Round-the-world expenses: $4,520 for 19 flights

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 Flying over the Red Sea, from Egypt to Jordan

Flying over the Red Sea, from Egypt to Jordan.

For a round-the-world trip, is it better to buy a round-the-world ticket to buy flights as-you-go?

Before coming home for Christmas, I tallied my travel expenses from my year-long trip around the world.

A lot of readers expressed surprise at the total cost: travelling 3 continents, 26 countries, 84,000 km and 13 months, I spent a total of $25,200 CAD (about $25,200 USD).

My total expenditure wasn’t surprising to me, as I was roughly keeping track of I was spending on a daily/monthly basis on accommodations and food expenses. However, this was the first time I added up the cost of my flights.

From the 19 flights I took during the year, the total spent was $4,520 Canadian.

I expected this amount to be more, as I was buying individual flights as I traveled and $4,500 is actually in the same price range as round-the-world flight packages I was considering before I started in my trip.

I’ve summarized the flights below by distance, but for details on all the flights I took, please see my round-the-world expenses spreadsheet on Google Docs. It shows the destinations, prices airlines and how I booked it.

Summary of the 19 flights:

  • 6 long-haul, inter-continental flights – distance ranged from 1,665 km to 16,077 km, prices $289 to $828
  • 5 short-haul, international flights – distance ranged from 310 km to 994 km, prices $75.80 to $295.47
  • 8 domestic flights – distance ranged from 286km to 684km, prices $36.60 to $130.17

Why I went with point-to-point tickets in the first place

I initially considered a round-the-world ticket and two months before my trip I started visiting travel agencies for quotes. I immediately found out that part of the pricing process required providing date and locations.

In addition to the inconvenience of having to make up dates and locations for my flights for months down the road (I had only planned the first two months), different travel agencies were giving me different prices despite having provided all of them the same itinerary and dates.

Then I tried to check fares online on the websites of airline alliances like, Star Alliance and One World. However, their websites weren’t as easy to use as they should have been and I still didn’t get a clear price.

Irritated at the lack of transparency and clarity, I decided to just go with individual (one-way) tickets. I figured that if just the act of buying a round-the-world ticket was such a pain, take or modifying the flights later would probably be even more of a hassle.

Looking back, buying individual tickets as I went was the right choice for my trip.

If you’re debating between a round-the-world package or point-to-point tickets, here are a list of benefits I found from buying flights as you go.

Benefits of individual tickets

1.) Save money by using regional and low-cost carriers that aren’t part of the major airline alliances. There are lots of airlines who aren’t part of an alliance, which is what the travel agents were using for the round-the-world package quotes. See Wikipedia for a list of low-cost airlines by world region. For example, the flight between Bangkok and Chiang Mai (northern Thailand) is under $100 on Bangkok Airways or Air Asia, but roughly $150 on Thai Air, which is part of Star Alliance.

2.) No need to provide travel dates in advance. Planning for an extended trip requires time and energy, and realistically it’s easier to plan a month at a time rather than months in advance. Before leaving for my trip, I only had the one or two months organizedand having to provide travel dates and cities for months down the road felt like I was being forced to make arbitrary commitments.

3.) Room for spontaneity and change of travel plans. My original itinerary was Toronto to India, Southeast Asia, Australia/New Zealand then back to Toronto within 5 months. At 5 months, I decide to travel longer and to head the opposite direction to Turkey and Europe. If I had a round-the-world ticket, I would have had to pay change fees to alter the flights.

4.) Selection of airline, if you have a preference. Coming home to Toronto from Bangkok on the last flight, I paid about $60 extra so I could fly with Etihad Airways instead of India Air because I was so impressed with Etihad’s service on my flight from Amman to Bangkok. On my final flights between Bangkok and Chiang Mai, I also paid $10 extra each way to fly with Bangkok Airways instead of Air Asia because I love that Bangkok Airways provides a free lounge with WiFi, snacks and drinks.

