Round the World Ticket

Apr 21st, 2012, 08:39 AM
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Round the World Ticket

I am beginning to look at different options for a Round the World ticket beginning in the US. Is there one alliance that offers a better deal than the other? Are there time limits on these tickets? We are thinking of taking up to a year to complete a trip. I am United Premier but use American and Delta flights as well. Thannks for any guidance you can offer me.
HappyTrvlr is online now  
Apr 21st, 2012, 09:22 AM
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You should check with the particular airline but the RTW tickets we purchased through American gave us a 1 year to complete the travel. The major restrictions were:

1) Travel had to be completed within 1 year of the initial flight.
2) We had to begin and end at the same airport
3) The only flights we were locked into were the first and last legs - all other legs could be changed at any time without penalty.
3) We had to keep moving in either a more or less eastbound or westbound direction.
4 Once we left a Continent we could not return to that Continent.

For what it is worth, we found the RTW ticket to be an incredible bargain and a great way to travel the world. Our Itinerary took us from the US to London, Paris, Barcelona, Madrid, Johannesburg, Victoria Falls, Johannesburg (again), Mauritius, Honk Kong, Singapore, Bangkok, Toyko, Ayres Rock, Sydney, Cairns, Hawaii and back to the US. We made the trip in seven weeks. Here's an interesting bit of info - I kept a record of the time we spent waiting in airports and flying on the planes. Over the seven weeks we spent 170.5 hours (2.5 hours more than one full week) in airports and planes.
RoamsAround is online now  
Apr 21st, 2012, 09:31 AM
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Sort of a big topic, but I can offer a quick overview:

All three airline alliances offer various RTW ticket products, as well as a range of similar tickets, like Circle Pacific, Circle Atlantic, etc. In addition, there are some single-airline RTWs, in particular Singapore Airline's, and some multi-carrier (but not alliance-based) tickets like the "Great Escapade" ticket which utilizes Singapore, Air New Zealand, Virgin Atlantic, and Air Pacific (Fiji).

True RTW tickets require that you proceed around the world either in a westerly or easterly direction, and that you cross both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, once each. Zigzagging north-to-south or within continents/regions is allowed, but with some limitations.

Although there are some RTW tickets with a shorter maximum validity, most are valid for 12 months from the first departure, and all are subject to a maximum of 16 flight segments or combinations of flight and surface segments (that's the limit that the airline computers can handle on one PNR.)

All require that you end the trip in the same country where you began, with a few regional variations, e.g. if you start in Canada you can end in the US, or Hong Kong <> China, etc., depending on the particular ticket's rules.

They have a lot of rules, so homework before you purchase is key.

But one very important feature is that RTW tickets vary in price depending on where you start and end the trip. It is not unusual at all for tickets involving the exact same flight segments, but in a different order, will have prices that differ by as much as 50% - or more - depending on where the travel begins and ends.

For example, a business-class round the world ticket using the Oneworld Alliance, and covering three continents (Europe, Asia, North America) will cost $10,199 plus taxes and fees if you start and end in the USA. The same ticket, starting and ending in Israel or Jordan, will cost $6,200 instead.

All but one of the commonly sold RTW products feature maximum mileage limitations. The farther you fly, the higher the price, with typical "tiers" at 26,000, 29,000, 34,000 and 39,000 miles. And obviously, the price depends on the class of service you select, coach, business or first.

The exception is the Oneworld Explorer RTW, which is priced instead on how many continents you touch, ranging from 3 to 6. In that case, you're allowed a maximum number of flight segments per continent, 4 flights for all except North America (which includes Canada, Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean) where you're allowed 6 flights (but only one nonstop coast-to-coast.) If the wheels touch a continent, e.g. you fly from Europe to Australia with a refueling stop in Singapore, then that continent counts as well. Given Oneworld's route structure, any RTW including stops in Africa, South America, or the "Southwest Pacific" (Oz/NZ etc.) has to be for a minimum of 4 continents.

Date and flight changes (same city pair, just a different date or airline) are free; changes in itinerary, or changing a transit to a stopover or v.v., require the ticket to be "re-issued" at a cost of $125 - $200, plus taxes need to be re-calculated. You can make many changes at once for the one fee.

