Round The World FAQ: RTW ticket or Pay as you go?
Our plan was to buy our tickets a year ago. It didn’t happen.
Every time we got ready to bite the bullet, we found the decision required more analysis.
First we had to make a choice between East and West.
Then we had to decide between booking all our tickets outright by committing to a RTW (Round the World) ticket, or simply buying them as we go.
Have I mentioned that I’m terrible at making decisions??
In the end we opted for a combination (more on that below), but just because we did that, doesn’t mean you should. Here are a few facts you should keep in mind before you bite the ticket-buying bullet:
(Big thanks to my RTW travel advisor extraordinaire Kevin Rowland – Manager & International Travel Consultant
at Flight Centre (905 250 0118) for his insights)
– there’s a requirement that you go in one direction: i.e. you can’t start out towards Europe and then zip down to Australia and then back over to Africa. The tix go in one direction (East or West) and so do you
– most are based on mileage/flight segments – Once you run out you’d better be home
– Mileage isn’t only counted when you’re in the air – this is the one that most surprised me. You think, “ok I’ll fly into Europe and then take the train/drive around the continent before flying out of a second city.” You think you’re saving yourself some miles. You are wrong. The mileage calculator counts the land travel distance as a flight distance and includes it in your mileage calculation
– You buy all your tickets outright. Your destinations are set but because you have bought a RTW ticket. There is some recognition that you may need to make changes and it isn’t exorbitantly expensive to do that, plus the RTW ticket offeror feels some obligation to keep you moving so there is a bit of a relationship investment in getting you where you need to be in terms of the inevitable plane delays, etc.
– You go where you want when you want. This allows you to take advantage of discount flights and deals and is more like the way we’re used to traveling with no limitations on how many flights you take outside the limits of your pocket book
– Changes can be costly. The airline’s relationship with you is only as strong as the ticket you bought. If there’s a delay or cancellation you bear the brunt of it like any other traveler.
– You’re not trapped to one carrier alliance. You can fly Air Canada then American then Air Asia if you like. You can follow the deals and your heart instead of a route map.
– You won’t know all of your flight costs at the outset. Plane ticket costs fluctuate though so there’s a chance you’ll end up spending more than you bargained for and key times of year (think Christmas holidays) might mean not buying your ticket early enough will cost you
A few things that could help make the decision:
1. Who’s traveling with you? For us any bad flight deal is a bad flight deal times four.
2. What’s your travel personality? Are you comfortable with last minute, fly by your pants decision making or will you sleep better knowing your itinerary is fixed?
3. What’s your travel budget? If it’s infinite then whichever path you choose you’ll be able to handle the costs and I’d like you to adopt me; otherwise you’ll need to gauge whether you can afford to take a hit up front or if it’s better to spread costs out over time.
4. Where do you want to go? Does choosing one type of ticket over another mean sacrificing seeing some of the places you’ve been dreaming about? Is it worth it?
5. What are the requirements of the countries you’re traveling in to? You could run into trouble if you don’t have an on-going ticket from certain countries when you arrive.
Our choice: We’ve weighed it all and decided on a combination of the two. We’ll try to purchase our biggest tickets at the outset. We’ll have flights that take us in and out of each continent and sometimes between countries as well. Most on-continent travel will be figured out when we’re on the ground in a particular spot so that we can take advantage of low cost carriers. We wanted the flexibility of buying tickets as we go combined with the freedom to go in the direction that best suits our needs (no winter!) and still lets us see the places we’ve dreamed of. We’ve developed a relationship with Kevin so that we’ll be able to rely on his expertise as we go and he can also keep us apprised of any great new offerings.
In the end, the decision you make on this is going to be highly personal.
Think we’re crazy? Which would you choose?