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Sep
27

Questions on Round The World Tickets

round  the world ticket

round the world ticket

Q: I have to travel to Europe, Indonesia, Australia and Asia for business next month and I’m thinking about the best way to go about planning my trip.  Flexibility is obviously key, and so is price.

A: Oh, Yeah, I got this. You need an Round The World Ticket. Sound mysterious?

Well, it is a little. Unlike buying a simple one-way or round-trip ticket, you don’t just go to www.bt-sore.com and click the globe tab.

Good Reasons to Use Round-the-World Tickets

great value

great value

Tremendous Value. RTW tickets are not especially cheap but far cheaper than say a series of one-way tickets.

Freedom and Flexibility. On the road, most people change their 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. You will earn enough FF miles to get upgraded, hang out in nice airline lounges around the world, and better all around treatment.


Creative Opportunities to Travel. Because RTW tickets are priced by mileage or by segment, you can visit destinations that are otherwise cost-prohibitive when using regular tickets. Just think about it, an open slate.

What to Do First

There are two major sites to visit if you’re curious and want to create a sample itinerary:

star alliance

star alliance

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.

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.

oneworld-alliance

oneworld-alliance

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.

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.

$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.

Where to start?

Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka

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 some of the best places are South Korea, South Africa, Mauritius, Sri Lanka, and Indonesia.

But 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:

where are you going?

where are you going?

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 not recognized by the online system, in which case you’ll need to phone it in.

Star Alliance OneWorld

very cool

very cool

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.

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 the AAdvantage program from American Airlines is top on most lists.

Keep in mind…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.

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