5.) Easier on cash flow. Round-the-world packages require payment for all the flights up-front. From a money management perspective, it’s easier to break-up the cost as I go.

>> If you’ve taken a round-the-world trip, how much did your flights cost? If you’re planning a trip, which type of tickets are you considering travelling with and what prices have you been quoted?

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  • dpowers

    To ensure that you keep your cell phone expenses down during world travel you should try g3wireless for your roaming data and voice needs. G3 is based in Toronto and offers competitive rates to 70+ countries at the moment. Just make sure you have a 3G phone and that it is unlocked. The SIM card costs $30 and includes $10 of free airtime credit. Plus you can choose between a US or Canadian phone number.

    https://www.g3wireless.com/

  • David Smithesp

    Congratulations on your this World Trip Completed Successfully, this was life time event and i hope you will never forget the experiences and these will become sweat memories
    Toronto Airport Limousine

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  • http://www.escapehunter.com/ Escape Hunter

    25,000+ $ is one heck of a bill on a trip! You’re “not quite” the budget traveler, but I’m sure it was worth it.
    26 countries… awesome!
    Still aching for a trip around the planet… Thanks a lot for the facts and the inspiration!

    • http://exploreforayear.com Lily

      You’re welcome, and thanks for stopping by :)

  • Social Media Marketing, Market

    Very nice article and it can prove to be very helpful for new bloggers
    or those who want more and more people to visit their blogs

  • buy vipbags online

    Good article and interesting to hear how you managed to make it work………amazing trips…..

  • http://www.facebook.com/papaadrianna Arthur Andrew

    Round the world, Southeast Asia and you skipped Indonesia? No she didn’t. Next time you should try Indo, Lily :). Bali, Manado, Borobudur, and even Lombok will give you awesome experiences!

    • http://exploreforayear.com Lily

      Thanks for your suggestion Arthur. I was actually considering Indonesia, particularly when I was in Kuala Lumpur because of the flights but I ended up going back to Thailand instead. Next time! I’ve heard that the diving and snorkelling is great there too :)

      - Lily

  • MSiddiqi

    So glad I found this post! Am planning a trip later this year, and my instinct was one-way as-I-go flights. Last night a friend was encouraging me to do around-the-world, but you’ve detailed exactly my hesitations. Glad the math works out too.

    Look forward to reading more of your blog!

    • http://exploreforayear.com Lily

      Sounds like many one-way tickets to adventure :) Best wishes for your travels!

      - Lily

  • http://twitter.com/TheGuy37796972 The Guy

    Good article and interesting to hear how you managed to make it work. Were all those flights in economy or did you treat yourself with some business?

    Always good to shop around and if you are prepared to tolerate some unsociable flying hours or long connection times you might get a better deal.

    Thanks for sharing.

    • http://twitter.com/LilyLeung Lily Leung

      All the flights were economy flights. I don’t remember having to endure any terribly awkward flying hours or connections. A lot of my short haul flights were with regional airlines (e.g. AirAsia in Southeast Asia) that aren’t listed on typical North America flight aggregators like Expedia, so that saved a lot of money.

      Here’s a list of low-cost airlines on Wikipedia, if you’re interested: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_low-cost_airlines

  • http://waegook-tom.com/ Waegook Tom

    Agree with what you write about the OneWorld and StarAlliance sites – not easy to use at all, Lily! I considered purchasing a RTW ticket but there were too many rules associated with it, so, like you, I’ll be purchasing flights for individual segments.

    Thanks for sharing your expenses, it’ll help a lot of future round-the-worlders (like me!) get a clearer idea of what to expect :)

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  • http://www.thedepartureboard.com Si @thedepartureboard.com

    I know it was 11 years ago, but i spent around £5k total in 11 months visiting 15 countries from NZ to Sri Lanka.  I mixed and matched my flights, with a 8 flight deal with Emirates.  I used some but not all, and purchased various on the spot and standby flights. 

