How to Buy an Open-Ended Airfare Ticket
When you're packing a sense of adventure with you on your travels, it can be a downer to know that the end of the trip is nigh. If you want a bit more flexibility in your departure time, one option is to purchase an open-ended or "flexible return" airplane ticket that allows you to choose when you come home. But even if you do manage to find an open-ended ticket that isn't exorbitantly expensive, know that it's not totally open-ended -- most tickets of this sort must be redeemed within six months to a year.
Do some comparison shopping online to view the prices for regular tickets from a few different airlines and a few different booking agents, just to get a vague idea of what you'd be paying by going the more traditional route. Don't purchase anything just yet.
Call the reservations desk for the airlines that fly to your destination. Ask about open-ended tickets, and provide them your departure and arrival cities, your departure date and an estimate of when you will return.
Make a decision about the most economical way to keep a flexible date. If you find open-ended tickets cost much more than the regular fare, make a regular reservation and plan to pay the change fee later. If the price quoted for the open-ended ticket is less than the change-fee amount, purchase the open-ended ticket from the agent.
Keep your confirmation numbers handy during your trip, so you can either change your return date or book your return flight with your open-ended ticket.
When you book your flight, be sure to read the fine print, so you know whether there are restrictions on how you can use your ticket. If you do decide to get a traditional reservation and change it later, be sure you get a ticket that can be changed -- not a "non-transferable" ticket.