Frequent Flyers

The Cost of Round-the-World Flights for 15 Months of Travel

Like most people embarking on a round-the-world trip, during the years of planning we researched and discussed what would be best for us; buying a round-the-world plane ticket or pay-as-you-go flights. In the end we decided to book our flights as we travel, which was a good decision as it ended up being ultimately cheaper and much more flexible. Although we’ve yet to travel a full 15 months we have booked all our flights up until our temporary return to the UK in June, so here’s how much we’ve spent on flights for the first 15 months of our trip.

Did we Make the Right Choice?

When researching which types of tickets to buy before we left we found out that the cheapest round-the-world ticket option would have cost us £1,569 each. Although that’s cheaper than what we eventually spent on our flights, the round-the-world ticket only covered eight journeys per person, one of which was back to the UK. Since we’ve ended up taking three times as many flights, 24 per person, the round-the-world ticket would have been totally inadequate for our needs.

Frequent Flyer Plane Tickets

Another drawback with the round-the-world ticket is that we would have been forced to finish our trip within a year; we wouldn’t have been able to travel for as long or as thoroughly as we have done. We would have ended up paying extra for additional domestic flights and we wouldn’t have had the flexibility of adding in new destinations.

The Good, the Bad and the Layovers

Booking flights as we went did take a lot of time and patience. All of our flights were booked after hours of online research about destinations and airlines and we always purchased the cheapest economy seats we could find. We used Skyscanner mainly for the expensive flights and booked them quite a few months in advance to get the best rates; cheaper flights were only booked a few days or weeks ahead using budget airlines.

The View from an Aeroplane

We found that our flight experiences varied greatly too. Whereas Korean Air was a dream to fly with, offering amazing service and reasonable comfort considering we were in the air for over 20 hours, some budget airlines weren’t so great. AirAsia planes tend to be tiny and cramped and Tiger Air changed our schedule without telling us, so we nearly missed our flight to Thailand. Although some of our friends and family got free upgrades when they visited us in Thailand over the summer we have sadly never been upgraded on any of our flights. There’s still time though China Southern Airlines if you’re reading!

Sitting in Kuala Lumpur Airport

One of the things we’ve had to get used to when booking cheap flights is layovers. Our very first flight from London to Auckland had a 75-minute layover in Korea and we were a little worried about making our connection on time; what if we’re delayed? What if they lose our bags? Wait, we have carry-on luggage! We made it just fine of course. We’re dreading our flight from Taiwan to the UK in June though since we’ll have a 16-hour layover in China! Hopefully there’ll be some WiFi available or perhaps we’ll book into a hotel for a few hours. Sometimes layovers can work in your favour though; our AirAsia flight from Bali to the Philippines was rescheduled in such a way that we were able to escape Indonesia early and gain an amazing three-week layover in Malaysia on the way to the Philippines.

The Cost of Round-the-World Flights for 15 Months of Travel

Check out our individual and total flight costs for our first 15 months of travel:

Country

From – To

Airline

Cost

Cost per person

Flying Time

UK to New Zealand

London to Auckland

(Via Seoul)

Korean Air

£1,082

£541

22 hours total

New Zealand to Australia

Christchurch to Melbourne

Air New Zealand

£283

£141.50

4 hours

Australia

Melbourne to Sydney

Tiger Airlines

£60

£30

1 hour 30 mins

Australia

Sydney to Cairns

Tiger Airlines

£87.50

£43.75

3 hours

Australia to Indonesia

Gold Coast to Jakarta (Via Kuala Lumpur)

AirAsia

£472

£236

11 hours 30 mins total

Indonesia

Surabaya to Bali

Lion Air

£67.50

£33.25

2 hours

Indonesia

Bali to Lombok Return

Merpati Nusantura Airlines

£53.50

£26.75

45 mins each way

Indonesia to Malaysia to Philippines

Bali to Clark (with three-week lay-over in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia)

AirAsia

£195

£97.50

6 hours total

Malaysia

Kuala Lumpur to Kuching

AirAsia

£65.70

£32.85

1 hour, 45 mins

Malaysia

Kuching to Lahad Datu (Via Kota Kinabalu)

