Author: Adam Seper

Around the World Airfare Myth Busters

Long-term travel is clouded in myths.

  • Only the rich can do it.
  • Only college kids with rich parents can do it.
  • Americans certainly can’t do it.
  • It costs too much.
  • It’s too dangerous.
  • Your career will be ruined.
  • It’s too hard to plan.

We spend a lot of our time trying to debunk these myths and help people realize that long-term travel is a very real, attainable goal for nearly anyone who really wants it.

But once you decide to take the leap and go, the myths don’t end!

One of, if not the biggest expense of a long-term trip is the airfare, and the myths surrounding multi-stop (also referred to as RTW) airfare are just as many as long-term travel itself.

Let’s take a look at 6 of the biggest misconceptions about multi-stop, RTW airfare.

Myth 1: There aren’t many options

When someone decides to travel round the world, he or she will want to learn about all their airfare options. So they head on over to google and type in RTW Airfare.

Let’s look at three resources on that first page of that google search that explains the various RTW airfare options (I’m excluding any website/company/airline who sells RTW tickets themselves, including here at BootsnAll and AirTreks).

All three of the following articles do offer good, accurate, relevant information; however, not all options are given as much time and/or explanation.

The main focus in all three of these articles is on the airline alliances:

  • Wikitravel article about RTW airfare: Wikitravel is a good resource for travel. I use it often myself when planning a trip. But when reading about multi-stop, RTW airfare, the vast majority of the information is about the airline alliances and what they offer. There is only one, short paragraph near the bottom that mentions companies who actually specialize in RTW tickets like BootsnAll, AirTreks, STA Travel, Round the World Flights, and Travel Nation.
  • Tim Ferriss’ How to Buy a RTW Plane Ticket (That Kicks Ass): This guest post written by Chris Guillebeau is a great guide for those who wish to cash in or build miles with an airline alliance. So if you’re looking for information on that type of RTW ticket, this is a great resource. But it fails to even mention any other option for RTW plane tickets. These airline alliance options may kick ass for a certain minority subset of travelers, but there are lots of other options out there that also kick ass that aren’t mentioned.
  • Nomadic Matt’s In Depth Guide to Buying a RTW Ticket: This in depth guide does the best in outlining the various options, and has great information about RTW tickets. It does at least mention and explain companies outside of the airline alliances in a Other Ways to Book section near the end. But again, the time give to these options is far less.

For the regular Joe who decides to travel RTW and is not part of the travel industry, he may not even learn about any other options for airfare for his trip other than the airline alliances or just buying one-ways.

But there are LOTS of options out there all over the world.

We urge you to learn about all of them, search them all, then make the decision that is right for you and your trip.

In the 4th installment of our Around the World Airfare Report (released in the fall of 2014), we look at NINE different companies and airlines who sell these types of tickets.

Myth #2: There are lots of rules

It’s easy to see why people have this misconception about RTW airfare. If you read the three most popular articles/blog posts above, you would think that the alliances are your best (or only) option if you don’t want to purchase one-ways.

And once you start looking into what the airline alliances offer, you’ll start noticing rules. Lots of rules.

  • You can only travel in one direction: east to west or vice versa.
  • You can’t backtrack.
  • You can only travel a certain amount of miles.
  • You can only have a certain amount of stops, or legs, to your trip.
  • You must begin and end your trip in the same country.
  • There must be one transatlantic and one transpacific flight.

Deciphering the rules and fitting your itinerary within them can be dizzying and maddening.

But once travelers educate themselves about different RTW, multi-stop ticketing options, they will learn that companies or travel agents who specialize in this type of airfare don’t have to abide by these same rules.

Indie, AirTreks, STA Travel, Flight Fox, and World Traveler’s Club, all based in the US, don’t have any of these same rules. Same with Travel Nation, Round the World Experts, and Flight Centre in the UK.

The There are lots of rules myth is only true if you go with one of the airline alliances.


Myth #3: Buying one-ways offers
the ultimate flexibility

If you decide to buy one-way tickets around the world as you go, you will have more flexibility than if you book your entire ticket upfront. There’s no debating that.

But does it offer the ultimate flexibility?

As someone who utilized this method of airfare for my own RTW trip, I can unequivocally say, “No, it does not.”

Let me explain.

There is this romantic notion amongst beginning RTW travelers of waking up in Buenos Aires one morning and saying, “Let’s go to Paris today!” Then heading to the airport, booking a ticket, and being across the world by nighttime.

Well that’s a grand idea, but have you ever actually tried booking a flight the day you want to leave? How about the day before? Or even a few days or a week prior?

Sure, sometimes there are some last minute deals out there, but rarely are they going to be an exact match for where you are and where you hope to go.

As a general rule of thumb, airfare is more expensive, often much more expensive, the closer you get to the departure date (our research in the Fall 2012 version of the RTW Airfare Report proved this).

