One of the most common travel questions I see these days is “Do I need an onward ticket when flying to ……..?”.
I see this question asked almost daily in many different Facebook travel groups. The answer is usually yes. Most countries will want to see proof that you are going to leave again in the near future. But mostly it will be the airlines that will check for an onward or return ticket. If you do not have one, they most likely won’t let you fly. You may not always get asked, but it’s better to be prepared.
Many people, like myself, don’t always know how long they are going to stay in a country. Nor do they always know where their next destination will be. But the rules are the rules. Most countries will ask to see an onward ticket out of the country. And usually within your visa limit. I pretty much always travel on one-way tickets so I needed a workaround for this situation. I never plan on overstaying my welcome in any country but I can’t always plan that far ahead.
Many people seem to like to waste money. Some will use an onward ticket booking company. Some will buy a cheap bus ticket across the border to the neighboring country. Or even a budget airline ticket that they never plan to use. Even though these options may not be that expensive, why waste that money when you can do it for free.
I’ve been using this method for many years and never had a problem. I’ve even used it at at the gate using a gate agents mobile phone for a hotspot when they refused to let me board my flight to Brazil
So how do I do it. It’s easy, quick, and best of all, it’s free.
By law in the U.S.A, all airlines are required to give you a cooling off period. This means that you have 24 hours to change your mind about the ticket you just bought. You can either change or cancel it for free within 24 hours of purchase.
I usually use United Airlines for my onward ticket purchases. Mostly just because I’m very familiar with their website. But any American airline should work. Even sites like Expedia should work too, as long as you are on the US page, not an overseas page.
I’ve also used American Airlines a few times. As I have a lot of miles in my account, I can just place a ticket on hold. This is good for 5 days and you never actually have to book the ticket.
So how do I do it? It’s really quite simple. You’ll wonder why you have never thought of this before.
Book your ticket into wherever you want to travel to on the dates you want to travel. Please just book a one way ticket, not a round trip ticket.
Go to United Airlines website. If you have a frequent flier account with them it’s best to login in first. This will just make things easier later. Search for a flight out of the country you are traveling to, to any other country. Using a flight to your home country is probably the best thing, but any country should work. Make sure the dates are before your time limit in the country you are traveling to is up. I usually just put in a date about a month out.
Buy the ticket. Don’t worry about the price as long as it’s not more than the limit on your credit card. It doesn’t matter if it has a long layover. Just pick any ticket and book it. Don’t waste your time trying to pick the best seats, you’re never going to use them. And please don’t add any extras like insurance or priority boarding.
Just like any other ticket, you will have to input all of your details and pay with a credit card. Before you actually hit the Pay Now button, you should see a reassuring statement telling you to book worry-free. Once you hit the pay now button you have 24 hours to cancel the ticket.
Wait for the email confirmation of your ticket. This is usually instant but can sometimes take a few minutes. Don’t worry, you have 24 hours.
Once you get the confirmation email, please don’t delete it. I usually just keep it handy on my phone. You can print out your flight confirmation if you prefer. Or take a screenshot of it. All you need is something to show the airline before you depart, or the immigration officer when you arrive.
Cancel the ticket! Although you have 24 hours to cancel the ticket, I highly recommend doing it ASAP. Cancellation fees can be expensive if you forget! If you are logged into your account, just go to manage my booking, but you can do it straight from the screen you are already on.
Just click on the view trip details button. Here you should see the option to cancel the ticket.
Just click on the Cancel Options link on the right hand side of the screen.
On this screen just look for the Cancel Trip button and click on it. A pop up will appear to double check you want to cancel. Click cancel, You are done. You should get a cancellation confirmation on the next screen.
That’s it! You now have a flight booking to show anybody that asks to see it. It should have taken no more than 5 minutes of your time and cost you nothing.
You will also receive an e-mail confirming you have cancelled the ticket.
Now you can confidently travel to wherever you are going on a way one ticket. No need to waste money on another ticket you are never going to use ever again!
Let me know if you found this tip helpful and where you used it.