A lot of people start their planning by looking at the tickets. Instead I suggest that you start by thinking about where you want to go and when, then look for RTW tickets that will best fit your own plans. The alliances all have their weaknesses and strengths - Star Alliance is lousy in South America, Oneworld in Africa but great in Oz and South America; Skyteam (Delta etc.) is very weak in Oz/NZ, and so on.

If the 16-segment limit is an issue, then think of the RTW ticket as a "backbone" and think about side trips or spurs originating at RTW stopover points. That can restore some of the spontaneity that the rule-rich RTW tickets might limit.

You earn full FF miles/points with RTW tickets, so needless to say they can provide quite a harvest. My personal pattern is to buy a 4-continent business class RTW in year 1, use it for a year, and in the process earn enough FF miles for a second year of "free" travel (again, in premium cabins) then I repeat the process. It makes for excellent leverage of your travel spend.

Go to the three alliance's websites, where you can look at the various products and even book RTWs online. Persevere - the outcome is well worth the effort.

For a snapshot view of RTW prices and products (with some inaccuracies, so be careful) have a look here: - where you'll see how big a business this is, rather under a lot of people's radars.

Happy planning!
Gardyloo is online now  
Apr 21st, 2012, 10:54 AM
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Thank you both for your detailed and very helpful replies.
We are thinking of a year long trip and this clarifies what we need to consider as we plan this adventure.
HappyTrvlr is online now  
Apr 21st, 2012, 01:22 PM
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I agree, many thanks for this info. I hadn't really thought about RTW before now, but perhaps is the economical way to go.
eliztravels is offline  
Apr 21st, 2012, 03:36 PM
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(I tend to go off on wordy and pompous tangents on this, so apologies in advance.)

(Oh, the above is called a "pre-buttal" by the way.)

RTWs are ideal vehicles to force you into a bit of "strategic" thinking on your travel plans and desires. I realized this when I first started doing them a few years ago. In my long post above I mentioned the scheme I use, paying for a business class RTW in alternate years, then using the mileage (and elite FF status) I earned during the RTW to leverage free or very cheap - but still comfortable - travel in the "off" years.

This approach works well for North America residents, although it really will work for others, as long as North America tends to be one of the more expensive regions in which to start and end RTWs. With the year-long validity of the tickets, one can not only leverage mileage travel later, but can also leverage one ticket into two or even three separate "vacation" (or could be "business") episodes over the course of the year.

For example, for the last few years one of the cheapest (in USD) starting points for business-class RTWs using the Oneworld Explorer ticket has been South Africa. Prices for a 4-continent business-class RTW are roughly $11,000 in the US and $6000 in South Africa. Can you get from the USA to South Africa and back for less than five grand? Sure can, and if you can use miles for all or part of the trip, even better.

So here's how the leverage works. You fly to Joburg or Cape Town and spend some time touring around South Africa. Then you start the ticket and, let's say, you choose to head east from SA. After touring around SA for - what? two weeks? a month? How much time do you have? - you fly from Joburg to Sydney. Spend another couple of weeks - or a few days, whatever - touring around Australia and New Zealand. You can take up to four flights within Oz/NZ, so maybe you visit Uluru/Ayers Rock, or you visit the Great Barrier Reef. Or Lord Howe Island (a gem), or maybe Tasmania. Whatever, then you fly home to the USA.

Go back to work. Live your life. Since you have six segments available within North America/Central America/Caribbean etc., take a short winter break to Costa Rica or the Barbados. Or a summer visit to Alaska, or the Canadian Rockies, or New York or... whatever. More vacation opportunities, tickets paid for (with a business class RTW, by the way, you ride in first class if the flight doesn't have business class as an available option.)

Then a few months later, you continue the RTW by flying to Europe and/or the Middle East (which is regarded as part of Europe.) Visit places you wanted to see but haven't been able to get to. Even Siberia, if you want. Egypt, Jordan, Israel, Morocco (Mediterranean Africa also counts.) More vacation.

Then fly back to Africa and end the trip. In the case of originating the RTW in one African country, you're allowed to end it anywhere else in Africa. So instead of another safari in South Africa, end on a beach in Mauritius. Or maybe Zanzibar or Kenya. Yet another vacation opportunity.

