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Around the World in Thrifty Ways

We researched a hypothetical trip with the aim of going to as many places of interest as we could, over the course of four months.

There are plenty of round the world ticket options available to the adventurous traveller using alliances of airlines, but as we have explained, there are often restrictions to your travel (see article The best round the world ticket). We wondered how quick and easy it would be to get round the world using separately booked low-cost airlines (where possible) and to see exactly how far you could travel for how much.

We researched a hypothetical trip with the aim of going to as many places of interest as we could, over the course of four months or so, and since jet-lag was not going to be a problem, we tried to cram in as much travel as possible whilst getting the cheapest flights. We wanted to start the journey at the beginning of February 2008 and aimed to be back in the UK by mid June. The route we decided on to maximise our use of low-cost carriers was as follows:

London – Hong Kong – Manila – Bangkok – Perth – Sydney – Christchurch – overland to Auckland – Brisbane – Fiji – Los Angeles – Vancouver – and finally back to London. This 11 destination trip covers a distance of approximately 30,000 miles.

We loaded up a Skyscanner.net page and, from the comfort of our offices, we set off on our imaginary, but perfectly feasible, budget trip round the world.

Flight 1: London Gatwick – Hong Kong This came courtesy of Oasis Hong Kong and we could fly this route for £199.95 .
Distance: 5979 miles. Flight 2: Hong Kong – Manila (Philippines) Cebu Pacific provided this one for the bargain price of £28.00.
Distance: 829 miles Flight 3: Manila – Bangkok (Thailand) Again Cebu Pacific came up trumps with a flight costing an extraordinary £29.81.
Distance: 1403 miles. Flight 4: Bangkok – Perth (W. Australia) Tiger Airways were the airline of choice here with a price of £161.19 – a great deal given this is virtually as far as it is between London and New York.
Distance: 3313 miles. Flight 5: Perth – Sydney Vigin Blue offered £97.31.
Distance: 2045 miles.

So far we had travelled a distance of 13,569 miles, been to 5 cities in 4 countries, only used low-cost airlines and spent just over £500.

Flight 6: Sydney – Christchurch (New Zealand) Virgin Blue again and this time the price was £74.33.
Distance: 1326 miles.

New Zealand is a nice place, so an overland trip from Christchurch to Auckland seemed like a good idea.

Flight 7: Auckland – Brisbane (Australia) We back-tracked here which you sometimes cannot do with round the world tickets – another advantage of booking the flights independently from each other. Once again Virgin Blue were the carriers and charged £67.16.
Distance: 1421 miles. Flight 8: Brisbane – Nadi (Fiji) Our last flight with Virgin Blue and only £109.95.
Distance: 1688 miles Flight 9: Fiji – Los Angeles (USA) Air Pacific. This leg put a bit of a dent in the budget but it is a long way so we justified the £353.70 price tag.
Distance: 5536 miles. Flight 10: Los Angeles – Vancouver Alaska Air were the carrier to Canada for just £98.
Distance: 1078 miles Flight 11: Vancouver – London Gatwick Our final flight and happily it is with another low-cost carrier. Flyglobespan ferried us back to the UK for £163.39.
Distance: 4708 miles.

The total cost of flights for this trip was £1347.92. We contacted a well-known travel agency in the UK and asked for a quote for the same journey using one of the “packaged” round the world fares and the price was just under £2000.

There are, however, some disadvantages to this plan: firstly, the budget airlines can often be less flexible with changes of flight and altering your plans could see you being charged a substantial excess. Additionally, you don’t have the security of an airline “alliance” behind you, so if connecting flights are delayed, you might not get much sympathy from another carrier. Also, you are unlikely to be offered the same levels of comfort you might expect from the likes of Singapore Airlines or Virgin Atlantic.

But you know what though, for the sake of risking a missed flight and not having a personal TV screen and free drinks for a few hours, I’d save my £650 and buy a new 37” flat screen telly when I got home.

All prices given include taxes and are accurate at the time of writing 14 January 2008. Some prices have been converted to GBP from the local currencies.

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