Malaysia Airlines

£85

£42.50

3 hours 40 mins

Malaysia

Kota Kinabalu to Kuala Lumpur

Malaysia Airlines

£40.50

£20.25

2 hours 30 mins

Philippines

Manila to Cebu Return

Zest Air

£61.70

£30.85

1 hour 30 mins each way

Philippines to Thailand

Clark to Bangkok

Tiger Airlines

£86

£43

3 hours

Laos to Vietnam

Luang Prabang to Hanoi

Vietnam Airlines

£117.80

£58.90

1 hour

Thailand to Myanmar

Bangkok to Yangon Return

AirAsia

£104.90

£52.45

1 hour 15 mins each way

Thailand to Philippines

Bangkok to Manila

Philippine Airlines

£172.30

£86.15

3 hours 30 mins

Philippines

Manila to Cebu Return

Cebu Pacific

£85.70

42.85

1 hour 15 mins each way

Philippines to Taiwan

Manila to Taipei

Philippine Airlines

£112.40

£56.20

2 hours

Taiwan to China to UK

Taipei to London (Via Guangzhou, China)

China Southern Airlines

£721.60

£360.80

15 hours total (+16 hours layover)

Total

24 Journeys per person

12 Airlines

£3,954.10

£1,977.05

90 hours 50 mins

So, would we book flights the same way again? Absolutely; with an average flight cost per person of £82.38 and the added flexibility of booking as you go, it’s a no-brainer. This was easily the better option and when we continue our travels after our summer visit to the UK we’ll do it the same way again.

Flight Prices for 15 months of travel

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What do you think of our costs? Would you book separate flights or an all in one ticket? Could you or did you find these flights any cheaper?

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29 Comments
  • Katie
    Posted at 11:03h, 11 April Reply

    This is really interesting. We are just planning our first long-term trip around Asia and have opted for a flexible round ticket from STA, which we are supplementing with internal flights as we go. We have opted for flexible flights which allow us to change the dates if we want to extend/reduce our time in a place; only time will tell if this was the cheapest way to do it I suppose!
    Some of the budget air carriers – Air Asia in particular at the moment – are doing some great offers so we are getting a few internal flights we know we will need for about £20, which is very helpful on the budget!
    On the road I suspect it is slightly harder to plan that far ahead.
    Love the blog by the way – this is my first comment but have been a long-time reader!

    K x

    • Andrew
      Posted at 11:10h, 11 April Reply

      Thanks Katie, I guess it just depends on each traveller’s needs. For us we didn’t want to be tied down to a rigid schedule and wanted a bit more freedom. Where does your ticket take you and do you have to return within a year? If you don’t mind me asking, how much did your tickets cost?
      We have used AirAsia quite a bit; they are great for getting around this part of the world. We have found that we need to pre-book some luggage though, we have managed to get away with only checking in one bag between us and carrying on the rest.
      Glad you like the blog, I hope it’s the first comment of many! 😉

      • Katie
        Posted at 14:47h, 11 April Reply

        Hi Andrew!

        Our tickets take us in a loop from London via Kula Lumpur, Bali – Sydney, Melbourne – Christchurch, Auckland – Fiji, Fiji – Hong Kong, Hong Kong – Bangkok (for our mainland SEA leg) and then Bangkok – London. We have set a provisional return date of Feb 2015, but we can change this further down the line if we want. I think it was because that was the furthest date the airline schedules went to.
        The tickets cost £1,600 (I think), and then we added on fully flexible options, which means we can change any of the dates, as often as we like, for £99, so we can keep moving our departure date in Bangkok back, and I think we may use this in NZ as well. I suspect we may have been able to save a little money by booking each leg independently, but when you factor in the hours we’d spent simply looking at our first leg flights I think it was good to just draw a line under it at some point and get on with the fun stuff of planning the rest of our trip!
        I think our best bargain has to be our Borneo flights though, which is our first stop after KL. I think we’re working out about £17 each flight so far!
        Absolutely – you are currently my packing gurus as I try and work out what we need in our rucksacks!