In business class you'll have earned enough miles doing this to fly home on miles, or else if you've gotten thoroughly addicted by this time, just buy another ticket and keep going. Only this time maybe think about Nepal, or Bali, or Easter Island, or Patagonia, or...

So by starting someplace besides home, you can travel around, fly home, work, travel around some more, work some more, then fly off and finish the thing, all the while ticking places and experiences off the bucket list.

But a funny thing about bucket lists. The bucket just gets deeper.
Gardyloo is online now  
Apr 22nd, 2012, 02:52 AM
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Brilliant! Do you know off hand if it would be cheaper to start RTW in Australia or Hong Kong vs. Toronto? Do prices vary according to the city you start in, or just by country? We'd probably use Oneworld. There's got to be a way we can visit our son in HKG, our daughter near Perth, get in some skiing in western N.A. see something of South America, and get back to Oz for another visit with the grandkids.
eliztravels is offline  
Apr 22nd, 2012, 05:38 AM
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Wow - there is some great information here! Thanks so much for taking the time to post all these details.

cynstalker is offline  
Apr 22nd, 2012, 07:00 AM
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Brilliant! Do you know off hand if it would be cheaper to start RTW in Australia or Hong Kong vs. Toronto? Do prices vary according to the city you start in, or just by country? We'd probably use Oneworld. There's got to be a way we can visit our son in HKG, our daughter near Perth, get in some skiing in western N.A. see something of South America, and get back to Oz for another visit with the grandkids.

Use the link above - here, I'll give it again - - to launch an interactive map showing RTW and similar ticket costs originating all over the world.

The "which place is cheaper" question is a bit of a moving target, since (a) prices do change from time to time, (b) currency fluctuations happen, and (c) so much depends on your choice of economy/business/first for your flights. Some places, like Australia, have very high prices for business class RTWs - for example a 5-continent ticket begun in Oz is higher than the USA by a couple thousand (US) dollars. However, an economy ticket started in Oz (or even better, NZ,) is over $1000 cheaper than the same ticket sold in the USA. So you need to look. Oh, and Canada is always more than the USA - the fares seem to have been computed when the CAD and USD weren't so close to parity.

For RTWs, Hong Kong prices are roughly the same as ex-USA, so no huge bargains. Most of the real (again, business class) bargains on Oneworld RTWs are to be found in Africa and the Middle East, rather than Asia. Most of the cheaper economy-class starting points are in Oz, NZ, and Europe as well as Africa and the Middle East. In many cases it's cheaper just to fly to London and start a coach RTW there, with the savings more than paying for the access flights.

However, in your specific case, there is another product that might be of interest. Oneworld sells a "Circle Pacific" ticket that's similar to an RTW except you don't cross the Atlantic. You cross the Pacific twice - once via the "northern" route - i.e. N. America > Asia, and the other via the South Pacific - i.e. Oz/NZ - Americas. Circle Pacific tickets are sold on the basis of maximum mileage flown, with the top tier, 29,000 miles, requiring that South America be included in the itinerary.

As it happens, Hong Kong is by far the cheapest origin point on the Pacific Rim for business-class Circle fares. A 29K Circle ticket in business class bought and originated in HKG is US$6500, vs. almost $13,000 if bought in Australia or $12,300 in the USA.

Here's a sample itinerary coming in under 29,000 miles, starting in Hong Kong. Fly to Perth for a visit. Then to Sydney, then Chile for some skiing or wine tasting. Then back up to the USA. (Unfortunately with Oneworld not having a Canadian airline member, you have to be careful with "cabotage" laws using US airlines to fly between 2 Canadian cities via a US city. So in this example you'd just buy a separate ticket between NYC and Toronto, if that's home.) Anyway, then back to JFK and over to Vancouver for some more skiing, then back to Hong Kong for a return visit. (That website, the Great Circle Mapper, is a fabulous site with which to check mileage use for mileage-based tickets. I recommend people bookmark it.)

