Rtw

Old Jan 18th, 2023, 08:16 AM
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Rtw

Looking for a bit of advice. I am thinking of getting a RTW ticket from Houston this autumn. The rough plan is to travel east through Europe and the Middle East, Sri Lanka, Japan and back across the Pacific. Although I have travelled a lot, have never done a RTW. What are the pros and cons? Would I be better getting a travel agent to organise it? Have never used one and don't even know where to start. Recommendations/ suggestions appreciated.
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Old Jan 18th, 2023, 09:10 AM
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Gardyloo has posted a lot of really helpful information about RTW's - he's a bit of a RTW guru

Hopefully he will see your post. One of the main points I've learned from his posts is it is usually much cheaper to start the TRW in a different country. And you often come out hundreds/thousands of $$ ahead if you book a separate 'positioning' flight to get to a country where RTWs are cheaper. I'm not 100% clear how one discovers where the cheaper fares originate at any given time.
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Old Jan 18th, 2023, 09:11 AM
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ps: He's on here pretty often but you might consider sending him a Private Message asking him to look at your thread.
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Old Jan 18th, 2023, 09:57 AM
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I posted a long thread on this topic a few years ago. Most of the information in it is still relevant and accurate to a degree, although some things have changed, especially prices. Here's the link: Round-the-world and multi-continent airfares - Fodor's Travel Talk Forums (fodors.com)

RTW trips can be as simple as stringing together a bunch of one-way flights, bought through the usual channels - direct from the airlines, using third party booking sites, etc. This approach can have some advantages; for example, you're not hooked to any one airline alliance, you don't have to follow any routing or timing rules imposed by more structured ticket products, and so on. The downside is that this approach can be quite expensive, as one-way international tickets tend to come at a premium, especially to destinations that aren't on the main tourist maps. And if something goes wrong, you'll have to sort it out on your own, possibly in some location where resources are thin on the ground.

I've done a number of RTWs, and since I'm a wuss and like to fly up in the pointy end, I've used an alliance-based product, the Oneworld Explorer, as my go-to method, since it offers (to me) the best combination of price and flexibility for business-class itineraries. But it's not the only one, and I'm pretty familiar with other offerings from the airline alliances (now just the big two - Oneworld and Star Alliance, since Skyteam's RTW products evidently didn't survive Covid.)

If you want to go with an alliance product, here are some relevant facts that are more or less universal. First, they all are limited to a total of 16 flight segments, so every time you change planes, say, stopping in London between the US and, say, Prague, you'll use up two segments even if the connection in London is only a couple of hours. Second, the alliance tickets are good for up to a year (specifically, 12 months from the first flight.) Third, you have to cross both the Atlantic and the Pacific oceans in the same direction, east to west or west to east, one time only, and start and end in the same country (not city necessarily.) And fourth, and very importantly, the alliance-based tickets' prices are a LOT different depending on where you begin and end the trip. I'll come back to this. You can choose between economy, business- or first-class cabins for the flights, with higher prices for the higher classes of service, duh.

The Star Alliance RTW product is priced according to how many flown miles your trip includes, with pricing tiers covering trips with 26,000 or fewer miles flown, then by stages up to 39,000, with the price going up accordingly. Oneworld has two types of RTW tickets, one that's mileage-based similar to Star Alliance's, and the other which is priced according to how many continents one touches or overflies in the course of the trip, from 3 to 6, but with no mileage limit per se. In both cases your flights have to be on member airlines (including some regional affiliates) and they all allow a fair amount of zigzagging and backtracking within the continents, but not between them, if you get my meaning. Of course, zigzags use up segments and miles, so one needs to be careful in designing a route. And naturally, being airlines, there are plenty of other rules, but in general RTW tickets are more flexible and more easily changed than conventional tickets with their high change fees etc.

Back to pricing. Because every RTW route is different (or potentially so) the taxes and fees that apply to the trip are also different, depending on what countries, airports, and airlines are involved (different airport and national taxes, airline fees, etc.) As a result, the airline alliances (and their member airlines) aren't allowed to advertise or sell these products in the same manner they do conventional tickets. Most countries (including the US, UK and EU) require that advertised airfares are inclusive of taxes and fees, and since this is impossible with RTWs, they're not shown on airline websites. There are ways of seeing the base (before taxes and fees) prices, but here's the thing: those prices are different, often hugely so, depending on where you start and end.

For example, the cheapest Star Alliance economy RTW fare for a trip starting and ending in the USA carries a base price of $3868. The same ticket, starting and ending in Canada, has a base price of US$2838. Starting and ending in Paris, the base price is $2171. (All of these are before taxes and fees, which usually amount to around 15% - 25% of the base price.) The difference is even more striking in business class. For example, a 3-continent (Asia, North America, Europe) Oneworld Explorer business class ticket starting and ending in the USA has a base price of $10,426. The same ticket starting in Canada is $7618, and if you start and end in, say, Norway, the base price falls to $5305, roughly half the US price. So ask yourself, could I manage to get to Oslo in order to save five grand on a plane ticket? Again, duh.

