Bottom Line: If you plan to book all airfare prior to your departure, we highly recommend pricing out a set of one-way tickets on your own and working with a travel consultant at AirTreks to obtain an estimate. If the prices are relatively close, go with AirTreks. If you can save a lot of precious dough by doing it on your own, become your own personal travel agent!
Depending on your travel itinerary and timeline, you may decide to either book plane tickets ahead of time or on the road. We knew we needed to be back Stateside for a very important wedding (my brother’s!) 9 months after our departure, so we decided to book our flights ahead of time. We did this in two segments, and two completely different ways. We booked flights in two rounds because it is best to do so 4-6 months from departure. You also can’t book any flights more than 11 months in the future. We booked the first round in August (for January-May) and would not have been able to purchase any flights past July. We solidified the rest of the tickets (for June-October) in November. Our methods of choice are as follows.
We reserved the first segment of our trip through a company called Airtreks. We highly recommend this company for RTDub airfare. You can go online to their trip planner and try out different routes throughout the world. The trip planner provides a cost estimate range so you can see how adding and subtracting different destinations will affect your overall cost. Of course, the final cost of your trip will depend on the dates of travel (high or low season). We worked with a really helpful representative who booked our first 5 flights for us (Denver-Nadi-Christchurch-Overland-Auckland-Phuket-Overland-Bangkok-New Delhi). We even each received $75 off for liking Airtreks on Facebook! These are the pros and cons of going with Airtreks.
1. Trip Planner Tool
They have a wonderful trip planner tool on their website to help you get started!
2. Travel Insurance Included
Basic Travel Insurance comes with your purchase. This includes:
a. $1500 Trip Interruption
b. $25,000 Medical Expenses
c. $500 Dental
d. $50,000 Evacuation/Repatriation
e. $1,500 Baggage Theft/Loss/Damage
f. $150/ day Trip Delay (5 day max)
g. $500 Missed Connection
h. $100 Baggage Delay
You can also purchase AirTreks Full Package, for an additional 8% of your trip cost. This includes trip cancellation, $50,000 for medical expenses, trip interruption coverage for 125% of the trip cost, and $250,000 for evacuation/repatriation.
3. Helpful Representatives
These people do this for a living, so ask them as many questions as you want. We learned that if we traveled on a Sunday from Fiji to Christchurch, we could get a non-stop 4 hour flight. If we booked on our own a day or two in either direction, we would have stopovers and could be traveling for 24 hours. Way to go AirTreks!
Since we booked a trip with AirTreks, they told us we would automatically receive $100 off of our next trip if we booked with them.
5. WorldWide Travel Assistance
AirTreks customer service is available throughout the trip. They are there to help if your flight gets cancelled, changed, etc. We actually have firsthand experience with this because our flight from Auckland to Phuket was cancelled for the day of the week we originally booked. AirTreks immediately rebooked us for the next day and sent us an email requesting that we confirm we are OK with this change. It was wonderful to not have to deal directly with the airline!
1. Limited to No Access to Budget Airfare
AirTreks doesn’t have access to fares from many budget airlines. For example, they can’t book a flight with Southwest Airlines in the United States. In some cases, this doesn’t really matter because AirTreks is able to quote a comparable fare without using a budget airline; however, sometimes budget airlines can really save you a lot of money!
2. Slow Initial Response Time
After we submitted our trip request, we waited for a day or two to hear from a representative. I ended up having to call AirTreks to get the ball rolling. Apparently that is out of the ordinary, though. They apologized and told me they were down a staff member that week.
3. Your flights are linked together
If you miss one of your flights for some reason, the rest of your flights may be cancelled. You must be sure to notify the airline and AirTreks if you are going to skip or miss a flight so that the rest of your itinerary remains as is. You don’t have this problem with a set of one-way tickets!
4. Expensive to Make Changes
AirTreks charges a fee on top of the airline fee if you choose to change your flight. You will also have to pay any difference in fare and tax. You should be very confident in your flight choices before finalizing your tickets!
Buy Separate One-Way Flights
We’re always trying to find the best deal out there before we make a purchase. Of course, we did some internet research prior to working with AirTreks for the first half of the trip to make sure we were getting a good deal. It turned out that the one-way flights we saw for the dates we wanted were not much cheaper than going with AirTreks. I think we even saved a few bucks after the $75 coupon. If you aren’t buying separate travel insurance, considering the fact that this is included in your cost estimate is crucial as well. Since we found AirTreks to be quite reasonable with the first set of tickets, we automatically assumed we would book the second round of flights the same way. We were very wrong.
We went through the cost comparison, just as we did the first time. We researched budget airlines such as AirAsia and Jetstar for domestic Australian flights. We found that by using these cost saving airlines in combination with a simple Priceline.com search, we could save over $1000 per person by booking on our own! I called AirTreks and gave them the exact flights and asked if there was any way they could book the flights we found for us. The representative was extremely honest with us and told us that he couldn’t book the flights we found but if we were finding the deals we did, we should book them as fast as possible! He was super understanding and helpful, even though we didn’t end up booking with AirTreks that time.
1. Money Saver!
As I mentioned, we saved over $1000 per person by booking one-ways on our own.
2. Fees are Limited to Airlines
If you have to change your flight, you won’t have to deal with additional fees on top of what the Airline charges.
3. Flexibility with Airlines
You can choose any airlines you would like. We could even redeem some of the cost with points we earned with our Capital One Venture Card!
1. You’re on your own!
You have to do the research on your own and make the bookings. If something changes, you have to work directly with the airline and do not have customer service support.
2. More Room for Error
You have to book everything and keep track of separate flight schedules with different airlines. AirTreks sends a consolidated list of flights and keeps everything together for you. When you book a set of one-ways, you must make sure your organizational skills can handle the challenge!
Booking with AirTreks and with a set of one-ways are not your only options. Other companies such as Star Alliance and One World offer RTDub tickets. These companies generally limit the airlines you can use to a handful of specified carriers. They also have special rules like you have to go in one continuous direction around the globe and you can’t do any backtracking, etc. I looked into this briefly and the restrictions were too severe for my liking. I also found them to be much more expensive than working with AirTreks and booking on our own.
Obviously you don’t have to book your tickets before you leave. We know several people who have set out for trips like this and only have a one-way ticket and plan on seeing where the road takes them. I do like the spontaneity of that method and who knows; maybe we would have decided to go that route if we did not have a time restriction. With that said, I am really glad we decided to book our trip the way we did. Now we know how long we will be in each location and have been able to take care of details such as time consuming Visas and other plans, prior to leaving. We will have weeks to months in each location, so we will still be able to fly by the seat of our pants, as they say.
One last thing – John and I booked our major flights ahead of time. Keep in mind that you can book the major, longer duration flights now, and you can book smaller, domestic flights when you are on the road if the mood strikes you!
Good luck with planning your trip!