How to Buy a Round-the-World Plane Ticket (That Kicks Ass)

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(Photo: Norman B. Leventhal Map Center)

Chris Guillebeau travels the world and writes for a small army of remarkable people at The Art of Non-Conformity blog. He is a master of clever air travel (among other things), and this is a guest post on perfecting one of the rare gems that can truly change your life: Round-the-World (RTW) tickets.

Enter Chris…

——

To outsiders, buying a Round-the-World plane ticket is a mysterious process. How does it work? Where can you go? How much does it cost? Unlike buying a simple one-way or round-trip ticket, you don’t just go to Kayak and click the “Everywhere” tab. (You don’t have to look – there is no such thing.)

Over the past three years I’ve spent at least 60 hours, probably more by now, learning the ins and outs of Round-the-World travel. In this post, I’ll explain a) why Round-the-World tickets can be an excellent value even if you’re not trying to visit every country in the world like I am, b) how to plan your trip, c) how much it costs, d) 7 bonus tips on optimization.

The Time Investment

Planning and shopping for a Round-the-World (RTW) ticket is a labor-intensive process. If you don’t enjoy planning a short trip, you’ll find it much more difficult to plan a complicated RTW itinerary. Personally, I enjoy the process, but then again, I also like airports and flying.

Also, before you can actually buy a Round-the-World ticket, you need to be willing to do all these things:

- Spend a couple of hours of initial reading
- Spend at least a couple of hours planning and optimizing
- Place an initial phone call (usually at least 30 minutes) setting up the trip
- Place a secondary phone call a few days later after the ticket has been validated
- Make any adjustments due to lack of availability or invalid routings
- Arrange to pay for the ticket with a local office in the originating country (this step may be optional, depending on how you structure the trip)

Those are the minimum “time costs” for getting a Round-the-World trip set up well. Keep in mind that you can use a RTW ticket for up to a full year, so taking the time to do it well is important. The value I receive from my tickets well exceeds the planning time it requires, but as noted, the practice is not for everyone.

Good Reasons to Use Round-the-World Tickets

If you’re willing and able to invest your time, the benefits you’ll receive from using these kinds of tickets are significant.

– Tremendous Value. RTW tickets are not especially cheap (see below for a cost outline), but a well-optimized ticket can provide value far beyond what it would cost to otherwise buy a series of one-way tickets.
– Freedom and Flexibility. I change my flights all the time, and with RTW tickets, it’s easy. Date and time changes are free, and you can make changes anytime — from far in advance all the way up to the day of departure. For a fee, you can even reroute the entire ticket after you’ve begun the trip.
– One Full Year. You get an entire year to use the ticket, which means that you can have up to 365 days of going from place to place, or you can get even more creative like I do and spread out the ticket into a series of shorter trips by finding a way to come home in the middle.
– Miles and Elite Status. I carry the highest-level elite status in two airlines thanks to my RTW travel. I also earned more than 200,000 Frequent Flyer miles with American Airlines in 2009, thanks to double-mileage bonuses and a lot of time in the air. With the status, I’m now first on the upgrade list, can hang out in nice airline lounges around the world, and don’t have to wait on hold when I call the airline.
– Creative Opportunities to Travel. You can get to a lot of places in the world with simple round-trip tickets, but because RTW tickets are priced by mileage or by segment, you can visit destinations that are otherwise cost-prohibitive when using regular tickets.

What to Do First

If you know this is what you want to do, or even if you’re just curious and want to create a sample itinerary, start by downloading these two free tools:

Star Alliance Mileage Calculator
OneWorld Timetable and Itinerary Planner

Spend some time getting to understand how they work. You’ll also want to check out the OneWorld interactive route map and the Star Alliance Downloadable Timetables to better understand where you can go.

WARNING: This software can be hazardous to your productivity. Many a workday has been lost at World Domination HQ because of the attraction of these tools. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Next, you need to answer a few questions: where do you want to go? What’s the goal of your trip? How much time do you have?

Star Alliance versus OneWorld

Each airline alliance has its own rules for how the ticket works. The one from Star Alliance is mileage based, meaning you’ll have a limit of 26,000, 29,000, 34,000 or 39,000 miles on your ticket. The trick here is to optimize your route to where you are just below one of the tiers, getting the best possible value without spending more money than necessary. (A friend of mine got his itinerary to 33,998 miles, which I thought was pretty good.)

The OneWorld product is segment-based, meaning that a flight from Hong Kong to New York (11 hours) is the same as a flight from Chicago to Dallas (less than 2 hours). You can have up to 16 segments on the trip, and naturally, you’ll want to optimize for flights that would be fairly expensive when purchasing a standard ticket.

I get even more creative with my plans, involving overland trips, return journeys to my home base in Portland, Oregon, and having multiple tickets open at one time. You don’t have to be that imaginative; I’ve been doing this for a while. Even a fairly basic RTW ticket can yield significant benefits and travel opportunities you wouldn’t otherwise have.

How Much Does it Cost?

The cost for either product mentioned above varies from $3,000 to $10,000 – largely dependent on travel class, mileage tier (Star Alliance only) and where you begin the trip from. My tickets over the past few years have been almost exactly $5,000 each. I purchased two of them last year, and I’m trying to set up a new one for early 2011.

$3,000+ is a lot of money, of course, but when you consider all the flights you can take, the price per segment goes way down. My price-per-segment is about $300 (now $400), and this includes many long-haul flights that would otherwise cost thousands of dollars.

