Your flight itinerary: a blessing in disguise?

So you’re planning your around the world adventure and wondering, “Should I get all my tickets before I leave or will I be okay to purchase them as I’m traveling?” It’s a question we get a lot so I’ll try to dispel the rumors.

Picture this: you’re on a chaise lounge in, say, Phuket, Thailand toward the beginning of your three month, multi-stop journey. As you lie there and soak up the rays you realize you could be one of two people doing this trip: someone with an established, purchased and rock-solid itinerary, or someone who has bought a ticket to Thailand and is leaving the rest of the flights to book on the go. You, the reader, now back inside, at your office desk, might be asking who is the better off of these two people. Or else, is there a happy combination of the two? The answer? Well, that depends.

Deciding what kind of traveler you are is actually the first step in establishing how many tickets you need to have in your hand before setting out. Do you buy one and pick up the rest as you go, throwing caution but also any rigid schedule into the wind? Or set up a plan ahead of time and know, with a relaxing certitude, how and when you’re getting to your next stop.

There are downsides to each option but with a happy medium you’ll be helping your future self navigate the pits and valleys of your complicated international trip. Waiting to buy long-haul flights (those more than 6 hours long) at the last-minute can be an expensive proposition. These flights usually only operate once a day and are consistently booked up by the time the flight departs, especially in peak season. They’re also the most expensive flights to get last minute and hence, you’ll be paying a premium for your seat.

If you’re absolutely set on traveling without the constraints of a set schedule you can think about booking only the main skeleton of your itinerary and leaving out short hops or domestic flights to book as the need arises. You’ll be avoiding any last-minute desperation fares while still keeping alive your spirit of spontaneity.

Probably the most important benefit of having the bulk of your flights set up ahead of time is that most countries do not allow you to enter unless you can prove you’re carrying an onward ticket, that is, a ticket to depart the country you’re entering, a detail they will check before you even get on the plane. The rule was set up in effort to keep people from arriving with little or no money and residing or working in a country illegally. Unfortunately for you, someone not coming in illegally, you have to abide by it. It’s true, however, that some countries may not enforce this rule, especially if you’re traveling on a major western country’s passport, but it can still create a hassle you might’ve been able to avoid with some additional planning.

And don’t forget, most airlines do allow you to change your dates of travel along the way. So if you decide that you’re liking your Thai beach bungalow and you simply don’t want to leave yet, you can call either the airline or your ticket provider, in this case AirTreks, and they can arrange for the change to be made. A fee may apply but it’s usually significantly lower than if you tried to purchase a one-way flight 4 days before departure.