ONE WAY TICKET DILEMMA
FOR THOSE INTERNATIONAL JAMTROTTERS that are traveling for extended periods or with a vague itinerary, here are some Travel Tools to help you with a ONE WAY TICKET abroad.
Here was my dilemma…
With all the new TSA regulations, screening and constant changes, my ONE WAY ticket became an issue. I want to fly ONE WAY from California to Amsterdam in September 2015. I don’t need a ROUND TRIP TICKET upfront because I need the flexibility for NON-STOP travel up to a year or more around the world! Some airlines will not allow you to travel without an EXIT ticket*/ONWARD BOUND ticket* or RETURN ticket* and airlines do not sell flights farther out than 6 months. In addition, every country has different regulations on one way tickets. In Europe, there are Schengen Area’s which will only allow you to stay 3 months within a 6 month period in certain countries. I will provide more information and links to this issue in future posts. Do your homework before you travel.
Here are the 5 options I found…
1. Buy a ONE WAY TICKET and HOPE the immigration officer is nice, having a good day and overlooks your ticket…because they have the power to make just about any decision they want. Look presentable, carry proof of income documentation/statements validating your assets to cover your journey if they ask (that amount depends on how long you plan to travel) and ONLY ANSWER their questions simple and short. Don’t give them any more info to make you look suspicious or to question you further. It’s a fine line. The worst thing is they may force you to buy a return ticket*, an exit ticket* at the airport or DRILL YOU and send you home. This could mark your passport…not a good thing. Some people are lucky and breeze through, and some have horror stories.
*return ticket – a ticket returning back to the country (normally your home country) from which you came.
*exit or outbound ticket – a ticket from one country to another without returning to your home country. Example: I will travel from America to Amsterdam and buy an exit ticket out of Amsterdam to Germany
2. Buy a round trip ticket with a return date 6 months out and pay the $Extra Fees$ (different for every airline and not cheap) to change the date and airport you would be flying out of. This option does not give much flexibility and each airline should be contacted ahead of time for their policy on changes and fees.
3. Using American Airline Award Miles, you can get a round trip AnyTime Award Ticket with a return date 3 to 6 months out and change the ticket before the departure date expires (or toss this paid or award ticket and get a new one home when you are good and ready). However, you would have to decide when and where you’d be leaving from, forcing you to make a decision in advance. There is no fee for this change with AnyTime miles. A MilesSaver Award Ticket may be less miles but does not have the flexibility and has more restrictions.
4. Buy a ONE WAY TICKET and an EXIT ticket to your next destination. As an example, being that I am flying into Amsterdam (a country more lenient with one way tickets), I could buy a train, bus, ferry or flight ticket to the next country on my itinerary…showing I will not be there more than 3 months. BEWARE that some airlines will NOT permit you to fly without a return ticket….always check first!
5. The best option I found was advice from American Airline Awards Reservations. With American Airlines, you can buy or use your AWARD MILES for a ONE WAY TICKET to your destination (be sure to check on the country’s one way ticket policy first). A day or 2 prior to your departure, reserve a return or exit ticket 3 months out. American Airlines will hold your reservation for 5 days and send you an itinerary via email. If you do not call them back and buy the ticket, it will expire on the 5th day and you are off the hook. In the mean time, you have a printed itinerary and although you have not used your award miles or paid for it, it shows your return/exit itinerary. If they question you, just explain that you wanted to make sure you arrived safely (or some smart excuse) to your destination before paying for it. Also have your proof of income documentation/statements validating your assets just in case. Worst case scenario, you have to buy or use your awards for that return/exit ticket and you have to change the ticket 3 or 6 months down the road and pay those dreadful fee’s!
Immigration officers are just people, but they have POWER. Be nice, polite, calm and smile
Imagine the thousands of people passing them daily and the job of weeding out potential problems for their country. Don’t think just because you are an American you have clout. Be respectful and smile. Don’t be rude or raise your voice. Make short to the point answers. Don’t ask questions and be giddy. Just be polite and look prepared…not nervous!! I always take a deep breath in the long line before I reach an immigration officer and move gracefully if they decide to open my luggage giving them complete access without quiver. It’s just their job. And I am sure, some of them may even be musicians just wanting to go out to a jam later!!
UPDATE May 2016: Upon departure I ended up buying a round trip ticket with a 3 month ahead date….using my air miles and then canceling the return upon my arrival (I just didn’t want any hassle in the start of my long journey). I had to pay a fee and got my miles returned, but it was worth it. I was NEVER questioned at the airport, but then I did have a return ticket which perhaps shows up on computers? Some airports are tricky and won’t let you board without onward bound or return tickets do to regulations in several countries. I was actually stopped in JAPAN and asked for an onward (exit or outbound ticket) ticket on my way to Zagreb. I explained I often went to Croatia and was never asked for an exit ticket (which was the truth and passport showed the stamps) and out of 20 countries, Japan was the only one that asked me anything when entering or exiting by car, foot, airplane or motorbike…I was asked only once by ferry on way to and from Italy/Croatia what my next plans were but didn’t ask for documents. I did have an onward ticket to and from Bali and from Singapore but neither asked for any documentation. If someone asked, I just told them where I was going next but ONLY JAPAN asked to see a document. They were training a new employee and so that may have been working or not in my favor but did say they were NOT RESPONSIBLE if I was denied entry and I would have to pay for the onward/exit ticket while at the airport in Croatia…an easy out being I was flying back to Zagreb and could book a bus ticket to the closest country.