In your case, based in Texas, starting and ending in Europe would also have the advantage of allowing you to spread out your travels over a longer period than you might by doing a simple RTW trip that begins and ends in Houston. Say you fly (on your own dime) to Norway sometime this summer. You tour around Europe before you fly out of Oslo on the RTW ticket (which you've purchased long before leaving home) But rather than flying on to the Middle East and Asia, you fly home. The Oneworld Explorer allows up to six flights within North America (which includes the Caribbean and Central America) so you use it to go to... California? Alaska? Costa Rica? before returning home again.

Then, sometime later in the year, you fly over the Pacific to, say, Japan (maybe autumn on Hokkaido?) then on to, say, Singapore or Kuala Lumpur, to feed the foodie within you. Then it's on to Sri Lanka, then maybe to the Maldives, then to Doha in the Gulf, or to Israel or Jordan, then it's back to Oslo, trip over. This map shows a completely "legal" 3-continent RTW route that you could ticket today.



So you're getting three or four "vacations" out of one ticket - Europe before travel, Alaska (could be anywhere in N. America) between transoceanic segments, a stop in Hawaii, then Asia and the Middle East before a final holiday (Spain in this case) before ending back in Norway. You'll have earned enough frequent flyer miles in the course of the RTW to pay your way home when it's over, or just get another one and the beat goes on. What's on your bucket list for the next one? New Zealand and Australia? Africa? South America? Easy peasy.

I'll stop here. Go through the thread I referenced above and come back with questions. Happy to help.

Last edited by Gardyloo; Jan 18th, 2023 at 10:03 AM.
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Old Jan 18th, 2023, 10:54 AM
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I've done four RTWs, The first three were on AA FF miles in business class. Can you still use FF miles for a One World Explorer, Gardyloo?

I always liked to have a big open segment where I traveled overland, or overland combined with local budget airlines.
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Old Jan 18th, 2023, 11:03 AM
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Originally Posted by thursdaysd
Can you still use FF miles for a One World Explorer, Gardyloo?
No, not for 10 years or so. The Oneworld Explorer has always been a paid ticket; AA's "Oneworld" awards were the mileage redemption scheme, completely different.
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Old Jan 18th, 2023, 11:44 AM
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I am totally blown away by your reply Gardyloo. No idea there was all that involved. Here was I simply wondering how I could combine a visit to friends in the UK then go on to Beirut (more friends) and to Sri Lanka (ditto) then finally to meet my family in Japan. The way I was looking at it was that dates would be fairly fixed by the movements of people I am visiting. Something like setting off from TX in August and leaving Japan by mid-December. Looks like there is another pattern out there and I need to totally rethink. A whole year needs a lot of forethought and planning!

Here are a few random initial questions:
Do I need to plan the whole thing before I buy any tickets?
Do I need a travel agent to organise this for me?
Do I have to go in the same direction?
Never got my head round frequent flyer miles. How do they work?
Could I start the ticket in UK or is that horribly expensive too?

My head is spinning. I thought I was an experienced traveller who backpacked around the world for a year in the 70s, but this is a whole new game.

Thank you.


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Old Jan 18th, 2023, 11:46 AM
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Pity, that was a sweet deal. My last RTW was a combo FF miles and other airlines (don't think you can get to Tashkent on One World).
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Old Jan 19th, 2023, 03:44 AM
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If you'd like help with your itinerary & good prices, I've done 2 rtw trips and another long trip to Asia though airtreks.com . Have a look at the website, play with possibilities then you'll get one of their agents to help with finalizing. They're very good in my experience.

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Old Jan 19th, 2023, 04:42 AM
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Might be worth checking out Airtreks, but the one time I really wanted to use them I was able to beat their price - and that was after I told them there was a flight from Yerevan to Aleppo.
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Old Jan 19th, 2023, 07:24 AM
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Originally Posted by gertie3751
I am totally blown away by your reply Gardyloo. No idea there was all that involved. Here was I simply wondering how I could combine a visit to friends in the UK then go on to Beirut (more friends) and to Sri Lanka (ditto) then finally to meet my family in Japan. The way I was looking at it was that dates would be fairly fixed by the movements of people I am visiting. Something like setting off from TX in August and leaving Japan by mid-December. Looks like there is another pattern out there and I need to totally rethink. A whole year needs a lot of forethought and planning!

Here are a few random initial questions:
Do I need to plan the whole thing before I buy any tickets?
Do I need a travel agent to organise this for me?
Do I have to go in the same direction?
Never got my head round frequent flyer miles. How do they work?
Could I start the ticket in UK or is that horribly expensive too?

My head is spinning. I thought I was an experienced traveller who backpacked around the world for a year in the 70s, but this is a whole new game.

Thank you.
Some quick answers...

Do I need to plan the whole thing before I buy any tickets? For Alliance based (or for agencies like Airtreks) yes. However alliance RTW tickets are easy to change, with no charges to change dates and a reasonable charge (usually US$125 or its equivalent) to change the itinerary altogether.

