At some point, anyone with a bit of wanderlust has thought about the big trip; the trip around the world. Whether you decide to quit that 9 to 5 job that rewards all of your hard work and dedication with only two weeks of vacation time a year or you managed to talk your way into being granted a sabbatical or extended leave of absence, you’ve taken a major step towards making that around the world trip a reality. Then comes the logistics. Booking a plane ticket isn’t something many people look forward to, even for a short domestic return trips, so now that you’re facing the prospect of booking multiple point to point flights, where do you start and what’s the best option?
Fortunately, the concept of an around the world ticket has been around for a while and there is enough demand that not only have people done some research on the subject, but there are companies specializing in around the world airfare. Recently, BootsnAll, a popular travelers forum and resource, released the latest edition of their Around the World Airfare Research Report. Claiming it is the “Definitive Report on the State of RTW Tickets,” researchers from BootsnAll put together several around the world itineraries from basic to extremely complex, departing and returning to several major international cities and hitting nearly every continent in the process. They even tossed in some curve balls, including more obscure locations like Easter Island.
In sum, the report reveals some interesting information and is worth a read, but ultimately leaves it up to the reader to decide what is best based on a few major categories including price, customer service, date flexibility, route flexibility and the ability to use accumulated rewards points and earned miles. For some, price may be the ultimate determining factor in their decision and if that describes you, the do it yourself options (DIY) such as Kayak seem to offer the best prices.
For those who want the added element of customer service, and some degree of flexibility when it comes to shifting dates or modifying tickets, a specialized agency such as Airtreks or Round About Travel might serve you best.
Personally, I have always been a do-it-yourselfer and even though it might entail more work to browse through different sites for the best airfare, I prefer being in control. Maybe DIY’s find the lowest price, maybe not, but here are a few tips to help. Out of curiosity, I followed one of BootsnAll’s complex around the world routes, searching for airfare over the course of a Monday and a Tuesday using Kayak and another search engine I’ve had some luck with in the past when it came to international tickets, Vayama. The searches yielded some interesting results, leading to the following tips:
1. High Season vs. Low Season travel It’s important to point out that BootsnAll’s trip started on February 1, 2012 whereas my itinerary started in May, pushing it closer into the peak seasons of travel for the southern hemisphere, potentially explaining the higher fares I encountered in my search. Time of travel can have a significant impact on airfares; just pushing the itinerary out three months resulted in an increase in the cost of total airfare of almost 14 percent.
2. Buy tickets on Tuesday Typically, Tuesday is the best day of the week to buy plane tickets because airlines usually initiate fare sales at the beginning of the week. Sometimes this will encourage other airlines to do the same and as the competition heats up, the fares come down, but by Tuesday, airlines know if the price shift is having the intended affect on sales and if not, the price will jump back up quickly. Some differences I found between purchasing a ticket on Monday versus purchasing the same ticket on Tuesday were as much as 15 percent.
3. Purchase tickets later in the day on Tuesday Oddly enough, purchasing tickets later in the day on a Tuesday, mainly around 3pm, can yield even bigger savings. This is when the fare wars are peaking, but be careful, waiting too long can also lead to some increases if you miss that magic window. The price on an Auckland to Santiago ticket fell nearly 25 percent between 1:30 and 3:30 on Kayak and a Sydney to Auckland ticket dropped over 40 percent, but a Perth to Sydney ticket increased 23 percent and the Easter Island flight increased by 38 percent.
4. Fly on certain days Another important consideration is choosing which day of the week to fly. Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday are consistently cheaper flying days than Monday, Thursday, Friday and Sunday, sometimes by as much as 20 percent.
5. Flexibility Cost savings were also identified by deviating a bit from certain cities and exploring alternate routes. Flying to Easter Island from Peru instead of direct from Australia was about 15 percent cheaper. If you are already planning on going to Peru, shuffling your schedule around a bit can save you some measurable cash.
6. Mix it up Vayama was close to Kayak for many of the legs, bested the price for some flights, but was significantly higher for others. Plugging your itinerary into multiple airfare search engines and picking and choosing the best prices can save you money compared to sticking with just one site.
Again, all of this takes time to research and compare, but if you have a few hours to spend, your itinerary is flexible and you keep a few of these tips in mind, you can save yourself hundreds of dollars in the process. The best bet to stay on top of things is to sign up for a real time fare alert from airfare search engines. You will get notified the instant any change to a selected itinerary takes place. Ultimately there are no silver bullets capable of completely killing the airfare beast, and an around the world ticket is certainly a beast, but there are resources out there to help you focus on what really counts; enjoying your travels.