For example, here is an itinerary I used for my first OneWorld RTW ticket:

NRT-HKG-LAX-SJO-LAX-ORD-SEA-JFK-SCL-IPC-SCL-EZE-ORD-AMM-TUN-AMM-FCO-HKG-NRT

This 18-segment itinerary, purchased before the limit dropped to 16, included:

- A trip to Easter Island, usually quite pricey since there’s only one easy way to get there (through South America on LAN Chile or LAN Peru)
- A visit to North Africa and the Middle East, another pricey region
- A quick trip down to Costa Rica, which provided more miles than most U.S. flights would have offered
- A return to Seattle (in between Asia and South America) where I could stop and break up the trip for a while
- Base mileage of 54,894 miles, which when added to a number of bonuses I received, came up to nearly 100,000 total award miles
- When combined with overland trips on location (to Uruguay from Argentina, to San Marino from Rome, etc.) the chance to visit 10 countries from this one ticket

Geographic Advantage

You can get the best deal on Round-the-World tickets by departing from (and eventually returning to) a few specific countries where the price is much lower than leaving from North America or Europe. Which countries? Well, they change from time to time, but as of the time I’m writing this (October 2010), the best places are South Korea, South Africa, Mauritius, Sri Lanka, and Indonesia.

Yes, it takes some work to get there. If those are too far, Japan is also a decent choice, where I began that first RTW trip. And of course, you don’t have to begin from a faraway place. If you don’t mind paying a fair amount more (usually $2000-4000), you can begin from North America or wherever you live. To get the estimate cost for your trip based on travel class, number of miles (Star Alliance only) and departing country, complete a mock itinerary on either of the two online fare calculators. You can then switch the departing country around to see how it compares with other options.

Reservations

Finally, when you actually get ready to buy your ticket, you’ll need to do two steps that may or may not be easy:

1. Create your itinerary. Until very recently, RTW itineraries usually had to be phoned in to an airline desk to set up manually. Thankfully, you can now set up a RTW itinerary online most of the time. In some cases there may be quirks in the itinerary that are allowed but not recognized by the online system, in which case you’ll need to phone it in. To at least get started online, use these links:

Star Alliance
OneWorld

If phoning it in, plan for the process to take at least half an hour once you get someone on the phone. It is much easier with OneWorld, since they have a dedicated RTW desk operated by American Airlines. With Star Alliance airlines, you may need to talk to several people before you find someone who knows how to create the itinerary in their system.

2. Find a way to pay for the ticket. I don’t mean, “Save the money,” although that of course is important too. I mean, “Find out how to physically pay for the ticket.” This is easy if you are buying online or are already in the country you are departing from. If you live in the U.S. and want to depart from the U.S., for example, then you can pay for the ticket after it is “rated” by the airline desk. In this case, you wait a few days after first phoning in the itinerary, and then call back to pay with your credit card.

If you’re beginning the trip in another country, it’s a bit more complicated. In some cases, you’ll need to phone the airline’s office in the country. I used Skype to do this last year with AA Japan. Some airline reps in overseas locations are more helpful than others, and of course there can be a language barrier as well. A certain amount of persistence may be required, but you can also get lucky and have it done in 20 minutes with the right rep on the right day.

7 Tips to Help Plan Your Trip

1. If using OneWorld, here is a very helpful validator that can help check your itinerary before going to book. It can also suggest alternative cities for more mileage.

2. Due to a quirk in airline rules, some countries in North Africa are defined as being in Europe for the purposes of ticket validation. You can visit Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, or even Sudan as part of the “European” portion of your trip.

3. Similarly, “North America” includes the Caribbean and parts of Central America. You can visit Panama, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Belize, Honduras, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and several other stops during the North America portion.

4. If you don’t know how you’ll use certain segments, you can book them as “open” (so that the ticket can be issued) and add the dates later. You won’t have to pay a change fee when you add the dates.

5. London’s Heathrow (LHR) airport has very high taxes. If you can avoid it, or use it for transit only (less than 24 hours), you’ll save quite a bit.

6. Most of the time, you won’t want to use Frequent Flyer miles for a Round-the-World trip. Instead, you can get better value by redeeming miles for two round-trip tickets between continents. You’ll then effectively have two RTWs for the price of one.

7. People often ask which airline program is best for them. It all depends on where you travel and what your goals are, but if forced to make a recommendation I usually send people to the AAdvantage program from American Airlines. Even if you don’t live in the U.S., AA’s program can help you. If you prefer Star Alliance, then most programs are equal.

8. Use at least part of your RTW ticket to visit destinations that are otherwise prohibitively expensive to purchase. Among others, I’ve gone to Kurdistan (Iraq), Pakistan, Burma, and Uganda as part of my RTW tickets. Each of these places is fairly expensive to travel to on a simpler ticket.

What to Watch Out for

I spent a couple hours writing out this information because I frequently get questions about booking RTW tickets, and while I try to respond to each request individually, I also like to send people to an online resource for more reading. When I went to look for more resources on Google, the majority of the first-page results for “Round-the-World plane ticket” and related terms contained inaccurate information from a biased source. How do you know the sources are biased? Because many of them lead visitors to book through an online travel agency where they receive commission.

When it comes to Round-the-World tickets, this is one time when it’s actually better to buy from the airlines instead of a travel agent or other reseller. Since these tickets aren’t usually commissionable (the travel agent doesn’t get paid much to issue them), some agents will play dumb or try to steer you towards an alternative kind of ticket.

If that’s what you want, of course, there’s nothing unethical about it. There are some situations when a DIY trip will be better, but in many other situations the alliance tickets are the best bet. I tend to think most people want the best kind of ticket for the lowest possible price, and once you understand how the process works, the OneWorld and Star Alliance products can be great options.

I hope to see you somewhere on a future Round-the-World stop. I’ll be in the lounge with my MacBook, probably responding to emails or planning a future trip.

