Round the World flight information for work abroad, year out and gap year travellers.
The flight ticket is the biggest upfront costs on a working holiday or gap year. But, there are ways to keep the cost down. Below we have given some pros and cons for the different ticket options that are currently available to help you decide what is right for you.
Flights in 15 seconds
- Round-the-world tickets can be cheaper than a series of one-ways
- One-way tickets give you flexibility to adjust your trip as you go
- Check booking conditions; can you change the tickets before or during your trip?
- Direct flights can be expensive, look at the alternatives
- Avoid travelling at popular times like Christmas, Easter and during festivals
- Shop around to get the best deal
- Don’t fully commit to a flight until you are sure you can get the visa
- Buy travel insurance to cover flight cancellation and delay.
One-way vs. round-the-world/return tickets
A one-way ticket gives you the flexibility to adapt your trip as you go, planning each leg of your journey on an ongoing basis. Pool the thoughts of other travellers, extend your time away or take in some new countries. The initial upfront costs are low (you are only buying one ticket for a relatively short trip). However, generally buying multiple one-way tickets is more expensive than buying a return fare or round-the-world ticket from the outset.
Round-the-world tickets will generally be more expensive initially. However, from a budgeting perspective it can be comforting to know that your way home is already paid for. These are ideal if you are travelling with a limited time. Some fares allow you to include extra domestic/local flights as part of the package.
Look at the ticket conditions so that you know whether you can adjust your homeward flight dates or homeward route whilst away. It is common for people to change their plans during the trip – especially those travelling for 6 months or more. If you buy a round-the-world ticket we’d suggest you make sure it is flexible (see below).
Fixed dates vs. flexible dates.
The more restrictions the ticket has the cheaper the fare is likely to be. This shouldn’t be a problem for the outward (leaving home) journey as most people have firm plans (and unexpected cancellation should be covered by your insurance). But restrictions to the homeward trip could be frustrating. A huge number of people on their gap year or working holiday will extend their trip. A few will come home early.
I didn’t realise how much I’d enjoy travelling. I ended up cancelling my original flight home and buying a new one so that I could stay away longer. Expensive, but worth it!
Fixed route vs. adjustable route
If you are set on a round-the-world or return ticket you should check the options to change the route and the dates while you are away. You’ll pay more for the extra flexibility, but this could give you the best scenario. You’ll know that you’ve already paid for your flight tickets, so this will help with the budget. However, you also know that if you are tempted by a new destination on the way home, you’ve got the option of changing your plans. Always check the booking restrictions before you buy and make sure that you know how much it will cost to change your ticket.
Ticket prices are determined by a number of variables and it helps to understand all of these before making a decision about what type of ticket to buy. Here are a few pointers:
Airlines operate seasonal fares, normally identified as Low (cheapest), Shoulder (mid-price) and High (most expensive). By travelling in the Low season you will stand the best chance of getting the cheapest fare. The season is based on the location and date of your first flight.
Within each season there are further variables relating to fares. Each class of ticket (economy, business, premium/first class etc) is sub-divided in to more fare classes. These aren’t promoted to the public but exist behind the scenes in the airline booking system and are identified by a letter. The cheapest Fare Class will be a restricted ticket (no refund and no changes allowed after booking and with only a few seats available – you’ll need to book early!) and as the fare class increases the ticket becomes more flexible, there are more seats available and the cost goes up. This is why you can find yourself sitting next to someone on a flight who has paid a different price for their seat.
Don’t be complacent. Even flexible tickets will be subject to seat availability and changes will need to be in the same class/sub-class of ticket that you already have. There will normally be a fee for changing the ticket – check you are happy with it before finalising the booking.
Charter flights vs. scheduled airlines
In general, scheduled airlines provide more in-flight services and greater leg room. But these may not be important to you and charter flights can be competitively priced. Charter flights tend to offer less flexibility. In some cases charter flights are seasonal – for example they may operate between Europe and Canada only during the winter season. Make sure you know any limitations before booking. Equally, they may have an appealing price for the outward journey but the homeward flight could be much more expensive. Research them fully before committing.
