How to organize around the world flight tickets

Patrycja and Dawid on the Fort Lauderdale airport with flight tickets in their hands.

When planning a trip around the world there’s always that moment when you have to ask yourself – how to arrange flight tickets around the world? Either take advantage of the RTW (Round The World) ticketing solutions or search for all connections yourself? Here is a brief analysis of the 3 most popular solutions, including our choice.

Affiliate Programs

This is one of the most convenient ways to buy RTW flight tickets. Affiliate programs such as Star Alliance, One World or Sky Team, associate various international airlines. Thanks to this, a very large network of connections is available, covering about 98% of the countries around the world. So there is no problem to reach the most remote parts of the globe.

This option is for you if you:

  • don’t have the time or the will to look for discounted flight tickets
  • have a more-or-less planned route but you don’t know how much time to spend in each place
  • want to travel for less than a year
  • want to compile the list of flights on your own
  • want to earn miles with one affiliate

Main assumptions

RTW affiliate program tickets can be created and booked on-line or with a consultant. It depends solely on us which cities we choose for our stops and the entire route is created using an interactive travel planner. You do not need to specify the exact flight dates because the final price is not dependent on the date of the flight.

The price of the ticket is affected by the travel class (economic, business and first class), the number of scheduled stops and the number of miles traveled during the trip. The maximum mileage available is 39,000 miles with up to 15 stops. The minimum number of stops is 3 – one in each of the zones:

  1. North, Central and South America, Greenland, the Caribbean and Hawaii
  2. Europe (west of the Urals), Iceland and the Azores, Middle East and Africa
  3. Asia (east of the Urals) and the whole of Oceania – Australia, New Zealand, and the South Pacific Islands

The entire journey cannot last less than 10 days and must end within one year (12 months – not a calendar one). In addition, the journey must always begin and end in the same country and run in the same direction – west or east. While within given continent you can travel “zig-zagging” between countries, you cannot go back and forth between continents.

RTW affiliate programs have open tickets. It is not necessary to book the exact dates of individual flights when buying a trip. They have to be specified at the start, but the program allows you to freely modify them later on. The only reservation that must be booked and confirmed by us at least 10 days before the planned departure date is the first flight. Any subsequent flights may be modified at least 72 hours prior to departure, after prior contact with the office/consultant.

Pros:

  • Convenience and comfort of travel planning – easy to use travel planner, the ability to work with a consultant
  • A rich network of air connections between countries
  • Ticket prices within the RTW package are not subject to travel dates, and changes in individual ticket prices do not affect the cost of the RTW ticket purchased
  • Comfort of travel – well-known international airlines with a reputation
  • Possibility to earn miles in loyalty programs
  • Registered luggage always included in airline tickets
  • Open ticket, i.e. possibility of free modification of individual flight dates after contacting the nearest partner branch
  • Possibility to change route during the journey – operational fees may apply
  • In case of cancellation prior to departure, the program returns the total value of the ticket, minus the cancellation fee
  • If canceled during the trip, the program returns money for unused flights, minus the cancellation fee

Cons:

  • The ticket price for the RTW package is set once and is not subject to a change – even if a flight price gets lower.
  • The first connection between continents cannot be traveled by land, but by flight.
  • Travel must always take place in the direction we choose initially – west or east.
  • The program assumes only one connection between different continents (including the Middle East)
  • A limited number of miles to go throughout the trip. Before you buy a ticket, you should know the details well, because in some RTW packages miles traveled by land do NOT count towards the total number of miles traveled (Oneworld Explorer in One World), but in others they do (Global Explorer in One World) – distance between the airport of arrival and departure is measured as an additional number of miles traveled
  • Minimum time counted as a stop during the journey must not be less than 24 hours
  • Trip must begin and end in the same country
  • The entire journey must end within 1 year of the first flight
  • The handling fee for the route modification is 120 USD
  • Cancellation fee is US 150 USD – both before and during the trip
  • Failure to board the aircraft after confirmation or check-in causes cancellation of all subsequent flights
  • These are the most expensive RTW tickets.

