A round-trip flight is when you fly from somewhere and then return to that original location.

When you book a round-trip flight, you receive a single ticket that covers both the outbound and inbound legs of the journey.

Round-trip flights are usually cheaper than booking multiple one-way flights, especially for international destinations. But you sacrifice flexibility and have to pay more upfront for a round-trip ticket.

Rescheduling round-trip flights can also be both difficult and expensive. 

Round-trip flights can include layovers and connecting flights. But as long as the start and end points are the same, it’s a round-trip flight. 

How Round Trip Flights Work

A round-trip flight includes a flight from your original location, let’s call ‘A,’ to your destination, let’s call ‘B,’ as well as a flight from B back to A. 

With a round-trip ticket, you get a flight to B, where you’ll stay for as long as you like before going back to A. 

Round-trip flights are the most popular flights for travelers who are flying for a vacation.

Round Trip Flights Are Cheaper than One Way Flights

Round trips are almost always cheaper than one-way flights when booking with the same airline, with most airlines incentivizing round trips, especially for leisure travel, and especially to international destinations. 

For example:

  • A round trip from London to New York may cost $1,000.
  • A one-way trip to New York City from London might cost $600, and a one-way trip from London to New York City may also cost $600.
  • In this example, you’d save $200 by choosing a round trip with the same airline rather than booking two separate flights. 

But it could be cheaper for you to fly with two different airlines.

Let’s say you find a British Airways flight from London to New York City for $600. But you also find a Delta Air Lines flight from New York City to London for only $300. 

In that case, you’d save $100 by buying two one-way flights from different airlines. 

You Don’t Have to Fly Both Legs

You’re not technically obligated to fly both legs of a round-trip flight.

If you fly the first leg from your location to the destination, you could stay there longer and miss the return flight if you wanted to.

But airlines dislike this behavior and may penalize your flying privileges if you do this repeatedly. 

If you miss the first leg of your round-trip flight, the airline will most likely automatically cancel the return flight, too. 

How Long You Can Stay on a Round Trip Ticket

You can stay on a round-trip flight for as little as one day to as long as a year.

The exact duration you can stay depends on the airline’s booking policies and flight availability. 

Pros of Round Trip Flights

1. Lower Costs

Round trips from the same airlines are almost always cheaper than booking two one-way flights.

Round trips for international flights are especially cheaper than purchasing two one-way tickets from the same airline. 

2. Lower Taxes

You only have to pay sales tax once with a round-trip flight.

That’s because you only have to pay for one ticket, which includes both your flights. 

3. Fewer Cancellation Fees

You’ll only be charged a single cancellation fee if you cancel a round-trip flight.

But if you cancel two one-way flights, you’ll pay cancellation fees for both flights. 

4. Vouchers

You can save a lot of money on round-trip flights if you have a voucher, like a companion voucher from a credit card.

You’ll save more when booking round-trip flights, since an individual round-trip flight costs more than an individual one-way flight.

And vouchers can only be used once and are usually a percentage discount. 

Cons of Round Trip Flights

1. Changing the date can be more expensive

Changing the dates for a round-trip flight costs between $0 to $400.

In some cases, it could be so expensive that you’d be better off missing a flight and booking a new one-way flight instead. 

2. Expensive domestic flights

Round-trip domestic flights with the same airline could be more expensive than booking multiple one-way domestic flights with different airlines.

Most airlines are more price competitive for domestic routes rather than international ones. 

3. High Upfront Costs

You have to pay more up-front for a round-trip flight than when booking a one way flight.

4. Automatic Itinerary Cancellations

If you miss the first leg of your round trip, the airline may also cancel your return trip, and you will lose your money.

5. Decreased Flexibility

You have to meet the scheduled flight date and times for a round trip flight.

Whereas with multiple one-way trips, you could just book your return flight whenever you want while at your destination. 

You can technically change your return flight for a round-trip, but it’s often expensive and difficult. 

One-Way and Open-Jaw Flights

A one-way flight is a flight from one destination to another destination that doesn’t include a return flight.

An open-jaw flight is when you travel from your location to a first destination.

Then you travel to a different subsequent destination(s) and return to your original location from one of the subsequent destinations. 

For example, you could fly from New York to Paris. Then drive from Paris to Berlin and fly from Berlin back to New York.

In conclusion:

  • A round-trip flight is when you fly from your location to another destination, and then fly back to your original location.
  • With a round-trip flight, you purchase one ticket, which gives you an inbound and outbound flight.
  • Round-trip flights are most popular among tourists.
  • Booking a round-trip flight has many advantages over booking multiple one-way flights.
  • Most importantly, round-trip flights are almost always cheaper than multiple one-way flights, especially for international destinations.
  • Round trip flights are also more convenient for people who are only traveling a short time, such as for a vacation.
  • But round trip flights are less flexible and more expensive to alter. 

See Also: A Complete Guide to Airline Operations

Ella Dunham, a Freelance Travel Journalist and Marketing Manager, boasts an impressive career spanning eight years in the travel and tourism sectors.

Honored as one of "30 Under 30" by TTG Media (the world’s very first weekly travel trade newspaper), a "Tour Operator Travel Guru" and "Legend Award" winner, Ella is also a Fellow of the Institute of Travel, a Member of the Association of Women Travel Executives, has completed over 250 travel modules, and hosts travel-focused segments on national radio shows where she provides insights on travel regulations and destinations.

Ella has visited over 40 countries (with 10 more planned this year).