        • Andrew
          Posted at 15:36h, 11 April Reply

          Thanks Katie, ‘Packing Gurus’, perhaps we’ll put that on our CV’s! 😉
          It’s great that you can change your dates with that package, really useful. One of the problems with booking our own separately is that we do have to stick to certain time frames since we buy the cheapest and least flexible tickets. I wish we could have extended our NZ time, but it was sooo expensive. Great find with the Borneo flights btw. Happy packing! 🙂

  • Stefan Arestis
    Posted at 11:11h, 11 April Reply

    We are setting out in June to do what you guys have done and making the same decision to buy it all as we go.

    16 hours in China? Is that Beijing? I think transit visa is now ok for Brits but getting a tourist visa for our trip in China in Aug/Sept is a pain PAIN in the backside.

    • Andrew
      Posted at 11:21h, 11 April Reply

      Hi Stefan, you’re setting off just as we get back – don’t tell me you fly out on the 6th June?! 🙂
      Our 16 hours is in Guangzhou, we booked a hotel near the airport since it’s overnight and I checked that since we’re from the UK we get 72-hour-transit visas for that layover. Good luck with your Visas and enjoy your trip!

      • Stefan Arestis
        Posted at 04:51h, 12 April Reply

        2nd June so we will just miss you. Where you heading to after UK? We also plan a temporary return at this point in 2015 and then to South America if the budget allows it!

        • Andrew
          Posted at 09:57h, 12 April Reply

          Ah, pretty close. We’re only in the UK for two and a half months, we fly to Vietnam on the 21st August hopefully to get some teaching work. We are plannig to visit South America too but we don’t have the funds at the moment… 🙁

  • Katrina
    Posted at 14:19h, 11 April Reply

    Wow. Having never researched what flights would cost for a RTW trip, I’m shocked at the price – in a good way! I assumed it would be much more expensive than that.

    • Andrew
      Posted at 15:39h, 11 April Reply

      I’m glad we’ve opened your eyes to the costs of round the world flights Katrina! 😉
      It took a lot of searching, daily checking and experimenting different routes to get the prices we got but we think it was worth it.

  • James Long
    Posted at 17:04h, 11 April Reply

    Great informative post guys. Amazed you survived Tiger airways. Not sure if they try and have such a bad reputation on purpose. We also book as we go and find it much easier and in most cases cheaper. With 4 people it isn’t cheap though. Two transatlantic crossing are by cruise ship, costs are about the same as the plane with 11 days of food and entertainment thrown in.
    Cheers James

    • Andrew
      Posted at 04:39h, 12 April Reply

      Thanks James, we heard some stories from my family near Sydney of Tiger Airways, unfortunately we had already booked a couple more flights with them. Although apart from them not telling us of a change of flight time they seemed fine. We may have to look into the transatlantic cruises, although that won’t be for a while yet. 🙂

  • Beth
    Posted at 23:28h, 11 April Reply

    Love your blog and sooo appreciate your advice and sharing. We are heading to SE Asia from Hawaii..spending 3 months and returning to Canada. So far we just have a one way to Singapore and are trying to plan around monsoons in Thailand at the moment…really wanted to go to Koh Lanta but it looks like things shut down in April due to the weather. We noticed your flew from Bali to Lombok…is this the best option in your opinion? Thanks for the motivation and inspiration!

    • Andrew
      Posted at 04:33h, 12 April Reply

      Hi again Beth, with regards the weather in Thailand, we have been here in August, September, October, February, March and April; although it does sometimes rain pretty hard it is never for more than about an hour at a time. I’m not so sure about Koh Lanta but when I was on Koh Phi Phi in August it was glorious every day. April has been said to be one of the best times to visit the country and this is arguably the rainiest we’ve seen it in a long time.
      As for our flights from Bali to Lombok, we found them cheaper than getting the boats and with horror stories of sinking boats in Indonesia we felt safer too.
      We’re glad you like our blog so much, we love sharing and so glad we are in this position to give advice! Hope you enjoy your trip! 🙂

  • Alyson
    Posted at 15:28h, 12 April Reply

    Hi guys, yes I’m with you on the pay as you go too. We had RTW tickets last time and although they worked out fine , we were a bit stuck with them. This time we’ve been able to take advantage of some amazing bargains on flights and cruises and ended up in some totally unexpected places. Some of our flights have been as low as $30/person. Being flexible has been great.

