After you’ve chosen an itinerary for your great worldwide travel adventure, one of the first things you’ll probably want to research is how to fly around the globe in the most cost-effective way. Have you heard of round-the-world tickets? If not, read on to find out more about what they are, if they are what you need and how you can book them. Bonus: we’ll also suggest an alternative!

1. Round-the-world tickets

  • What they are. Round-the-world tickets (RTW) are packages that allow you to customize your worldwide travel flight itinerary, usually over a one-year period and via 3 to 15 destinations. They are more convenient and often cheaper than booking separate one-way tickets for each flight. Basically you fix a series of stops at the time you book your ticket, and you are allowed to modify the dates for free during your trip, as long as you don’t change the destinations. RTW tickets can be booked through airline alliances (eg. Star Alliance and Oneworld) or via specialist travel agencies
  • How they work. The RTW ticket is like a flying pass that is facilitated by agreements (alliances) between different partner airlines. Basically, your ticket can be used by the airline you buy it from as well as its partners within the airline alliance. Different airline alliances have different conditions and rules for their packages, but generally you must start and finish your trip in the same country, and you must fly in only one direction, which means that you cannot go back to a country you have already visited during your trip. Generally, if you start your trip westward, you need to keep going westward, and vice-versa. There is also a limited number of miles you can fly, and global travel passes are usually offered in a different number of miles increments.
  • How much they cost. Prices vary according to travel class, mileage, number of continents, as well as origin and season of departure, but for an economic class ticket you will usually pay between 3000 and 5000 USD. It is free to alter dates of travel; however you must add on an extra fee of approximately 125 USD whenever you change destination during your world travel.
Global travel

Global travel“ – CC0 / Public Domain”

2. How to book a RTW ticket for your global travel

  • Using an airline alliance. The major airline alliances are Star Alliance and Oneworld and you can simply book your RTW ticket online from their websites. Click on the following links to book your global travel with Star Alliance or with Oneworld. Do make sure to read their rules and conditions carefully before buying your ticket!
  • Specialized travel agencies. Another great option is to go through a specialized travel agency, because with their expertise and their numerous contacts they will know how to find the lowest fares and combine tickets from any possible airlines (excluding low-cost airlines), not just within one airline alliance. If you are a student, you should book your ticket with STA Travel. For others, AirTreks is the best option.

3. World travel : pros and cons of RTW tickets

  • Pros. Because they have so many conditions and rules, round-the-world tickets are not always worth buying. It really depends on the flexibility of your itinerary and your way of travel. If you’re certain not to change your route nor to modify your worldwide travel dates too much along the way, they are definitely worth it. They’re also the most convenient and cheapest option for big groups and families.
  • Cons. However, if you want to go with the flow and make up your itinerary, one destination at a time – or even if you want to travel for more than a year – or if you don’t even know what the future holds! – you are better off buying many one-way tickets along the way. World travel passes require a lot of preparation beforehand, which you might not want to be bothered with!
  • A note on visas. Many airlines will refuse to let you on board if you don’t already have the proper visa in hand. For Canadians, the government’s website can be very useful. Make sure you triple check everything, because being stuck in an airport without the proper visas is a situation no-one ever forgets – and for all the wrong reasons! You wouldn’t want your world travel dream turn into a world travel nightmare!

4. For a flexible worldwide travel itinerary: a series of one-way tickets

To have total control over your global travel destinations, the time you spend in each and the connections you decide to take, simply use plenty of one-way tickets. While larger airlines – namely national airlines, ie. Lufthansa or Air Canada – will charge you the same price for one-way tickets as they would for a return flight, budget airlines don’t care as much. Pay attention, sometimes return tickets are even cheaper than one-way flights!

Another positive is that you won’t have to bother with getting all your visas before leaving on your round-the-world tour either, as you can visit embassies during your trip to get your visas before getting to the next country. Note that this doesn’t mean that this responsibility is any less of a burden!

For more information on how to plan your dream global travel adventure, read our Complete guide to booking your trips. You may also want to check out our articles Cheap travel and travel deals : what to look for and what to avoid and Travel the world on 50 dollars a day? easy!

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