Booking RTW Tickets through an agency

Many travel agencies such as Travel Nation, Air Treks , Round the World Tickets or Round the World Flights, specialized in the organization of airline tickets to travel around the world. Through the extensive knowledge and vast database of airline search engines, consultants are able to prepare a route that is ideally suited to our expectations – including the cost.

This option is for you if you:

  • don’t have the time or the will to look for discounted flight tickets
  • have a more-or-less planned route and you know how much time you want to spend in each place
  • want to travel for less than a year
  • look for an expert opinion on your route or optional suggestions to the itinerary

Main assumptions

The initial phase of buying an RTW airline ticket with the help of an agency is very similar to that of a Partner Program. The travel planner on the agency website allows selecting the cities that will be our stops when traveling. In some agencies already at this stage, we will get an indicative price for the tickets, e.g. in the range 1700 – 2600 GBP. However, we are much more likely to be asked to specify the planned start and end dates for the trip (even if purely indicative), the number of people, the expected travel class, and additional information to facilitate the route.

It is also possible to select one of the suggested routes for a given price category, for example, up to 1000 GBP or above 2000 GBP. Then we only provide planned departure and arrival dates and your contact details. You will be contacted shortly by email or by phone with the consultant in charge of our inquiry. All further modifications to the route and flight dates will be made by the consultant as well, so it is a good idea to catch common understanding.

If you go with an agency, the final price for an RTW ticket is significantly affected by price fluctuations of individual flights. Consultants do not focus on the selected airlines but on the most cost-effective connections. Therefore, the final price of an RTW ticket may be reduced or significantly increased in a few days. All tickets are booked for specific dates, so any changes involve a substantial additional charge – the cancellation fee and the purchase of a new ticket at another price.

Also, in this case, a trip around the world must take place in the direction we choose initially – west or east, and end within a year of the start date.

Pros:

  • After specifying the places of interest, the entire route is set up by the consultant
  • Possibility to select one of the RTW routes prepared by the agency
  • Great knowledge and experience of consultants, professional travel assistance with full country information
  • Additional information about all the visas you need to have before you arrive in a given country
  • The number of miles traveled by land is irrelevant in determining the route
  • All route points are carefully planned before departure, as some may see as drawback
  • With available resources, consultants search for the cheapest air connections on the route
  • If staying flexible with dates, we can reduce the final flight price by up to several hundred GBP by selecting flights at promotional rates
  • Some agencies include one free flight home and back, in the case of an emergency.

Cons:

  • After the tickets have been purchased, there is no flexibility to modify the dates of individual flights.
  • Any change of route or date of departure is subject to additional charges – usually cancellation and purchase of new tickets
  • All route points are carefully planned before the trip, as some may perceive as a plus.
  • The entire journey must end within 1 year of the first flight
  • The journey begins and ends at the same place
  • In the case of ‘no-show’ or if we are not allowed to board our aircraft because of our fault (e.g. missing visa), all subsequent flights will be canceled without refunds.
  • The consultant may suspend the RTW ticket reservation if a visa is required for any country (e.g. USA) and we do not have it in advance – we will cover visas in a separate blog post
  • Because consultants use different airlines when building the route, it is very difficult to collect miles in loyalty programs, and most often, you need to sign up for several programs at the same time.

Searching for airline tickets on your own

This solution probably has as many followers as opponents. If you have the time and the will to search the internet for cheap flights with pages like Skyscanner, cheapflights.com, Kayak.com or Azair.eu, or regularly visit the Fly4Free or Holiday Pirates, tickets around the world can be arranged completely on your own.

This option is for you if you:

  • have the time to look for discounted flight tickets
  • don’t have a fixed plan of the route or you don’t know how much time will you travel and to which countries
  • want to travel for longer than a year or stay in a given place as long as you’d like
  • like to travel using different transportation – planes, ferries, trains, buses, hitch-hiking, cycling or simply walking

Main assumptions

There is not really much to explain here… Compiling your own ticket around the world can be the cheapest option available. You can fly around the earth for as little as a few hundred dollars. To plan such a route, it’s worth looking for a bit, test alternate routes on the search engines and see which airlines are flying cheaply on the routes we are interested in. For example, from Europe to North America you can often find cheap Air Berlin connections. The Emirates and Qatar Airways are the cheapest destinations in Asia and the Middle East. Traveling across Europe cheapest with RyanAir and WizzAir, while flying Asia and Asia-Australia – Air Asia.

