Dear Essential Travel
My wife and I have been saving up for a much-anticipated sabbatical and we're finally ready to start getting things in motion. Our plan is to travel for a full year, to a number of different countries in Africa, South America and South East Asia. We were wondering if you had any information regarding Round the World Tickets - are they worth the initial layout and is there any flexibility once you've booked? Are there various options to choose from?
David Butler, Birmingham
In a nutshell, a Round The World Ticket (RTWT) allows you to travel across the globe, under the same booking, over the course of one year. Tickets are either mileage-based or destination-based; the more distance you cover or stops you make, the more expensive the ticket. With both, there is always the option of adding on stops or miles, but it'll cost you.
For the purposes of a sabbatical or a year-long backpacking excursion (where you won't be backtracking), there's absolutely no reason not to book a RTWT - individual one-way tickets are unreasonably expensive and a nightmare to coordinate. But, like all holidays, RTWT prices are subject to seasonal fluctuation, seating zones and all the usual terms and conditions. To give you a more complete idea of what to expect, I'll go through the pros, cons and technical aspects that will affect the price of your ticket.
How To Book Your Round The World Ticket
You can book a RTWT through two main sources:
Airline Alliance Company: these are travel giants with ties to major airlines and thousands of successful journeys to their name. It can be a bit more pricey, but it's perfect for travellers on 'frequent flyer' programs (your miles will accumulate) and people who put comfort and familiarity at the top of their priority list.
Specialised Travel Agency: these are smaller, often web-based companies that utilise a wider range of airlines and tap into the budget-travel market. It's not always as clearly laid-out as booking with an airline alliance company, but often works out cheaper in the long run and gives you the option of arriving/departing from a number of smaller airports around the world.
Both of these options are solid (as long as you're using a reputable company), but there are some conditions that you should be aware of: you will need to follow a route going east or west, you won't be allowed to backtrack, you will have to cross the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean, and you will be subject to additional charges if you decide to re-route while travelling. For this purpose, the above two sources enable you to hand over any travel problems to them, which can make life a whole lot easier sometimes.
Ways To Lower Your RTWT Price
Pick Your Airports and Stops Wisely: The UK is a great starting point for any Round The World Trip because Heathrow, Gatwick, Manchester and all our other major airports are serviced by all major airlines.
When you're planning your route, look at the countries you're visiting and try to arrive/depart from larger, more-accessible airports. Generally the smaller, more obscure airports will have to re-route through a larger city anyway.
Remember: you don't have to fly out from the same place you landed, so taking a bus, ferry or train to your next port can be part of your great travel experience. This is important for travellers on mileage-based and stop-based tickets - with both, you want to conserve as much flight time as possible.
Be Flexible With Dates: peak travel season will always be the most expensive time to travel. It's not just your RTWT that will be more costly during the busiest months, but your domestic travel, accommodation and sundry needs, too.
I hope this helps, happy travels!
Last Updated: March 2013