Booking Airline Tickets in Advance Vs Buying As You Go

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When you’re planning your trip, you there are two main ways of doing things. You can either book your your whole trip in advance, or you can just plan where you’re going to stay for the first few nights, then book the rest as you go along.

Obviously you can combine both approaches, and in many cases this is a good idea. For example, it can be a good idea to book your return flight before you set off as knowing exactly where you need to be on the date you’re flying home will help you to plan the rest of your trip as you go, as it puts things in perspective and gives you an end goal. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of each one:

Booking Airline Tickets in Advance

Advantages
I have already mentioned one advantage of booking your return airfare above, but that is not the only one. Booking both your departing and returning flights at the same time is often cheaper than buying them separately.

Another advantage is security. As most flights are expensive, it’s often best just to pay for them before you leave so that its dealt with, rather than having the burden of setting aside an amount of money and carrying it around with you your whole trip. Obviously you can keep this money you’ve set aside in your bank account but, if you’re like me, you’ll constantly be looking at your balance to make sure you’ve got enough to fly home.

Knowing when you’ll be coming back home will also allow you to leave a more detailed itinerary at home with your parents/family/friends. This will allow them to have a better idea of where you are throughout your trip, and will give them a greater feeling of comfort than if you were to tell them you were going traveling for ‘a while’ and that you’d return at ‘some point in the future’.

One advantage (that is rarely mentioned) is that booking a flight home in a foreign country can be a lot more difficult than booking a flight at home (unless you’ve got access to the internet). For example, you may have to travel to another city to visit the airline’s office. You’re then gambling on the chance that the staff there will even speak English, and that the office will even be open when you get there. Such offices also have long queues, and are generally stressful environments.

But what if you aren’t sure how long you’re going to be traveling for? What if you need to come back early? Most airlines these days will allow you to change the dates of your return flight over the phone. Some airlines even offer ‘flexible’ tickets where the dates can be changed free of charge (although these are slightly more expensive to buy in the first place).

Disadvantages
Booking airline ticketsThe only real disadvantage to booking a return flight home in advance is that you’re limiting your options on your trip. You have to be at that airport on that date otherwise you’ll miss your flight. One of the best things about traveling is the freedom it gives you, and by booking your return flight before you leave you’re restricting that freedom somewhat.

There are cases when people travel to a new country, fall in love with life there, find a job teaching English and decide they want to stay for another 6 months. Such an experience can only occur when there is no defined end date (unless you want to lose the money you paid for the flight).

In this day and age, altering bookings of any kind usually comes with a fee attached, so when you’re not sure of how things are going to pan out, it can sometimes be better to book as you go.

Buying as You Go

Advantages
Buying as you go gives you far more flexibility on your trip and allows you to be spontaneous. Your trip will become more of an adventure than a holiday. You’re no-longer tied down to staying in any one place, filled with the knowledge that you have a flight looming.

Disadvantages
As well as the increased price that buying on the fly can bring (which I’ve discussed above), you’re never guaranteed to get the flight you want when booking at short notice. This isn’t always a problem when traveling the world, as (providing you’re not in any great rush to get home or from one place to the next) spending an extra day or two in a foreign city shouldn’t make much difference, and may even lead to some new adventures.

One potential problem can occur if your preferred airline(s) are fully booked for when you want to fly, meaning you have to fly with another (potentially riskier) airline.

Something to watch out for when booking as you go is that some countries will be cautious about letting you in unless you can prove you’ve made concrete plans to leave at some point in the future. They may ask to see a return ticket, or some evidence that you’ve bought one. If you’re worried about this, dress smartly when arriving at the border, as it’ll make you look more like a respectable and trustworthy person.


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