Myth #4: When purchasing a RTW Ticket, you must buy all flights upfront

This myth piggybacks on the previous one and also deals with the idea of flexibility.

Because of the first two myths, many travelers simply aren’t educated on what companies specializing in RTW tickets can offer (I’m excluding the airline alliances because RTW tickets are simply NOT their specialty, they don’t put many resources behind these tickets, and if and when you shop for one, you’ll find that out quickly. This myth is actually true when applied to airline alliance RTW tickets).

Oftentimes when you speak with a salesman or customer service rep for a company like Indie, or AirTreks, or STA Travel, or FlightFox, you’ll find out that there are all types of ways to book RTW tickets and still get the flexibility you desire.

You don’t have to book your entire trip upfront before leaving. Actually, you may find out from a rep that it’s smarter NOT to book the whole thing upfront. And depending on the length of your trip, sometimes it’s not possible to do so anyway. No matter what website, airline alliance, or company you book with, you cannot book airfare more than 11 months in advance.

Sometimes it might make more sense to book your flights in stages, or legs. For example, if you know you’ll be gone for a year, and you want to book 3-4 months in advance, you won’t even be able to book the whole ticket because there will be flights outside of that 11-month window.

The good companies and salesman will advise you of the best way of handling this situation. Maybe you only book your first flight then book more on the road? Maybe you book the first 3, 4, or 5 flights and tackle the rest during your trip? Maybe you find a logical way of splitting your trip into two, booking the first section before you leave and the second once on the road?

The possibilities are endless. And by booking this way, you get the best of both worlds – having a rough outline of a plan while still having plenty of time for flexibility and spontaneity.

Myth #5: Buying one-ways will be cheaper

There is simply no way to prove or disprove this myth. Sometimes buying one-ways around the world will be cheaper. Sometimes it will be about the same. Sometimes it will be more expensive.

It depends on such a wide variety of factors that it’s impossible to claim one way or the other which method will be cheaper. It all depends on the particular route, of which there can be a limitless number.

Myth #6: Time is finally on my side!


And no.

One thing that people don’t tell you, and it’s one of the biggest lessons I personally learned from my own RTW trip, is the value of your time while on your big trip.

While traveling long-term, you’re going to have much more free time than you do when taking a one or two week vacation. That much is obvious. You travel slower, you do and see less on a daily basis, and there is more downtime. When vacationing for a short period, we sometimes feel a pressure to do and see as much as possible to maximize our time. That pressure is not nearly as high when traveling for six months, or a year, or more.

But! And this is a big But.

Your time is still valuable, and if you decide to buy one-ways to give yourself that so-called ultimate flexibility, then you also have to be prepared to spend lots of time researching that next destination, and that next flight, while you’re supposed to be traveling and experiencing the place you’re in (unless of course you have an unlimited airfare budget).

Any traveler knows the wild fluctuations of airfare and the importance of keeping an eye on flight prices. As stated in the ultimate flexibility myth above, the vast majority of the time you’re not going to be able to wake up one morning and decide to fly across the world without paying a premium to do so.

Spending hours in an internet cafe in Koh Chang, Thailand researching flight prices to get from SE Asia to Europe is probably not how you envisioned your time on a Thai island.

But if you go the one-way route, that’s exactly what you’ll be doing from time to time. You may think now that you won’t mind so much. Besides, it’s only a few hours over the course of an entire year, right? But over the course of that entire year, those few hours add up to days, then weeks.

Take it from someone who booked one-way flights. You will spend an inordinate amount of time, first talking about where to go next (if you’re not traveling solo), then deciding where to go next, then researching the best prices and times of flights for getting to that next destination. If you are on a really tight budget, the time you spend will increase because you’ll be forced to find the best deals.

You may also run up against tough decisions you don’t want to make. Let’s say you are in South America and want to go to New Zealand next. Anyone who’s researched flights from anywhere in S. America to New Zealand knows that those flights aren’t cheap. It’s just a fact. So what do you do when you find out it’s going to cost $1500USD (one-way) to get there and you only have $800 budgeted for that next flight?

All this time spent researching while on your trip could have been done from your living room at home (or let’s face it, from your office at work while you’re getting paid), and all these tough decisions could have been made before departure, leaving the trip itself for travel experiences.

Everyone is different, and some may not mind the research while they’re traveling. I do get that.

But I do wish someone would have made me more aware of the realities of booking our tickets this way before we left.

Learn more in the Around the World Airfare Report

When we published our first Airfare Report back in March 2012, we did so to educate people on multi-stop airfare, which is a very complicated part of planning a long-term trip.

Over the 3 years and 3 versions since, we’ve learned even more, and the landscape is constantly changing. Our biggest message with this report is to do your homework, search among multiple companies, airlines, and websites, then choose what’s going to be right for your trip.

Download the most recent version (released Fall 2014) of the report here for free!

Photo credits: Ton kin, romakoma, Creative Images