    I think one of the key points is to keep your options open, who knows where your trip will take you!

    Love the blog, kind regards, Si

  • http://drmchronicles.wordpress.com/ Dr.M

    Thanks for the tip, as I am planning to hit the year of interactive travelling myself (and I didn’t even plan 2 months in advance) at the end of the month this post is a great source of information, and make me more at peace for not having even considered the round-the-world ticket as an option ;)

  • Cecilia

    This is great info, Lily! I have loved reading your blog ever since I made the decision to quit my job (last day was February 3rd!). I’m planning my trip to South America and have been struggling with how to best approach the flight situation. Do you have any insight (or know of other bloggers) on how to plan for the S. America region?

  • http://smilingfacestravelphotos.com/ Nomadic Samuel

    Lily, that’s a very reasonable budget for over a year of travelling.  I like the section where you provide for some flexibility.

  • http://www.hustletoparadise.com/ Harrison

    Great advice Lily! You should probably include another post that talks about how to deal with “on-ward” travel proof examples when buying one way tickets to certain countries. That part always gets me nervous.

    • http://exploreforayear.com Lily

      Hi Harrison, that’s a really great question. I specifically recall the Canada travel reports on India and Thailand saying that proof of on-ward ticket might be required to enter the country but I’ve never been asked for proof nor did I actually have on-ward tickets for most countries I entered by plane (except India). Is there a particular country you’re concerned about?

      - Lily

      • http://www.hustletoparadise.com/ Harrison

        I’m entering into Managua, Nicaragua, and then I fly out of Panama City, Panama. I plan to travel overland from Nicaragua to Panama. So I guess I’d be concerned with Nicaragua & Costa Rica. I’d say I am traveling via Ticabus, but not sure how to get a ticket from them. Some people tell me to print a “fake” airline itinerary and just say that is the way I will travel onward. Tips from you?

      • http://exploreforayear.com Lily

        Hi Harrison, if you’re flying out of Panama City and have the ticket already then I’d say that’s proof of an onward ticket out of Nicaragua and Costa Rica.

        - Lily

  • Anonymous

    wow. that’s such a great fare!  so which airline did you find was your absolute favorite??

    • http://exploreforayear.com Lily

      Hi Jen, hands-down my favourite was Etihad. I had such a good experience with them flying from Jordan to Thailand (via Abu Dhabi) that I actually paid extra to fly with them on my trip home from Thailand to Toronto. 

      What I liked: they’re the most professional, polite, well-dressed crew I’ve ever seen; free beer, spirits, hot chocolate options with your meal, ice cream, nice comfort kit and you get a menu card. Plus, the prices for the flights I was booking was either the lowest or second lowest.

      Their hub is in Abu Dhabi, but I found out they have flights to all the continents which is really convenient as I would definitely fly with them again later.

      • http://technosyncratic.com Technosyncratic

        I’d never heard of Etihad!  Our favorite airline so far has been Air New Zealand, but it’s always nice to have a couple of great options.  And in the post you mentioned that Bangkok Airways has a free lounge – I’m glad I read that, as we have a number of BA flights coming up.  :)

  • http://twitter.com/eurotriptips Marie-Eve Vallieres

    Great tips! If indeed booking tickets as-you-go costs the same as buying one big ticket, the former is definitely a better option!

    • http://exploreforayear.com Lily

      Agreed. It’s a no-brainer when I look back, although prior to the trip it could have gone either way because I didn’t have much travel experience then. Glad I followed my gut, it made for a more flexible experience and saved money too.

  • Anonymous

    I did not do round-the-world, but I did purchase a few flights in advance for Latin America.  In hindsight, I would not have bought those in advance.  Even if it was cheaper, it did affect my ability to change my plans.

    • http://exploreforayear.com Lily

      Yeah, looking back I’m glad I went with the buy-as-you-go approach. This is probably what I’d recommend to other aspiring travellers in the future go, especially for the benefit of having flexibility to change plans as you mentioned.