What Is the Definition of an Open-Ended Ticket?

Open-ended tickets allow travelers to set off even when the future is uncertain.
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If you're roaming the countryside in Europe, letting adventure take you where it may, or not sure how long negotiations will take for the new office you're trying to set up across the country, you need an open-ended return date. For just such situations, some airlines offer open-ended tickets. Also known as open return or flexible return tickets, open-ended tickets let you fly home when you feel the time is right instead of obeying a preset return date.

Getting the Ticket

Before buying open-ended tickets from an airline, have a talk about them with your travel agency. You may get a price break since some agencies buy the tickets wholesale to pass the savings on to travelers. Comparison shopping is a must because open-ended tickets can cost up to 100 percent more than standard tickets, according to HowArt.Info. It might be more economical to buy a standard ticket if the airline allows changes; you can always alter the date later if you must.

Restricted Vs. Unrestricted

Open-ended tickets come in two flavors: restricted and unrestricted. Restricted tickets include a return flight time you can change if necessary. You'll be charged for adjusting the ticket. As of June 2012, CheapAir.com says to expect fees of up to $300, plus any fare difference between the new flight and the old. If an airline doesn't offer restricted open-ended tickets, check to see if return dates can be changed on standard tickets. Unrestricted tickets are truly open-ended as far as return plans go, but the increased flexibility make these the most expensive airline ticket option.


On the downside, you won't always be able to return home when you want with an open-ended ticket. Confirmed passengers will trump you on flights, and there may not be an available flight when you're ready to go. You'll have to make your arrangements "on the fly." If you find the disadvantages are too much, an alternative is to book a one-way ticket, then arrange the return flight later. This may not be an option if you're going overseas. Some countries require visitors have a return ticket in hand before they land.

Fine Print

Before you find yourself in a strange city with your ticket, check the fine print for limitations such as an expiration date. Open-ended tickets are usually valid for a year, and some countries may not even let you stay that long. Also, open-ended tickets are not open-ended as far as destinations go. You'll need to return to the place you indicated when you bought the ticket. If it's not the same as your starting place, expect to pay more.

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