###

If you’ve ever fantasized about taking time off to globe-trot, I would highly recommend Rolf Pott’s Vagabonding. It is one of only two books I took with me when I traveled the world for 18 months. Outside Magazine founding editor Tim Cahill calls Vagabonding “the most sensible book of travel related advice ever written.”

I recently partnered with Rolf to release the exclusive audiobook for Vagabonding. For more on this incredible book, click here.

Follow Chris’ live updates from every country in the world on Twitter. Be sure to also check out his new book, The Art of Non-Conformity, for which he’s currently visiting 50 states and 10 provinces. And I thought I traveled a lot!

Afterword: Some additional comments from Chris in the comments:

@Matt, yes, you have to go in one rough direction (East–>West or vice versa). However, the rule is based on regions, not strict geography – so you can bounce around in any given region before moving on.

@Muir, in addition to RTW tickets I also do a lot of Frequent Flyer (award) tickets. So in my case, often I’ll travel on a RTW ticket for a while, then go home to Seattle/Portland for a few weeks on a different ticket. I then return to the last point in the RTW trip and keep going. I’ve also done this with two separate RTW tickets, but that can get complicated.

@Enzo, being based in the UK (or anywhere else) shouldn’t affect much with RTW planning. The process is similar no matter where you are.

@Boris, you’re right – HKG-JFK should be 15 hours. My fault.

QOD: What is the greatest travel deal (airfare, housing, recreation, or otherwise) that you ever chanced into or made happen?

Posted on: October 8, 2010.

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202 comments on “How to Buy a Round-the-World Plane Ticket (That Kicks Ass)

  1. I’m not sure if I’ll ever do this, but it would be a pretty kick ass way plan a trip. The cost actually less than what I would expect.

    Thanks for the article, Tim, I’m going to bookmark this one for future reference. :)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. AWE-SOME!

    When I saw that Tim was featuring Chris on the blog today my mind was blown even before I began reading! You guys have helped me in the past 2 years create a life that I never imagined would or could happen. From leaving my job, to working on things that matter, I am forever grateful to you both!

    And not only that, but the travel tips are perfectly-timed, as my next Dreamline sheet involves quite a good bit of air travel!

    Thanks Tim, and thanks Chris!

    - Josh

    P.S. – The best travel deal that I’ve come across (I’m a rookie at this) was the first time I used our credit card reward points for a free flight for my wife and I on JetBlue. Not impressive by mosts’ standards, but enough to make me happy and want to do it again! :)

    Like

  3. Thanks for the tips and advice.
    I really want to go on a round the world trip.
    I was recommended to do this a few years back, but didn’t go.
    I am regretting it since.

    Like

  4. It’s quarter to 1 in the morning here. How dare you? Now I have to research RTW tickets for 2 adults and one infant. And I’m only halfway to finding my muse… and halfway around the world already.

    Like

  5. Thanks Tim,

    I agree that this is definitely an under-utilized tool.

    Last year my wife and I had the idea to get “married around the world” by buying a RTW ticket and bringing a tux/wedding dress (respectively) and blogging about the whole trip as we went. We thought about getting a sponsor, but thought that the “Mike and Katie Sprite-Around-The-World-Wedding” sounded tacky (or something similar). I’m sure you would’ve done it otherwise, but we had fun.

    Anyway, if anyone’s interested, we talk a lot about our planning, actual travel, and of course the hilarious stories we experienced during the VERY fast MONTH in which we did the trip. Visiting so many places was exhausting, but pretty cool. Don’t forget to check out our blog! It’s pretty funny (I’m a little biased).

    [link at name]

    Thanks again Tim – great topic to discuss and great post!

    Like

  6. Two travel maestros joining forces = awesome.

    Thanks for sharing this Chris. I was already familiar with this from your FFM/Travel Ninja reports, but it seems you’ve fleshed it out even more here, which is great.

    My best deal in my humble travel experiences so far was snagging $200 round-trip tickets from Chicago to US Virgin Islands a day-and-a-half before flying out. I thought it was normal until some people there replied in awe that it costs almost $600 round trip just to fly b/w there and Dominican Republic, not to mention freakin’ Chicago :)

    Hope your book tour continues to kick ass Chris, and thanks Tim for letting Chris share his expertise here (ordered 4-Hour Body btw),
    Oleg

    Like

  7. This is awesome! I plan on taking an around the world trip in one year from now. Right now I am making the money to pay for the trip and getting rid of everything that I don’t 100% need for my survival. Learning to live the minimalist lifestyle and preparing to learn more about the world.

    Thanks for the guide Chris!

    The best travel deal I have found was a $49 round-trip ticket from an airport 30 mins from my parents house to the current city in Florida that I am living in. I’ve since seen $22 flights up there but want to find a super deal on my around the world trip!

    Like

  8. “WARNING: This software can be hazardous to your productivity. Many a workday has been lost at World Domination HQ because of the attraction of these tools. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.”

    Wow you weren’t kidding!! Thank you so much for all this information it’s definitely a great resource for getting into traveling the world!

    Like

  9. Man I love this blog. I saw Chris’ book on Amazon a few days ago and didn’t bother clicking on it to see what it was about. Guest post = book sale. Great information here Chris, can’t wait to see what else is in the book!

    Like

  10. Hey
    I did not read the post yet as it is Friday in Israel and it’s time to go for the family Shabas dinner… But, my heart almost stopped when I read the 1st paragraph as Chris is one of the people I love and respect and you Tim is by far one of the people that have made the most deferent in my life!!!!!!
    So pre reading (All thou I know what Chris have to say in the matter) I thank you both so much! my life would not be the same with out you.
    Shabat Shalom = good (fucking) shabath.

    Tim any chance you can help me with the link to the music track from random episode 13 in the trampoline??? please… I try anything I know to do to find it BUT didn’t.

