After getting the idea of what you want to do and where to go, the difficult part starts: How to get there? This is actually harder than I thought. Within Europe there’s no question. Start some of the comparing portals, throw in your dates. Give some details. A return flight or not? Flexible dates? How many persons? Choose the best airline you get according to your price limit and off you go. It doesn’t matter how much luggage you get for the price, as the trip is short. And, it doesn’t matter, if you can change the dates in case something goes wrong, as the dates are fixed anyway. All in all an easy thing, done within half an hour.
Planning a continuous trip covering at least three continents and quite some countries, without being quite sure about the destinations, dates and price limit for each segment is a different story. So we started researching. At the end, we found three reasonable ways to do it:
- Go to one of the big airline alliances and book your ticket
- Use online portals, like indie, to get help along the way.
- Do it yourself
Up to now, I always used the 3rd option, except for business trips. As mentioned above, it’s fast, it’s easy and you have full control. So I went for it and started planning. Our starting point is Helsinki, as we are in Finland to see our relatives before leaving. I started with the first flight. We thought we would get started in New Zealand. Well Helsinki to Auckland it is. We found something for a really great price beginning of January. Perfect, let’s write it down and check where we’d go next, and if the connection will work. Short discussion. Checked for places where we could stay. This took a day or two. Double checked the price of the tickets aaaaand 20% more expensive. wow! That was fast. Checked connections within New Zealand and Australia as well. And there it was always cheap as long as you don’t have luggage and fixed dates. Otherwise, it got pretty expensive. Finally, after spending a couple of precious days researching, we found out that this didn’t seem the way to go.
Along the way I checked out option no. 1 as well, but didn’t appreciate it then. One world didn’t let us book the ticket online because of an infant, and star alliance seemed to be pretty expensive. So I tried indie. The user experience was quite OK, and you get quite some support via mail, but it doesn’t solve the problems mentioned above. If you need flexibility and luggage it’s not that cheap and the prices go up and down the minute you are thinking about an offer. Coming back to the 1st option, it offers some benefits.
One important thing is, the scope is limited. Sounds weird at first, but I think it’s a good thing. We didn’t know from the beginning which choice would be the best, considering the time of the year and the limited amount of time. Narrowing down helps deciding. And if you really want to go somewhere, you can do it by going close enough and extend the ticket by doing it yourself. We did it with Cuba, and will do it with different destinations in Hawaii.
We had an idea of where to go, but weren’t sure how long we’d stay in one place. Our rule of thumb to be everywhere about a month helped, but still you might find something to see or to experience along the way, which you don’t want to miss. If you’re booking on your own, and want to be flexible it costs a lot. If you book while travelling it adds a certain amount of stress, which is something you don’t want to have. Further, you want to have a bit of certainty when you travel with kids. The round the world fares offer you that flexibility. Once you’re on your way, you can change dates as you like without additional costs. If you’ve booked via a travel agency, there is some additional cost, but you just have to write a mail and they do it for you. All in all it helps, and we’ve already used it once.
Previously I thought it might be cheaper to do it yourself. Even though I considered the price of star alliance pretty high, and their availability in the pacific region quite bad, the one world price was really good. Searching with indie didn’t give a cheaper result with lower flexibility. Further, the hours and hours comparing prices and alternatives aren’t included. The tool the airlines offer is pretty straight forward and calculates the fare immediately. The only problem for us was that we couldn’t book an infant online, so we had to consider a travel agency. At the end it was easier for us, and their expertise helped deciding on a couple of matters.
HOW WE DID IT
All in all I felt that it’s a good investment to use the round the world trip option of one of the big alliances. We chose OneWorld because of the strong presence in the Pacific region. Unfortunately, as we are flying with an infant, we couldn’t just book it ourselves, but needed a travel agency to do it for us. Anyway, we planned the trip using the website they are offering. There we could choose our flights and get the price tag immediately. We quickly saw what’s possible and what’s not. It was good, it gives us certainty until the end of the trip, quite some luggage is included, and we get the flexibility we need.