This is an advanced topic on round the world tickets and one I wanted to address early on. Most people aren’t prepared to take a journey around the world – I certainly understand that. There are too many things preventing a trip like this (time, money, job, obligations, etc.). So, many people can’t do this without some serious planning and preparation. But I wanted to make you aware of the availability of such a ticket so you could consider it – if and when the time comes.
An around the world journey is really nothing but a series of stops in and through airports. So I think it makes sense to see how you can travel the world using the cheapest and most flexible options available to you. I have been surprised to learn that most people I talk to about Round-the-World tickets (RTW) had no idea such a thing even existed. So this post is really for those of you who didn’t know anything about RTW fares. If you might be considering such a trip, you will want to do some thorough research and choose the best ticketing solution you can. One size does not fit all, so be sure to do your homework. A lot of the fun of a RTW trip is planning the route and trying to squeeze every benefit out of the ticket you’ll eventually be purchasing. You can realize some great savings on expensive routes by adding them to your itinerary. I get many hours of pleasure out of planning a trip like this. It’s a big puzzle just waiting for you to solve it!
So what options are out there for a round the world ticket? There are two good choices for you to consider. Both have pros and cons. Let’s take a look at them and you can decide which is right for you:
Star Alliance – This is an alliance of airlines that you can use to book flights to all points in the world. The tickets are based on mileage. Currently, they offer mileage-based tickets with a maximum of 16 flights. You’ll pay based on how many total miles you fly. And you can take up to a year to complete travel.
The Round the World fare includes mileage of up to 29,000, 34,000 or 39,000 miles. There is a Special Economy Round the World fare that includes up to 26,000 miles. You will use the fare tool (it’s really cool and could become addictive if you’re not careful!) to select your city itinerary. The segments and mileage are added for you and you can see how many total miles you will be charged. The trick is to get as many flights out of as few miles as possible. You can play with the cities you will visit and in which order to get as close to the next mileage tier without going over. Read the fare rules and make sure you understand them before you book.
You can also get a Circle Pacific fare, as well as Air passes for Asia, China, Africa, Europe and North America. This lets you focus on a smaller part of the world, but still move around and see everything you want to experience.
OneWorld – Also an alliance offering RTW tickets. Their tickets (called oneworld Explorer) are segment-based, meaning you will get a certain number of flight segments to use on your trip around the world. Use the segments wisely and you can visit some pretty sweet destinations that would otherwise be very expensive. There is also a distance option that you can select also, called Global Explorer. This option provides access to even more air carriers. Mileage is available at 26,000, 29,000, 34,000 and 39,000 miles. And be sure to check out the Multi-Continent fares if you only want to travel within a specific area.
Both of the above RTW tickets are flexible, in that changes are allowed if you want to make them as you go along in your trip (and you will have changes to make, so this is huge). There are some other changes that will cost you, so read the rules before you buy and stay well informed. This is a big investment, but it can be WAY cheaper that buying individual tickets if you do your homework.
The secret to using RTW tickets is to plan ahead and make smart choices. It’s cheaper to start your journey from some countries other than North America and Europe. Usually, starting from places like Korea and Japan will save you a significant amount of money. Use the RTW tools to try some different itineraries and get cost estimates. Save your work and you’ll be able to pull them up later. Find the perfect ticket and get going!
As I said at the beginning of this post – this is an advanced travel topic and it will take a lot of time to familiarize yourself with the ins and the outs of RTW ticketing. But for some of you, it could be the answer you’ve been looking for. My son-in-law is planning to take a year-long trip sometime in the next 6 to 8 years or so. He said he had never heard of RTW tickets when I started talking about them. Now, he’s more excited than ever to take that trip one day soon.
OK – so now I’d like to hear from anyone who has done the RTW ticket thing. Details please! What did you like or dislike and what advice do YOU have to offer?
P.S. Amazon.com has some good books on the subject of RTW travel. Pick up a copy and read about some of the ways you can travel the world and see it all for yourself.