    Like

  11. I would definitely recommend picking up a copy of Chris’ book. He is a great, genuine helpful guy (he was on my show this week and had a chance to meet him in St. Louis during his book tour last week).

    He is really moving and shaking and more importantly has a great message we can all learn from.

    Like

  12. Ha! I was wondering how long it would be before you made your way around the world to Tim’s site. Great to finally see you here, Chris!

    And yes, Tim, thanks for having him. (By the way, it would totally go against your 4-Hour philosophy to do the whole “every U.S. State and every Canadian Province” book tour the way Chris is, so perhaps you could just make a special trip out to Kentucky. Much appreciated.)

    -Marshall Jones Jr.

    Like

  13. This is fantastic information. I’d love to do this sooner rather than later.

    My best deal was during my wife and my honeymoon backpacking trip to Europe. We were flying from Amsterdam to Vienna and tickets were going go be $360 each. I ended up doing some research we flew from Amsterdam to Bratislava for $60 each and followed that up with a $27 ride on a high-speed catamaran 55 miles up the Danube River. It was an amazing experience to walk around Bratislava, see the Slovakian/Austrian countryside, and save over $250 in the process.

    Like

  14. Thanks for the great post! It comes at just the right time for me, as I’m planning a trip around Asia (and possibly the rest of the world) during the first part of 2011.

    I do have one question on something that was mentioned in the post, but never explained: Chris mentions that he sometimes comes home in the middle of this trip, effectively splitting his RTW ticket into multiple trips. How does that work?

    Like

  15. Great post Chris. Do you (or you Tim) know about Airtreks? It is a RWT website, based in San Francisco. I used them a few years ago when I taught in Korea, and they were very affordable and easy to deal with. They also have an online trip planner that can get pretty addictive (I just tried it out again for fun, and I got quoted between $5500-$7500 for a trip with 16 stops…and it even gives you an alternative route with more stops, that costs a little more, but is a better overall value).

    Cheers,
    Chris

    Like

  16. My best travel deal:

    Waiting for a train in Baltimore, I carried two large suitcases down a flight of stairs for a woman who was having difficulty managing. I noticed she had a British accent, so I told her I was visiting the U.K. for the first time in a few months. She offered me a free room in her flat while I was in London, which turned out to be quite comfortable accommodations in a very posh neighbourhood. Those 2 minutes of heavy lifting saved me hundreds of dollars in hotel costs.

    Moral: Always help overburdened ladies with their luggage.

    Like

  17. Reading all the worshipping comments, I almost think you do not even need a plane……

    Nevertheless a very good post with valuable info, thanks for that.

    Let’s live a little,
    Niels

    Like

  18. Thanks so much for making sense of the RTW ticket. Really want to purchase one, this article helped a ton.

    The best deal I’ve ever received? Signed up my parents’ house phone # for a rewards card at a supermarket. Got something like 250 miles for every $100 spent. about 2 years later, i checked my mileage account and found that i had amassed about 80,000 miles. As it turned out, my brother and his friends also used the phone number to make purchases… it had been the default number for about 30 people (give or take) to get discounts on groceries.

    I bought a ticket to beijing, china on mileage points. After a week, I was picked up off the street to teach English for 10 days at Tsinghua University (they were desperate since the assigned teacher fell ill just 24 hours before classes began). When it came time for payment, I was told to submit my travel itinerary (from the US to China) … even though I explained that my ticket had already been taken care of, I was fully “reimbursed.” So I bought a ticket to Chengdu, hung out for a few days, then made it into Tibet.. on to Kathmandu, Nepal… and finally Delhi, India and thereabouts.

    I paid $30.71 (taxes) to travel across Asia.

    Like

    • Wow-I am inspired – !!!
      I am planning on taking my two children (12&15) on a RTW next year and am in the starting phase :) Noobie that is. I have not quite ever done a RTW but have probably 500K under my belt between US-EU-Africa-South America-Carribean etc…My two children have been going to Europe 1-2x’s per year ever since they turned 2.5 years old so they both already have extensive flying experience. This will be our BD gift for next Summer – Planning on 6 weeks all told for the Trip…
      God Bless you RTW addicts…:) perhaps we’ll meet somewhere down the line….Best of Travels

      Tom-Emily&Ian

      Like

  19. I’ve been waiting/hoping for this article for a long time! I’ve had the itch to nab a RTW ticket for a good while. And with my new, found know-how perhaps I will sometime soon.

    I’m curious though, must you only travel in one direction (east-to-west or west-to-east)? Perhaps this plays into your ability to travel home mid-trip.

    Also, do you get one ticket and keep that the entire time? That might be a silly detail, but I’ve always wondered how the airlines (who are by no means efficient or tech pioneers) track you and your ticket. It seems like it could turn into a logistical nightmare!

    Tim, with your vagabonding addiction, have you experimented with RTW tickets yourself? What would you say is the chief benefit from such a ticket?

    Thanks for the inspiration Chris, and Tim for posting.

    Matt

    Like

  20. Best. Travel Article. Ever! :D

    Chris and Tim – Thank you so much for this. I was literally just thinking about some extended travel in the next year. I really couldn’t see the use of a RTW ticket. I assumed that I’d have to set a schedule and wouldn’t be able to travel at my own pace. Now I know that this could be a great option.

    I’m surprised that Korea is one of the cheap departure destinations. When I lived there travel was crazy expensive. But, nonetheless, happy to hear it as I’d love to make Korea my jump off point.

    The best travel deal I stumbled onto was a 14 day all-inclusive resort vacay including air travel to Cuba which, with taxes, was around $800 per person.