Just for the sake of comparison, though, I'll show how a Oneworld Explorer ticket, purchased in South Africa, would stack up in terms of stops and distances and price. This route would be around $6950 plus tax. As you can see, a lot more bang for the buck.
Gardyloo is online now  
Apr 22nd, 2012, 08:27 AM
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Oops - caught a boo-boo. The price for the above RTW starting in South Africa would be closer to US$8100 as it covers six, rather than five continents. But hopefully you get the idea.
Gardyloo is online now  
Apr 22nd, 2012, 01:48 PM
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Thanks again big time, Gardyloo. I'll take a closer look at your suggestions once my head stops spinning. The Pacific circle option sounds very promising. We have Aeroplan points that we never seem to find a good use for so no trrouble getting to the west coast and back.

I looked at the site but found it confusing, but will definitely give it another try.
eliztravels is offline  
Apr 22nd, 2012, 02:33 PM
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Thank you so very much Gardyloo and RoamsAround for those wonderful insights. By giving detailed examples on how to make a RTW ticket work, it makes planning the trip easier and more enjoyable. We are looking forward to doing this in the near future!

Hats off to both of you!!
JoyC is online now  
Apr 22nd, 2012, 09:25 PM
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Bookmarking. Thanks for the info!
julia1 is offline  
Apr 22nd, 2012, 09:57 PM
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I recommend the AirTreks website for planning and estimating costs for a RTW trip. They combine 1 way tickets on a number of airlines and I think it's probably the most economical way to do it. One can also do parts of the trip overland and pick up again by air wherever one chooses.

I did an eastern bound trip using Air Treks and they did an excellent job. The website will use your input to devise the most economical trip or "most for your money" itineraries. Or the third option which is the closest possible route based on only the cities you choose. Ultimately you deal with an agent who will actually put the final itinerary together for you.

This year I plan to do a westward RTW trip but since the last one I've gained enough experience that I may or may not use the company. The first and possibly last flights, to Asia and home from Europe will be bought in advance with the travel between bought as I go using the more local low fare airlines. A segment in the middle will be done by freighter.

For a first such trip I recommend using a consolidator such as AirTreks which simplifies the logistics as well as making it as economical a proposition as possible.
MmePerdu is online now  
Apr 3rd, 2013, 02:13 PM
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thanks for this excellent info.

we're trying to plan a trip for the end of this year and are complete novices at long-haul.

the draft itinerary is LHR-HK-Cairns - internal - Sydney -Christchurch drive to Aukland - Fiji - home.

can we do this as a RTW trip? can we do it "ad hoc" in the way you describe, gardyloo? [ie deciding when we want to move on as we go along?] how do we amass FF miles?

BTW I've been quoted £1500 pp all inclusive for this itinerary starting at LHR in November. does that sound like a good price? if we wait til closer to the time, will it go up?

sorry if I sound like an idiot! I'll be grateful for any help you can give me.
annhig is offline  
Apr 3rd, 2013, 03:03 PM
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Since my last post above I've also gone RTW to the west now. More surface transport legs than the previous one and the air segments again bought from Airtreks.

Annhig, you can certainly continue on and make it RTW, why not? Just keep going. If you buy your onward tickets as you go it'll likely cost more than if you bought them in advance and from a consolidator. There's no way to know, as with all airfares, whether prices will go up but I do think the best deals are usually if bought as a package at the same time. But that doesn't mean you can't be spontaneous. If you leave time between onward flights, as I've done on both trips, you can deviate from your itinerary with side trips bought on the spot then continue on your way as planned.

The price you've been quoted does sound good if it gets you all the way back home.

Regarding FF miles on the consolidator tickets, some are on unaffiliated airlines but we did get miles on the ones that are members of airline alliances. The good prices reflect buying the lowest priced tickets on airlines with which the consolidators have contracts and you aren't able to pick and choose unless you pay more. I think the low fares are worth foregoing miles on some segments.
MmePerdu is online now  
Apr 3rd, 2013, 08:30 PM
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the draft itinerary is LHR-HK-Cairns - internal - Sydney -Christchurch drive to Aukland - Fiji - home... can we do this as a RTW trip? can we do it "ad hoc" in the way you describe, gardyloo?

Sure, you can do it as an RTW trip or as "ad hoc". It will be an RTW only if you come back via the Pacific, otherwise you could just do it as a return trip to, say, Australia, with the NZ and Fiji legs bought separately. Really depends on what you want.

