all eTickets. Done and done.

    I can see the merits of the other options depending on individual personalities, but don’t detract from the off-the-cuff route for language reasons. :)

  3. I would have to agree with both Nathan and Shawn. When I traveled to Southern Europe last year, all I had booked was my flight and my first hostel. The rest was all up to us. It was great, if we really liked one city, we would stay longer, if we didn’t then we would leave. Besides everything is cheaper when you book it last minute anyways :) You are constantly going to be worried about making your connections otherwise as opposed to relaxing and enjoying where you are.

  4. I agree with Nathan and Anna, it’s best not to book anything, although everyone is different. Have a tentative route, although open for flexibility.

    Although, if you’re going to be in a highly busy tourist area during high season, which I avoid, you may want to think calling ahead or e-mail a place, depends were a person is during high season.

  5. I vote for option 3. It’s tough to beat cheapest and most flexible. In my travels I have found that the best part of the trip is invariably the parts that were not planned out.

  6. Blind Date anology, courtesy of moi and a couple of spare minutes.

    Well Graham…

    Will it be Option 1? The stuffy-nosed toff, who doesn’t care less where you’re going as long as you’re paying. Option 1 is only ever comfortable when following the crowds, and sees a change in direction as a terminal point in your relationship. But on the plus side, he’s easy going and always up for a laugh.

    Or, will it be Option 2? Safe, secure and comforting. Option 2 will let you sleep at night, and let your hair down in the day. Until the moment you decide to have an affair, and run off somewhere you haven’t discussed. Thus, he’ll take almost all your money and leave you feeling incredibly guilty.

    Or, will it be Option 3? The wild-child living life on the edge. He’s a bit of hard work, but with a host of rewards to keep your spirits high. He’ll follow you over land and sea and rarely exploit you more than the accepted norm. He’s loved by almost everyone and always has a story to tell.

    So, Gillian. The choice is yours…! Let us know who you decide on. (hint hint, cough cough – OPTION 3! – cough, what was that?)

  7. Well, overwhelmingly, option #3 is the winner! We agree, for all the same reasons that you all pointed out – flexibility, flexibility, flexibility.

    @Nathan: thanks for the advice re: etickets – good point that these days we do all of our airline shopping on line and so language may not be the barrier it once was. Quite frankly, as our trip gets closer these worries are easing anyway.

    @Ant: Aren’t we all a little bit drawn to the ‘wild child living life on the edge’…

  8. Just say no! RTW is bad news. Everyone that we have met on an RTW flight plan has been sad they don’t have more flexibility.

    I’d recommend a combo of 2 & 3. Maybe start with a big one way flight from the states to another continent. Know how long you might want to stay there. A few nights, a month, estimate what you are thinking, and try to book another flight or two on the cheap. It’s a great way to begin travel and feel confident with “a plan” but not trapped.

    Then just pick a direction and travel east or west. Don’t zig-zag around trying to “chase summer” or save money. Many people have told us that it is not cost effective, wasted their time, money and they got extremely messed up with countless time zone changes.

    Gillian, you inspired me to write about what we have learned. http://www.nomadbackpackers.com

  9. Allow me to cast another late vote for #3. Audrey and I have been asked this question countless times. Unless there is some hidden circumstance influencing your trajectory, it’s #3 by a mile.

    We had considered an around-the-world ticket before we set off (that was when we thought we could sufficiently absorb 3-4 continents within 12-18 months. Fortunately, we got “stuck” (in a good way) in Central Asia and the Caucasus and couldn’t even make it out of Asia in that time.

    We understand that not everyone has that flexibility. However, it would be a shame to leave a place prematurely just to fulfill your RTW ticket’s demands.

  10. I too am planning a RTW trip, and have opted for #3. It doesn’t make sense to get locked into RTW tickets for me. Flexibility, is definitely something you would want to have on this sort of trip.

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