    The worst trip I had to pay for was a $2500 round trip ticket from Seoul to Calgary in peak season. I still regret it 4 years later. Now I regret it even more because for a little more $ I could have had a round-the-world ticket. :p

    Alles liebe!

    Like

  21. Great information. I always wanted to try a round the world cruise as well. Although, more ridged, which is a serious downside, it may be more relaxing experience not having to deal with airports.

    Like

  22. QOD answer:

    couchsurfing.org
    A free place to stay and you get to meet very cool, open minded individuals who are more than happy to open their arms and show you their world. Its amazing

    Like

  23. Love the travel posts like this Tim. It’s the articles like this that keeps me motivated to keep plugging along to get to a point where it’s possible for me to live a happier life. Made some huge strides in the last 6 months but still have a ways to go. Many thanks to you for steering me in the right direction!

    Like

  24. Hey guys,

    Tim – thanks again for having me here.

    Everyone else – thanks for reading. A few quick comments are below, and I’ll try to jump in more later if needed.

    @Matt, yes, you have to go in one rough direction (East–>West or vice versa). However, the rule is based on regions, not strict geography – so you can bounce around in any given region before moving on.

    @Muir, in addition to RTW tickets I also do a lot of Frequent Flyer (award) tickets. So in my case, often I’ll travel on a RTW ticket for a while, then go home to Seattle/Portland for a few weeks on a different ticket. I then return to the last point in the RTW trip and keep going. I’ve also done this with two separate RTW tickets, but that can get complicated.

    @Enzo, being based in the UK (or anywhere else) shouldn’t affect much with RTW planning. The process is similar no matter where you are.

    @Boris, you’re right – HKG-JFK should be 15 hours. My fault.

    OK, all for now…

    Like

  25. Best deal I ever got was a complete accident, because I had the luxury of being exceptionally flexible in my ability to fly home. I had purchased a round trip coach ticket Newark to Shanghai and back for $1300. Not spectacular. 14.5 hours in coach is just about the closest thing to hell I’ve ever experienced. After spending a fabulous month in Shanghai, it was time to return home, only my return flight was grounded back in the states due to equipment problems.

    After standing on line in the terminal at Pudong for a good 4 hours, I finally get to the kiosk. I hand the attendant a list of cities I could easily fly into and make my way home (to Long Island, NY) from and asked for the best possible seats on one of those (there was the opportunity to fly coach the next day back to Newark, but I wanted to see what I could milk the airline for, just for the hell of it). She pulled up a flight (first class!) to Chicago, and gave me a voucher for the two additional nights I had to stay in Shanghai to make that flight. I effectively paid $650 for two nights in Shanghai, unlimited free food during that time, and first class seating. Of course, that’s the optimist in me speaking, flight cancellations aren’t usually a good thing. :D

    Like

  26. Just sussed out Oneworld’s trip calculator and you get a 6 continent RTW ticket for $5000 AUD/USD. Since it just cost me $2200 for a return ticket to Mongolia from Brisbane, that is awesome value…

    Like

  27. Thanks for sharing that The price for the RTW ticket is actually much cheaper than I had ever imagined! To be honest it’s not my cup of tea, I’d rather just go somewhere and spend 6months to a year in each location, but I can see that it’ll be an awesome adventure for others!

    Like

  28. GREAT article, Tim! Love this kind of stuff, always useful to me as I am really getting more and more into traveling…Will be taking a multi-trip around the world next summer myself, will be great to use Chris’s info as reference and see what kind of awesome itinerary I can come up with…thanks!

    Like

  29. To your QOD.

    The best deal I’ve ever found was a $320 all-inclusive hotel, air, food, drinks from Oakland to Cancun with Suntrips (when they existed). Got 10 of my college buddies and we left for a 4 night 5 day trip! It was a great last minute deal.

    Like

  30. Great, great, great article !

    oh dear… with that RTW ticket thing it will be hard to resist the call…
    Guess I really should buy a new suitcase ^_^.

    Awesome work, both of you.

    Keep it up !

    Like

  31. RTW tickets are useful. But not as good for trips exceeding 12 months. As if you want more time in a country, you have to loose time somewhere else.

    At the end of my 1400 day trip, I scored the following tickets – all individual tickets

    Total Cost: $752USD / 514 Euros / 448 GBP / $933 AUD

    San Francisco – via Atlanta – Dublin (Best Deal of the route $234)
    Dublin – London
    London – Kuala Lumpur
    Kuala Lumpur – Melbourne
    Melbourne – Newcastle (AUS)

    One thing not mentioned in the post, generally overland segments ( not flying ) are still counted in your milage.

    For long term extended travel I recommend indivudual tickets purchased as you go along. It gives you 100% freedom to partake in adventures you discover along the way. And you end up having some really amazing/weird travel routes based on cheap flights!

    I did take a RTW ticket in the first 12 months of my trip. It was great as a sampler trip, and kept me moving along.

    My blog has all my trip details..

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  32. I can’t believe your posting this, I’m in Malaysia in the middle of doing this right now

    In my experience thus far the best way to do it (cheap) is to scour the discount airlines with a flexible schedule. It takes some playing around with and certain routes are always much cheeper then others but there are some incredible deals to be had.

