“EVERYWHERE is walking distance if you have the time,” ‘says comedian Steven Wright. 4 In the process of developing a travel methodology that let me stay for free in the homes of locals around the world and average under $100 per flight across 24 countries on a single trip, I discovered through trial and error the cheapest and deepest ways to travel. Conventional wisdom might suggest that trains and buses are the cheapest way to travel, but this is not always the case. First off, flights can save a lot of time, and time is money. That aside, you sometimes can find flights cheaper than train rides if you are diligent. Moreover, it is not necessarily true that round trip flights are cheaper than one-way flights. With the advent of low-cost airlines that only sell tickets in one-way segments, traditional airlines have had to adopt cheaper one-way pricing to compete. My year-long trip around the world was pieced together mostly of one-way flights. I was a bit flexible on my itinerary, and I even let the cost of airline tickets guide me to visit some places that were not originally on my list because they offered a cheap flight connection. Some of these places were the most magical of my trip.
In the end, I rode on 38 different airplanes for a total cost of less than $3,800. There are companies out there that offer a “one-way around-the-world ticket” for a flat rate, but I got that price on my own with no rules about going backward when I needed to, which sometimes is a caveat for those kinds of deals. Just by using a little bit of flexibility, patience, and diligence, you can piece together your own one-way around-the-world flight path with a few websites and smartphone apps.
Some say you should book six months in advance, but I found through experience that flights generally are cheapest between six and eight weeks in advance, so I suggest that you do not get too far ahead of yourself in order to keep the price down. It might seem whimsical to buy a one-way ticket to Asia, but have a little faith, and not only will you make it home eventually, you will give the universe an opportunity to mold your trip in ways you never thought possible had you locked yourself into a fixed itinerary. That said, it helps to stay at least a month ahead of yourself. As the dates creep up, the price goes up again for last-minute travelers. You must find the balance–plan, but do not plan too much is a good rule of thumb.
If you are planning on booking train or bus tickets, there is no need to book that far in advance. For example, when I went to Thailand, I booked my flight into Phuket and out of Bangkok long before I even considered how I would get from Phuket to Bangkok because I knew I would use ground transportation, such as a train or bus. When I flew into Prague, I knew I would take ground transportation through Slovakia and into Poland for my flight out of Krakow. I had my flights booked before I got there, but I had no idea how I would get from one place to the other on the ground until after I arrived and caught the local vibe.
Another transport logistic to consider is that you sometimes can save yourself a night in a hotel or finding a host either by taking a red-eye flight or a sleeper car on the train. This kills two birds with one stone–get your sleep while you get closer to your next destination. I took sleeper trains all over Thailand, which was great because nothing ever is on time there so I could sleep late. Vietnam had a sleeper bus. It let me lie almost completely horizontal. While red-eye flights or buses usually do not offer the best night’s sleep, you still can get enough shut-eye to go strong the next day.
Of course, the best place to buy cheap tickets no longer is a travel agent, but over the Internet. It is a good idea to start with a meta search engine, which scans all of the airline websites, as well as a travel agency back-end called ITA-Powered. …