    • Andrew
      Posted at 15:46h, 12 April Reply

      Hi Alyson, the cruises sound interesting, we will have to check that out. You’re right in that flexibility is the key, we haven’t been tied down to certain time frames and we would definitely choose the pay as you go option again. 🙂

  • Catherine
    Posted at 17:31h, 13 April Reply

    I’m really impressed by how low the total is, considering the number of flights and different places you have visited. Definitely a lot less that I would have expected.

    • Andrew
      Posted at 05:30h, 14 April Reply

      Thanks Catherine, considering the length in distance and time and the number of flights we are quite proud of these figures ourselves. 🙂

  • Victoria
    Posted at 12:10h, 14 April Reply

    You really did a great job and you’re right. Booking flights individually is rather cheaper but you were able to get lovely prices for Asia countries in the region and you were more flexible too. On the other hand, if I really did have only a year, I would book the around the world flight ticket as you can really travel through places that you might not otherwise have thought about.
    Nice post guys. 🙂

    • Andrew
      Posted at 14:28h, 14 April Reply

      Thanks Victoria, glad you agree! Although we have still managed to visit some places that we hadn’t even thought about at the beginning of our trip too. I guess that if we were only going for one year then perhaps we would also choose the all in one ticket too. 🙂

  • Heidi Wagoner
    Posted at 14:17h, 14 April Reply

    This is great and what good deals you found. I would think the Round the world ticket would be limiting. I think you made a good choice, which allows for some on the fly changes. Who knows, you may love one place and want to stay longer. Well done.

    • Andrew
      Posted at 14:30h, 14 April Reply

      That’s right Heidi, we’ve also found that we’ve loved places so much we want to return (both Thailand and the Philippines) so it’s been great to have the flexibility.

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  • jessica kau
    Posted at 22:06h, 20 July Reply

    Hi, your site is great, really interesting and informative to read! Me and my boyfriend are planning a round the world trip in November this year, eek! and were also debating whether to get rtw tickets or pay as you go. We liked the thought of the flexibility of booking flights as we go etc and when we have looked up the flight prices for the main flights it doesn’t seem much more expensive to do it that way.
    I am just worried that flight prices may increase up to double as we would only be booking our tickets maybe one month in advance rather then a good six months in advance. Have you had any experience of this so far?

    • Amy
      Posted at 12:44h, 22 July Reply

      Hi Jessica, that’s a tricky one. We booked our initial one-way flights to New Zealand about six months in advance to get the best rates and then booked the rest of them about a month or two in advance, depending on our plans. You’re right that prices can go up; we left it too late to book domestic flights in Indonesia to visit Komodo Island and we ended up not going because they got so expensive in the end. However, we have also got some great deals by booking just a few weeks or a month ahead. We tend to book flights as soon as we definitely know we’ll be moving on; this is usually dictated by visa times (for example you only get a month in most countries in SE Asia) so that allowed us to plan when to book flights. Good luck with your travel planning and trip, it sounds exciting!

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  • Kylie
    Posted at 14:08h, 09 July Reply

    I love this post.
    Did you find it easy booking flights from other countries as you travelled. What happens about boarding passes etc?
    Plus, where was the best place you travelled?
    Sorry about all these questions but I would love to go travelling but am nervous about the flight arrangements and accommodation.

    • Amy
      Posted at 08:14h, 10 July Reply

      Hi Kylie, thanks for reading and we’re happy to answer any questions you have. Yes, we found it easy to book flights as we travelled, all you need for this is a stable internet connection. With boarding passes it depends on the airline; sometimes we can just show our passport at the check-in desk and they will print the pass, other times we’ll print tickets in advance by popping into a print shop – we’ve never had a problem. The best place we travelled is a hard one! I really loved the Philippines but it is a tougher place to travel in, whereas Thailand and Vietnam are amazing and much easier for first-time travellers. I also really loved road tripping around New Zealand and the USA. It all depends on what you’re looking for really. Where/when are you thinking of travelling?

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