    I’m flying on Air Asia (worlds lowest cost airline 3 years running) on October 13 from Kuala Lumper to London for 590 Malaysian Ringgit or just under $190 US. That’s for 10,000Km flight is just awesome value. I’m also told the Air Asia offers free alcohol to all passengers so should be exciting

    In the last 7 months i’ve seen Australia, Fiji, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia and next week England using this method and had the time of my life without breaking the bank

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  33. An earlier poster (Muir Adams) had asked how Chris gets home in the middle of his RTW trip. I’m not Chris, but I believe the answer is implied in tip #6 of his post. For example, let’s say he originally left from Portland and was in South Africa on his RTW ticket, flying East. He could then use his frequent flier miles to buy two round trip tickets, say, Johannesburg to Sydney and Sydney to Portland. He flies from Johannesburg to Sydney, hangs out for awhile, then flies to Portland. When it’s time to get back on the road, he flies Portland to Sydney, optionally hangs out in Australia for awhile again, and then flies Sydney back to Johannesburg. Once he is back in Johannesburg, he picks up where he left off flying East on his original RTW ticket. To optimize this kind of option, you should check on frequent flier cost for those in between legs. For example, if you are planning to see Tokyo and Sydney, use the frequent flier miles on whichever one is cheaper to get to that way, and use the RTW ticket to get to the other.

    I do have a few comments/suggestions about this kind of travel. First, if you are only going to take one trip RTW at a time, fly East. You’ll save yourself about 6 hours in flight time going with with wind. Second, if you have the time, try and decide where you want to go before you get started, and figure out which alliance has better connections. For example, either one can get you from South America to Africa, but one might fly you there directly, and the other will route you through Europe first. Now if you are trying to get the most possible frequent flier miles and like spending time on the plane, you might want to go through Europe. Me, I’d rather fly the direct route. I found theairdb.com to be very handy for this type of research. Third, get a credit card for the major airline you are flying on, as you can get lots of perks, like free checked bags or lounge access, plus lot of bonus miles for using it to pay for any charges you do incur. Watch out for annual mileage caps on the card though.

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  34. Great information Chris!

    Now we have a place to send people who ask us about RTW tickets. We often get that since we are encouraging people and families to really go for their dream journey which for many is just a trip around the world. But our experience of this is so much more limited than yours…

    By the way I just ordered your book and I am looking forward to reading it :)

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  35. Hey Chris, (or Tim)

    I’m looking to get a personal and business travel credit card and I’m trying to decide which is the best one?

    Do you have a favorite?

    Maybe a post on milking the travel points for optimal destination world travel benefits?

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  36. What, no love for SkyTeam? My wife and I traveled RTW on SkyTeam in 07 and while their airlines are not as nice as OneWorld or Star, the rates are cheaper. We went business class RTW for 220,000 miles (which, incidentally we bought from a “friend”). Total price per ticket was $4200.

    I have a mostly hate relationship with Delta but once you get out of the US, the SkyTeam network is made up of decent airlines with good connectivity. The merger with Continental may improve that.

    SkyTeam has a dedicated RTW desk too.

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  37. > because RTW tickets are priced by mileage or by segment, you can visit destinations that are otherwise cost-prohibitive when using regular tickets.
    That sounds like the “why” behind it and a perfect driver.

    Like

  38. Great idea, and something to think about when planning trips overseas. Especially, when it can involve going to a place where the buying power of the currency goes farther.

    Does Chris get more travel points when he comes back in the middle of an around the world trip? Could a person double their points ?

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  39. I must not be getting how to use the calculator right. I just tried a bunch of times to make a RTW trip, starting in NY and going to 6 or so places, all west bound (iceland, amsterdam, bangkok, manila, los angeles, new orleans, back to ny) and the price is way higher than buying normal tickets.

    I understand the benefits of the ticket regarding its flexibility, but I’m not sure about the budgetary savings. I suppose I have to learn how to hack the system more/ Because right now it’s several thousand more for the privilege and I can’t see the flexibility being worth it (to me).

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  40. Tim and Chris,

    Thanks for ruining my Saturday. I spent the whole day exploring different combinations and permutations of RTW travel. This could be become an obsession and would have been suited for a weekday–a time when I could ignore my job rather than a waste a day off!

    Seriously though, really appreciate the information.

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  41. Great post Tim,

    It’s saved in my computer, right now.

    By the way, in december, I’ll start my plans to know differents places. I’m going to star in Dubai and Australia. If you know something to do in the 31 of december (reveillon), please, tell me… rs.

    Abraços

    Mônica

    Like

  42. Are you aware of your endorsement of the website shown on the link below? I feel this job is a scam including the website but I wanted to ask you about it further.

    [removed]

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  43. Ah, this is one of my dreams.

    I’m constantly downsizing my possessions and commitments to allow freedom to do things such as this.

    I just quit my job a few days ago. Either the best thing I’ve ever done or the biggest mistake I’ve made. It is too early to tell. But it is very relieving to not be working there anymore! I hated answering phones. So. Much.

    I’m officially poor now. Haha.

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  44. Tim – first time I’ve felt disappointed by one of your blogs. You are usually so practical, but this was just motherhood fluff. I suspect this was ghost written – have you outsourced your blog to your VA?

    The title was “How to Buy a RTW ticket.” Which is amazing because that’s exactly what I was doing online when your email email came through – trying to find a good website for buying RTW tickets (other than directly through Star Alliance and OneWorld).

    Your blog had useful links on planning, research and in fact everything OTHER than actually buying a ticket (online specifically). There isn’t a travel agent here that’s useful. What’s particularly frustrating is that the travel sits I usually book through (expedia, edreams, etc) don’t have a RTW page, making it quite hard to plan online.

    So I’ve spend the day researching and found a few useful links for online research, in addition to the alliance ones you mentioned.

    http://www.airtreks.com/ – they seem pretty useful and will customize a route not avilable from just OneWorld or Star Alliance.

    If you are in the UK try: http://www.roundtheworldexperts.co.uk/

    I’m sure there’s more, that’s just a start to be helpful. I’d love to hear back from you Tim in actually answering the question posed by your blog title, How to BUY rather than How to RESEARCH.

    cheers
    Simon

    PS don’t get me wrong dude, I’m a huge fan, I have bought boxes (literally) of your books for my mates and look forward to my autographed copy of the new book.