- In most cases, the earlier you buy the ticket the cheaper the fare will be
- Choose your dates carefully to avoid seasonally high prices. Avoid dates leading up to Christmas, during large sporting events or cultural festivals
- The most direct route may not be the cheapest. Consider flying via one or more cities to get the best deal (see Route Options below)
- If there’s a chance to break the journey take it and spend a couple of days or more exploring; you never know if/when you’ll get a another chance
- Non-refundable non-transferable tickets are very restrictive but will be cheapest
- If you have a flexible ticket and want to change your dates allow plenty of time. A flexible ticket will still be subject to seat availability. The cheaper your ticket, the fewer seats will available to you on each flight. Plan ahead wherever possible
- Combining different airlines will give you endless route options, but it is an expensive option. Try to stick to one airline, or partnering airlines (see One-World and Star Alliance)
- Some airlines will allow you to take ski/snowboard equipment for free, others will levy a charge. Make sure you check these details and include them when comparing fares
- American originating airlines and German originating airlines are considered to have more generous leg room in economy but check the airline’s website for specifics
- If you choose to fly to or via America make sure you are aware of the immigration regulations; in some cases you will need a visa even if the US isn’t your final destination
Flying between Europe and Australia/New Zealand
Possibilities to travel from and via any European hub – E.g. London, Frankfurt, Düsseldorf, Amsterdam, Paris and then:
via Hong Kong; Bangkok (Thailand); Singapore; Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia), Seoul (Korea); Dubai (United Arab Emirates); Los Angeles (USA); Guangzhou, Shanghai, Beijing (China).
Flying between Europe and North America
Possibilities to travel from or via any European hub – E.g. London, Frankfurt, Düsseldorf, Amsterdam, Paris and then:
Direct to most main international cities (New York, Boston, Washington, Chicago, Dallas, Las Vegas, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Orlando). Smaller cities are also well served but you will need to fly via a hub city.
*Always remember to check visa conditions, especially if flying via USA.
Where to buy?
Most people will buy their tickets online and there are some great websites to choose from. However, the ticket conditions aren’t always obvious. Make sure that you check the fare class and ticket restrictions/conditions before you buy.
Different websites have access to different fares so you should always check more than one before choosing your flight. Do it the same day – good fares don’t hang around for long.
If you prefer to talk things through with someone there are some specialist travel agents that will be able to guide you through route options, fares, destinations and also to offer additional products.
Below are some useful websites and travel agencies:
Skyscanner Popular and worth a look. They quote fares for budget airlines as well as schedule airlines which is useful.
Trailfinders Offices throughout the UK; bookings by phone or in person. Known for their excellent service and attention to detail.
STA Offices worldwide and offer some unique fares to students and those under 26. Book via their website, by phone or via one of their walk-in travel shops.
Flight Centre Useful online resources and booking system with a good choice of global offices for those that prefer to speak with someone.
Expedia One of the original online booking systems, but less fashionable. Can provide a good bench-mark for the most affordable airline/fares and will sometimes come up with a surprisingly good fare. Worth including in your search.
These are just a selection and other online services and stores exist.
Warning! In reality there isn’t much profit to be made in selling economy air-fares. As a result many agents try to encourage you to buy visa services, bus/coach tickets, tours and travel insurance. Many of the products will be well aligned to your trip and you may find it convenient to buy these extras. However, if you are on a budget you may want to check that these other products are a) necessary b) of benefit to you and c) represent good value. Some sales people can be quite persuasive!
Don’t forget to go direct to airline websites
Airlines often have sales and deals; particularly during the low season. In addition you may find their charges for date and route changes are more competitive than some agents. As with anything, the more research you do the more likely you are to get a good deal.
Don’t view the booking process as a chore. Planning a trip is part of the experience; do it well and you’ll be off to a flying start!
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