Buying round-the-world plane tickets [#YourBigBreak Day 4]

YQ answers your travel questions is part of the #YourBigBreak campaign. Send in your travel questions about quitting your job to travel and YQ will answer them in a video.

At close to 30%, plane tickets were a huge chunk of my round-the-world expenses. Here’s what to consider when planning your tickets for a round-the-world trip.

This is an excerpt from the book “Your Big Break: The Guide to Leaving Your Job to Travel the World and Back” on buying plane tickets:

If you’re doing a round-the-world trip, it’s likely that you will be flying, unless you are really hardcore.

I’ll be talking about two types of plane tickets here: Airline alliance round-the-world ticket and point-to-point tickets.

Airline alliance round-the-world ticket

On the market, airlines advertise plane tickets called Round-the-World plane tickets. You can fly around the world using the airlines in the same network, for example Star Alliance includes ANA, United Airlines, Lufthansa and others in their network.

The alliances promisesease of booking and cheap fares. But when I tried to make my own booking, my head felt like exploding.

There were too many variables to choose from. I wasn’t even sure if my itinerary was right. Some of the routes require that I pay exorbitant fees to include them in my travels.

There was a rule that I could not book flights that required me to back-track my journey: “On your Round the World journey, your travel must follow one global direction only (East or West) and each Traffic Conference must be crossed only once.

For example, if I’m flying west to the Middle East, I cannot book a flight from the Middle East to India because it would mean flying in the opposite direction.

There’s also a limit the the number of flights you can take. I wasn’t going to take a lot of flights because I was using alternate transportation but if you are, you might need to think carefully which routes you need.

Point-to-point tickets

Point-to-point tickets mean that you buy the plane tickets from one location to another separately.

The benefits of this compared to the alliance round-the-world ticket is that you can pick any airline you want. This could mean huge savings or just a less nerve wrecking trip on the airline of your choice.

You can even toss in budget airlines when you buy point-to-point tickets. If you’re good at packing, then budget airlines flights can save you a lot of money compared to the full service airlines.

But a problem with this is that you will need to compare a lot of airlines before you choose the one that’s right for you. There are online services such as Skyscanner to help you pick the cheapest flights. I didn’t use Skyscanner in 2013 because I didn’t know about it.

Another disadvantage with this type of booking is that after you have bought your tickets, you will have a large number of plane tickets to take note of for changes to flight timing and flight cancellations.

It will be devastating to go to the airport to find out that your flight wasn’t flying. (In this case, it would be good to have travel insurance with you.)

plane landing travel fb

What I did for my round-the-world trip

For my trip, I tried doing my own plane booking for the trip but I was overwhelmed by the choices around. I tried booking Airline Alliance flights but the interface scared me off. (I’m the most tech-savvy person I know so that’s a pretty difficult feat.)

I tried point-to-point tickets but I only know a few airlines. I now wonder if Skyscanner had been more powerful then, I would have used it for my booking.

In the end, I chose to outsourced my flight bookings to Airtreks. They had a very comprehensive website on round-the-world travel so it made me feel safe enough to book with them.

The process was pretty simple. About a year before my planned trip, I sent over a temporary itinerary. They replied with suggested changes to the itinerary but told me that it was still too early to book the flights.

So I waited until the day arrived before I sent a reminder email. I booked the tickets within the week.

If I could change something, I would probably book my flights a little later—around four to six months before the trip as suggested by AirTreks. But I was too impatient and worried that I would give up if I didn’t have the tickets in my hands.

During my phone call with the AirTreks agent, Sean, he suggested airlines I’ve never heard of or would probably not use. He was also helpful when I mentioned that I want to reach the airport in the day to be safe.

While there’s no “booking fee” when booking with AirTreks. I realized that I paid a lot more when I tested the individual price for the flights that I’ve booked. It could also be because of the booking time issue.

When there were changes to flight timings, AirTreks would send me an e-mail to inform me of the changes. I find that a very nice touch instead of me scrambling to find out the latest flight timings.

My booking with AirTreks also gave me US$100 in Amazon vouchers because they had an ongoing promo. I still have the Amazon credits with me until this day.

Note: AirTreks has not paid me to include their name in the guide. I really liked their service so I’m mentioning them here.

 

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More about Liau Yun Qing

Yun Qing is a writer, improviser and curious person. She loves finding little adventures in life. In 2013, she went on a 130-day round-the-world trip. She wrote a book to help those who also want to go on a career break.

2 Comments

    1. Most thankful for your advice. I am planning round-the-world trip in summer 2017. And I will probably ask for AirTreks agent Sean and mention you in my inquiry. This is my first days in planning and find out things do to the trip.

      Best regards.
      Birgir Hauksson
      Iceland.

      1. Hi Birgir! Glad to know that this has helped you with your trip. I’m now asking AirTreks if they have a referral code.
        Safe travels! <3

        Yun Qing

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