Do I need a travel agent to organise this for me? No. In general travel agents don't know beans about these products, but there are agents within some of the alliance airlines' ticketing departments that do. There are some travel consultants or advisors who can do this for a fairly modest fee, however. Both Star Alliance and Oneworld have online booking tools that can be used. Star Alliance's is fairly decent, Oneworld's is awful, but American Airlines maintains an "RTW desk" that is capably staffed.

Do I have to go in the same direction? The airlines have divided the world into three zones: North and South America; Europe, the Middle East and Africa; and Asia-Pacific (Asia, Australia/NZ and the Pacific west of Hawaii.) These are called "Travel Conference" areas (TC I, II, and III respectively) and RTW tickets require you to travel in one direction between them, e.g. I - II - III or II - III - I - II etc. (eastbound) or I - III - II - I etc. (westbound.) However, within the TCs you can go back and forth and zigzag, for example it's okay within North America to travel from New York to California and back to New York, or v.v., regardless of whether your previous continent was Europe or Asia. However, when it's time to cross the next ocean, you have to travel in the sme direction you did before arriving in North America. Hope that makes sense.

Never got my head round frequent flyer miles. How do they work? Big subject but think of them as a form of currency that you can earn and spend just like cash. You earn them by flying, or by making purchases using a linked credit card (or even sometimes by buying them for cash) and you spend them like money, with X thousand miles or points being redeemed for a plane ticket. Frequent flyer miles (or "points, or "airmiles" or "Avios" depending on the airline program) can be redeemed according to the airline's (or credit card's) rules, sometimes for travel on partner airlines, sometimes to upgrade from one cabin to another, etc. Each airline's rules and redemption tables are different. With alliance RTWs, generally you can use the earned miles for any airline in that alliance, but you have to redeem them through the airline whose program you've joined. Like I say, it's a big subject.

Could I start the ticket in UK or is that horribly expensive too? You certainly could start in the UK, or in virtually any country in the world. Remember the price I quoted above for the cheapest Star Alliance ticket ($2171 ex-Paris?) The same ticket starting in the UK carries a base price of $2196. so, $25 more than in France and around $1670 less than starting in the USA. Now remember that's the base price, and local taxes and fees can increase that. That's especially a concern in the UK, which has a high departure tax (called "air passenger duty") that is higher than most countries' fees. So the bottom line (after taxes and fees) might be more expensive than if you start in the Euro zone, for example.

Now, one final note and something of a confession. I tend to promote these ticket products, probably more often than I should. They're not for everyone. They bring with them a lot of rules and restrictions that many people don't want or need to endure, especially those with a fairly simple plan like yours (which I didn't know until you posted it yesterday.) With an RTW ticket you're buying up to 16 flights that can take you to some pretty exotic or hard-to-reach destinations IF THAT'S WHAT YOU WANT. But if you don't want to globe-hop or zigzag all over the place, then the price might not be worth the restrictions, if you get my meaning.

Just as an exercise, I spent a few minutes this morning looking up a series of one-way airfares that MIGHT be what you're looking for. I looked for one-way fares from Houston to London, from London to Beirut, Beirut to Colombo, Colombo to Tokyo, and Tokyo back to Houston, departing in mid-August and ending in mid-December, with the flights roughly a month apart. Adding up all the fares (all on reputable airlines) the total in economy came to $2438, including taxes. You could jump on Expedia and buy those tickets right now. Now there might be some additional cost for checked bags etc. (included in the RTW fares) but as you can see, there's no huge cost penalty for going around the world in this manner.

Where the RTWs all hit their pace is when you (a) go in business class and/or (b) want to make a bunch of stopovers and detours en route, and/or (c) visit some way-off-the-mainline destinations, or all of the above. RTWs are terrific for bucket-list trips, but they can easily be overkill for shorter or simpler travels.

Whether you want to leverage one investment into a more major journey of exploration is your call. Maybe you wait until you're in Japan (which happens to be one of the cheapest places in the world to start and end RTWs) and re-start the process there, maybe over the next year hitting the same places you did on this trip, but maybe adding South America, or Africa, or Australia or NZ to the plan. I've started and ended a couple of RTWs in Japan; it's easy to set up.

Hope this helps. Ask more questions if you like. Or maybe grab a map of the world and start loading it up with pins.

Last edited by Gardyloo; Jan 19th, 2023 at 07:27 AM.
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Old Jan 19th, 2023, 02:34 PM
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So helpful Gardyloo. Thanks again. will be in touch with more questions if and when.
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Old Jan 19th, 2023, 07:34 PM
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Originally Posted by thursdaysd
Might be worth checking out Airtreks, but the one time I really wanted to use them I was able to beat their price - and that was after I told them there was a flight from Yerevan to Aleppo.
Did I mention the ongoing support that Airtreks provides? That was a very pleasant surprise as I was unaware they would keep tabs on my flights & contact me when they thought I might need help with a change. As it turned out I'd changed it myself but it was a good feeling having them available if I'd needed help. Sometimes cheapest isn't best. They also included basic insurance for no additional cost.

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