So if you have a lot of time to look for discounted airline tickets – this solution is for you.

If you do not have a specific travel plan or you do not know how much time you will travel or which specific countries you visit on the road – this solution is for you.

If you want to travel for more than a year or stay as long as you like – this solution is for you.

If you like to combine different means of transport – planes, ferries, trains, buses, foot, bike or trip on foot – this solution is for you.

Pros:

  • Full freedom of direction and timing
  • No need to book all tickets before departure
  • Buy tickets at any time during the trip
  • You can modify your route and fly several times on the same route
  • No specific travel plan – which for some is a drawback
  • No time frame for travel – which for some is a drawback
  • The possibility of saving on buying tickets at discounted prices
  • Definitely the cheapest option for tickets around the world

Cons:

  • A lot of time devoted to finding airline tickets for promotion or alternative routes
  • No specific travel plan – which for some is a plus
  • No time frame for travel – which for some is a plus
  • For low-cost airlines, it is not possible to earn miles in frequent flyer programmes
  • Promotional airfare rates often allow you to travel only with hand baggage, and registered luggage can sometimes cost much more than the ticket itself

Which option did we choose?

At first, we generally analyzed all three options for RTW tickets. Each of them, as seen above, has its pros and cons. So we came up with some general assumptions:

  • We have prepared 3 lists of countries that we would like to visit: the absolute minimum, the very rich option, and the reasonable compromise between the two.
  • We took into account some minor modifications, but it would be ideal to visit at least 90% of the places on our compromise list.
  • The entire trip was to last one year
  • We did not know exactly how much time we would like to spend in each place
  • Tickets should be as cheap as possible (duh!)
  • We did not have time to look for each ticket at a bargain price

With these assumptions, we quickly gave up the option to buy the tickets with any of the affiliate programs. True, they give you the freedom to modify your travel dates, but the cost of the cheapest tickets went far beyond our budget.

We also gave up looking for tickets on our own. There were several reasons. First of all we said to ourselves that we do not want to end up like some travelers – leave home for a year, and come back after 4 years traveling from China on bicycles (we absolutely do not think this is a bad thing – we were just a bit scared we would leave our family for too long). We wanted to have all tickets between continents before departure. However, it is sometimes difficult to find some intercontinental connections more than a year in advance (before the scheduled date of departure). Frankly speaking – we did not really want to spend our free time (we did not have too much) to surf the internet for the best offers.

Therefore, we contacted several travel agencies. The contact was different – with one consultant better, with the other worse. One wanted to help us and tried to match the tickets to our expectations, and another simply said that “it is impossible” to modify the route because it will increase the price of tickets. We finally decided to buy tickets at Travel Nation and we must admit – working with David (our consultant) was a pure pleasure.

Although we needed some time to think, David did not hand over our case to anyone else. After some time we said to him that we were determined to buy tickets, he once again checked the exact rates of the connections. Thanks to the subtle modification of the dates, he managed to find new promotions, which allowed us to cheaply fly to Fiji. In addition, the total ticket price was even lower than we initially expected. Also during the trip, we were in constant contact with David, who was interested in how our adventure is going.

Finally, our RTW ticket itinerary was as follows:

  1. London Toronto (connecting flight in New York)
  2. Toronto Miami
  3. Miami Lima
  4. Lima Nadi (two connecting flights – Miami and Los Angeles)
  5. Nadi Auckland
  6. Auckland Christchurch
  7. Christchurch Sydney
  8. Sydney Bangkok (connecting flight in Singapore)
  9. Bangkok Hanoi
  10. Hanoi London (connecting flight in Singapore)

All other air travel and every land trip we planned on our own.

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