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We were at the Brisbane, Australia airport checking in for our overseas flight to Auckland when the gate agent stopped us cold.

“You can’t enter New Zealand on a one-way ticket so you can’t check in for this flight,” she said.

This was a new wrinkle. Since we are traveling around the world with no set itinerary, we have no idea when, or from which city, we will be leaving a particular country. So far we’ve been buying a series of one-way tickets and hadn’t encountered this obstacle before. We had read that Australia required an outbound ticket but no one asked us for one so we entered there with no problem.

 The gate agent said that if Customs in New Zealand caught us entering without a ticket we would be deported back to the United States and the airline would have to pay a penalty. That seemed kind of harsh. Traveling 8,000 miles back to the US would definitely put a crimp in our travel plans so we scrambled around at the airport to buy an exit ticket from New Zealand.

Flight Centre saves the day

Fortunately we found the glowing orange sign of Flight Centre in the terminal. Flight Centre is an Aussie-based travel agent that seems to be on every block. In caffeine-crazed Auckland there are more Flight Centres than there are Starbucks; that’s not an exaggeration, we counted them.

At this point we needed to get the ticket quickly or we would miss our flight and be out the money we had spent for it. The cheerful Roxy (pictured above with Little Rocky) at Flight Centre was great to work with. She helped both us and a young American backpacker who also needed to purchase an outbound ticket. (This made us feel a bit better that we weren’t the only ones who didn’t know the rules.) Roxy explained that this happens all the time. We also learned that her husband hails from Downingtown, Pennsylvania, a suburb of our hometown of Philadelphia. Small world.

Since one of the purposes of our journey is to meander around the globe and stay longer at those places that intrigue us, it was difficult to select a flight for some time in the future. We ended up randomly guessing a day. If we find that we love New Zealand we are locked in to leaving earlier than we would like, and New Zealand is out some much-needed tourism dollars. It seems to be a case where those who make the rules are not taking other consequences into account.

We bought the outbound tickets secure in the knowledge that we would withstand rigorous inspection by New Zealand customs and would not be kicked out of the country. The funny thing though, when we went through Customs in Auckland the agent just asked us if we had an outbound ticket, we said “Yes” and that was that. We didn’t have to show the ticket or prove we had it. Oh well.

Earlier, the gate agent in Brisbane had also explained that 99% of the countries in the world, including the United States, require an outbound ticket. So be aware of the specific rules for entering different countries on your travels. We thought we were fairly savvy travelers before this incident happened but you never know what unexpected hurdle may pop up in your path.

UPDATE:

Once we got to New Zealand we had a great time. In Auckland we may have had the world’s best gelato.