Consolidator tickets can be good value until something goes wrong, at which point they can become impossibly inflexible, to the point of useless. Be careful - something about penny wise...
Gardyloo is online now  
Apr 4th, 2013, 03:18 AM
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thanks, mme perdu and gardyloo. I think I'm getting the hang of it.

the impression I'm getting is that if we could deal with this as a RTW, [say coming back via somewhere in the US rather than Fiji] we could have a lot more flexibility than if we book [say] LHR - HK - Cairns out, Aukland-Fiji-LHR back.

or have I misunderstood?
annhig is offline  
Apr 4th, 2013, 06:41 AM
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the impression I'm getting is that if we could deal with this as a RTW, [say coming back via somewhere in the US rather than Fiji] we could have a lot more flexibility than if we book [say] LHR - HK - Cairns out, Aukland-Fiji-LHR back.

Yes, but there are some caveats. RTW tickets can be good value, but they come with a lot of rules. First, as I probably mentioned ad nauseum above, with alliance-based RTW products, such as those sold by Star Alliance or Oneworld members, you have to fly on routes served by the member airlines. Second, with the exception of the Oneworld Explorer RTW ticket, all RTWs have mileage caps, ranging from a low cap of 26,000 miles to a high of 39,000 miles, with prices going up as you pass through the "tiers" of mileage allowance.

And third, while they're more "flexible" than other types of tickets, they are NOT "air passes" where you can fly as you like. You need to have an itinerary with specific places chosen when you purchase the ticket. You can change those places once you've started, but you pay a change fee (usually US$125 or its equivalent) when you do so, plus any additional taxes or fees that result from the change. You can change dates without a fee, provided you're taking the same flight, just on a different day.

So, yes, you could easily adapt your planned trip to an RTW basis, returning to the UK via North or South America. You'd need to figure out a route before you buy the ticket, so that it can be assessed for number of continents visited or mileage used (hence priced).

You'd be paying for a ticket good for 16 flight segments, even if you only plan to use 10 or 11 of them, so making the ticket cost-effective might entail adding additional destinations. As I know I stated earlier in this thread, prices for RTWs vary widely depending on where you start and stop, and you have to end in the country where you started.

In your case, it might be worthwhile to start the ticket somewhere besides the UK, partly because it might be cheaper, but also partly because that way you could continue using the ticket after returning from the Americas, i.e. treat the UK as a "stopover" rather than the terminus. You might be able to squeeze out another holiday somewhere in Europe or the Middle East within the ticket's validity of a year, before ending where you started. (For example, take the train to Paris and start the RTW trip in France, then after Asia, the Pacific and the Americas, take a break of a few months back in the UK, then fly on the ticket to, say, Turkey, or Israel, or Italy, before finishing back in France. Hope that's clear.)

One last thing, Fiji is a big pain with all the alliance RTW products, because very few alliance-based airlines fly there (Tahiti too.) So to achieve the maximum cost-effectiveness, many RTW users who want to visit the South Pacific islands do so by purchasing separate tickets outside the RTW for excursions to Fiji or Tahiti. (One can often get good deals from Australian or New Zealand travel agencies and local airlines.) That way you conserve your 16 RTW segments instead of turning yourselves into pretzels trying to figure out how to fit Fiji into the RTW's rules.
Gardyloo is online now  
Apr 4th, 2013, 08:14 AM
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"Consolidator tickets can be good value until something goes wrong, at which point they can become impossibly inflexible, to the point of useless." Gardyloo

Not true. I have changed plans along the way with the consolidator tickets and it's cost me nothing. It depends on the airline and in the case of Airtreks, one has an agent who can make changes for you too.

Before you make a decision on any of this I'd go to the Airtreks website and request help. While some of your planning can be done online, the company has advisors with whom you make your plans and decisions, can to talk on the phone or by email, all the service we've come to not expect these days. It's why I love the company. They even throw in free travel insurance with your ticket. Their service is for "multi-continent" tickets, not just RTW so you can avail yourselves of their service whether you go all the way or return the way you came.

And if you decide on a RTW I see no reason why you can't include Fiji. Airtreks is not bound by "alliances" but shops individual airlines for you for the best deals. I've never been quite sure why people use the alliance tickets unless it's cheaper on some routes. I want to go where I want to go and not be bound by going where the alliance can take me. You should compare to make sure you get what you want.
MmePerdu is online now  

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