    Like

    • Hi Simon,

      No offense taken. Different people respond to different posts, and you’re feedback is perfectly valid. I didn’t “outsource” this post, but it was a guest post by Chris, as indicated at the top, so the voice would certainly be different.

      I’ll let Chris add his thoughts on purchasing if he’s still perusing the comments.

      Thanks again,

      Tim

      Like

  45. My husband and I booked two around the world tickets on Star Alliance and got married around the world last summer. The booking process was slightly annoying (mostly since the booking agents rarely get calls about these tickets and are not familiar with the process), but the overall experience was amazing. We had to change our itinerary a few times throughout the trip and everyone that we encountered was extremely helpful both on the phone and at the various airports. The one tip that I do have is SAVE YOUR BOARDING PASSES!!! Almost half of our miles were never credited to our accounts and it was a nightmare getting the problem resolved. Eventually everything was taken care of (almost a year later), but only because we saved every piece of paper along the way.

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  46. It is great to see two of my favorite “lifestyle design” coaches working together. Thanks Tim for bringing Chris on as a guest columnist. I read everything he writes, and have purchased many of his products.

    Like

  47. SkyTeam left out in the cold here. It’s not *A, but it can be ok. Doesn’t make much sense to use anything else as an ATL-based Delta frequent flier.

    On the note above re: the Continental merger improving Skyteam availability, Continental left SkyTeam about a year ago.

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  48. I’m so glad I found your book. You have changed my life so I want to offer you a few things that have changed mine… also keep in mind I’m 24 the best I have done is make 10k in a day and then euro-tripping for 3 weeks… and please don’t blame my theories on an extended stay in Amsterdam ;) but anyway, social-Darwinism is real and nature is something we must sync to if we want to reach our best potential. innovation is all that matters in my opinion, support (middle-class) is useful too, and the poor are either exiting or becoming innovators themselves. Conflict… even if it sucks, is creating innovation. Because overcoming that problem is what is innovative. And lastly this is my craziest theory but it was explained to me in life you want to be the Proton… not the neutron or electron. The electron spins around (employee), the neutron is close to the proton (like a manager) but the proton is in the middle inducing all its power. Okay and my best theory is that the biggest game on planet earth is the conversion of human failure into capital. Example: Fast food. They sell hamburgers, in reality they sell franchises on awesome real estate… but they’re basically taking delusions about self-image (fat people who eat big macs and think its fine) and making the end product a dividend for a shareholder. How is this for a context-shift? I could explain more and I will if you want.

    Now Mr. Ferris… I have a product I designed that is innovative and designed for people who want to have power over their subconscious mind during an activity that every single person engages in. it’s an app. and its pretty powerful, although it needs exposure and it launches in about 15 days. I would like your testimonial. Really, it will change your life as much as it will mine I promise that and if I’m wrong… we tried anyway.

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  49. That’s a very nice post featuring how to plan a round-the world trip. I am just curious, whether the author of this article also stayed at a hotel or just travels non-stop.

    I also like the flying aspect of travel but I don’t really enjoy passing through security at every single connection. If you have a laptop, a camera or other tech devices with you ( like all normal people in the world) checking in a flight is not the most fun process of the trip..

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  50. An around the world plane ticket may sound expensive. Let’s say you pay $10,000 for the ticket and spend another $30,000 on the trip over the course of an entire year. $40,000 is a lot of money…

    A year’s tuition at Stanford is $50,576.

    Where will you learn more, have the most rewarding experience, and make more high leverage business contacts?

    In the ivory tower or around the globe?

    Disclaimer: It’s also possible to travel the world and party the whole time. But you could do the same at Stanford.

    Your potential is only as promising as your mindset and objectives.

    Like

  51. Tim

    I would love to pre order a copy of the new book 9in fact 5 or 6 copies) – ideally the signed version – is this only available to your US based readers?

    Seems a shame to ignore your (vast army of ) non US followers

    Alan
    London UK

    Like

  52. Yes, I am amazed that you can actually do this. It might be expensive but it really is about what it’s worth to you. I have met people that have no interest in leaving the US ever. To me that sounds unbelievable but that’s the way some people are.

    I would love to do this and it is part of my lifes mission so the price of this would be totally worth it…because it is valuable to me.

    What would be the minimum reasonable amount of time you think it would take to make this trip?

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  53. Thanks for this great article, wonderful timing since I have been planning on doing this for my honeymoon and couldn’t find reliable information anywhere.

    I am having trouble downloading the Star Alliance Mileage Calculator, I keep getting an error. Does anyone have any suggestions for me?

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  54. I got 5 flights for $100 (4 countries!) because of the planning tool given at skyscanner.com, which I’m not sure everyone is aware of. I think everyone in Europe (traveling or living) should note that skyscanner.com does have an “everywhere” option.

    You pick a starting country, and for the whole year you can see where one-way and roundtrip flights are, this includes taxes right in the listings, which as you know is a huge pain in the ass to find out later.

    http://www.skyscanner.com (not spam i promise)

    i’ve been to 20 countries in Europe on a student’s budget, it’s crazy if used properly.

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  55. I’ve always been a fan of Chris’s travel writings and I just read his new book.. his goal is to travel to every country in the world by the time he’s 35 is absolutely awe-inspiring. He’s also created a ton of other products, including the Empire Building Kit which I bought and reviewed on my blog… it’s a great lifestyle business creation product and it fits right in the the 4HWW message.. great stuff Tim and Chris!

    Like

  56. Tim, I have to say this post is out of my league. I am still working on leaving for a month, which for me, is gargantuan. Luckily, I have free miles through the United Mileage Plus CC, which has some insane perks.

    After returning from Austin City Limits, I am feeling a South American trip is in order.

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  57. Hi Tim,
    I lent my copy of your book to my dear friend Natta and she returned a (new) signed copy back to me. Thanks for your note, I cracked up when I read it and I am surprised you remembered my aerial offer. I may have to strangle her for telling you or anyone for that matter, her pet name for me ~Kimita Lopez~ but she is one of my closest friends so what can you do? Best of luck with your new book.

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  58. Awesome! I know I’ve read this somewhere before but I would love to take a trip on a ticket like that soon!

    The best travel deal I’ve come across was the JetBlue All-You-Can-Jet pass that I just finished last week. $699 for 30 days of unlimited travel, some people took 50+ flights for $699 (I took about 16 flights including 2 caribbean destinations) Most fun I’ve ever had can’t wait to do it again!

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  59. Hey! i actually found this off of stumble and its awesome! I am trying to plan out a trip starting in july 2011, but wasnt even sure how to get started so this really helps! Since you have been on so many trips, can I get some advice on places to go? I know the countries I want to go but not exactly sure where in those countries. I was thinking ireland, italy, africa, india, thailand, indonesia, SE asia, and australia, maybe even new zealand. Please let me know if you have been to any of these and some good places to go! Thanks =D

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  60. Nice article, I always book fight on the go on my way, I feel I would be limited with a RTW ticket, one day I’ll try one though I think, I bookmarked this for future referance.

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  61. I love how you talk about air miles programs…they are so important to consider, because while you are gathering miles and paying for a RTW ticket, you may be able to use those points for future travel…so it’s like getting 2 trips for the price of one!

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  62. It’s essential to check the price for the same route with different airlines within the same alliance – after i’d planned my routing, I then checked the cost with each airline I was flying with (because even though the base fare is the same everywhere, they calculate taxes and fuel supplements differently). The result with mine? By booking with Americam Airlines rather than with British Airways I saved £600 for EXACTLY THE SAME FLIGHTS – this is especially worth noting as the Oneworld online route planner costed my flights based on the British Airways cost as that’s who my first flight was with.

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  63. Quick question for you, Tim…

    One thing I struggle with whilst traveling is luggage — wanting to pack light but ending up heavy, not to mention souvenirs to tow home. I’ve been able to overcome this “obstacle” in the US with flat-rate shipping boxes (most hotels accept mail-ahead packages, and many have boxes at the ready for purchase and mailing), so dragging around my dirty laundry is a thing of the past. But when it comes to international travel I’m at a loss…

    Have you discovered any luggage tips/tricks for international travel? (forgive me if you’ve addressed in previous posts)

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  64. Someone mentioned Airtreks… I’ve used them twice now (just having returned three weeks ago from another ATW trip) and have had amazing experiences. Another to check out if you’re not aware is Airbrokers. They have amazing deals as well.

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  65. Many thanks for the great article. I have been thinking of planning such a trip, and wondering how difficult can it get or is it even possible to do so.
    This sets a great framework for it. I will definitely use this and suggest to my family and friends. It is interesting to see that it’s not as expensive as it looks. Instead of buying a car or paying a college tuition you can have a trip round the world. A life changing experience.

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  66. We did our ATW on SkyTeam miles – and it required surprisingly few miles (only about 160,000 per person in economy in 2008…. should have done business for 200,000) to do 6 stops, all in an east to west fashion. Here was the bonus – we didn’t have to leave from the same airport we flew into. So our flight into Europe was to Berlin, and the flight out was from Paris. This constituted one stop. So in total, it felt like we had 9 main ‘hubs’: LA – Berlin – Paris – JoBerg – Cape Town – Dubai – Bali – Brisbane – Sydney – Maui – LA…. with many, many other countries and cities visited within Europe, Africa, Asia, and Australia along the way.

    I would likely use Star Alliance next time, as Sky Team was pretty weak in SE Asia (although Korean was excellent) and Africa.

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  67. Thanks for posting this, I just bookmarked it. I’m planning on taking a year off to travel the world within the next two years and this information will definitely come in handy!

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  68. Chris, what a FANTASTIC guide to how one even starts to look into RTW tickets! I’m actually going to look into this, as I’ll be doing quite a bit of traveling in the next couple of months after I quit my day job in November. :) Thank you so much, you’ve always provided an immense amount of value to the world at large.

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  69. If you have the time it’s worth just booking cheap one way flights to the other continent and travel by land. I’ve been on a couple rtw and it sucks when you get somewhere and want to travel around a bit but can’t because you have to return to the original city to fly out of. Also some parts of the world have extremely cheap local airlines such as airasia in asia, ryanair in europe, etc.. and flights on these airlines are much cheaper than with the major carriers. If you plan with the cheapy local flights, book a cheap one way, and travel overland prices can be considerable under $3k.

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  70. Would love to test, but really like two pics you already have (and own all rights to). Please give me a go for testing an ad (which will link to your book on Amazon) with the pic with you on your head and the tango photo.

    Testing, would like your blessing ;)

    Like

  71. We recently booked a Oneworld RTW trip. Unfortunately due to a back injury, we had to cancel 3 weeks prior to our scheduled departure.

    The downside:
    the cancellation cost us 30% of our flight fees, and then still takes a minimum of 3 months for them to refund the balance.

    We could have postponed the journey but unfortunately, BA and Oneworld consider 12 months validity of the tickets from the BOOKING DATE and not the first departure date!!! Since we had booked 4 months prior to the trip, it did not leave enough time to complete the trip should we had decided to postpone.

    Also, any changes results in a rebooking fee!!

    If while travelling you decide not to OR cannot use one of the legs, the flights not yet used are voided.

    It is good value for money but there is not much flexibility……… always check the fine print.

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