The subject of Round the World Ticket Planning can be confusing and frustrating for a first-timer. I have bought two complete RTW tickets and these are my 7 Secrets!
First Time RTW Ticket
I got so frustrated with the information available the first time that I paid a well-known UK travel agent to organise it for me. I didn't know about side trips, or the maximum flights within a continent, or positioning flights, or saving $$$ on taxes.
Second Time RTW Ticket
For my second RTW trip, my budget was smaller and I wanted to organise it myself. I started with the Flyertalk forum. People are generally very helpful, but there can be a bit of ‘flaming' (negative critique) of new users, so read on here first before you dive in.
I planned my trip to take place in 2017 – yes, it's a while ago, but most of the principles remain the same. Here is how I started my planning…
7 Secrets to Planning Round the World Tickets
There are 7 Secrets to Planning your Round the World Tickets:
Pick an Alliance | Continents or Miles | Timing | Class | Booking Airline | Starting City | Positioning Flight
1. Pick an Alliance
Round the World tickets are based on airline alliances and there are essentially two options: OneWorld or Star Alliance (Sky Team also exists).
2. Continents or Miles
The two main alliances have pricing differences – at the time I booked, OneWorld was based on the number of ‘continents' (zones) you pick (you then get 3 flights within that zone), while Star Alliance was based on the number of miles you want to fly. OneWorld has now added a mileage option and a Circle Pacific option.
For me, OneWorld offered a MUCH cheaper option and I pursued planning my RTW trip using their (terrible) online tool.
When you choose to set out will make your pricing drastically different. Keep out of high season and you will have a much more budget-friendly option. I departed Heathrow for South Africa on 29 March, 2017, almost 3 weeks before the start of the Easter break in the UK.
Needless to say, the price of your ticket will change massively depending on whether you pick to fly business, premium economy or coach/economy. A warning about premium economy: you might see this as a compromise option and, for long haul, premium economy can be a great, better cost option. However, not all airlines in the alliances will have premium seats on all of the flights you want to book and you WILL be downgraded to economy/coach for those sectors.
Look out for how Round the World tickets are coded! OneWorld tickets are referred to as [X]ONE[X] – the first character will refer to class, so LONEX refers to the Economy RTW ticket (DONEX for business)… the second X refers to the number of continents, so if you are travelling over 4 continents in Economy, your ticket type is LONE4.
5. Booking Airline & Call Centre
You might think that prices will be the same no matter whether you use a booking tool to book online or direct with an Airline. Wrong! I did a LOT of research into this. Some airlines are more helpful than others in terms of searching for the perfect sector flight to Easter Island (ask me how I know). As you will see from Secret 6 (starting city), you need to be very strategic about knowing where you're starting from, and then who you will call and WHERE THEY ARE. Controversy!! I chose American Airlines and they were flawless as my ‘lead contact airline' from the moment of booking through to making changes when I was on the road. BUT I DID NOT FLY A SINGLE FLIGHT WITH AMERICAN: You enter the OneWorld Universe by picking one of the airlines as the one that you book through. But you don’t have to use that airline at all. So my recommendation was for their contact centre (based in Liverpool, England).
6. Starting City
Where you start your Round the World trip determines how much TAX you will pay and therefore the overall cost of your flight could be hundreds of $$$ more (or less)! You need to check (Flyertalk forums are great for this) which international city has the lowest taxes. It changes. Currency values change too, so you need to take that into account. At the time I booked, people had booked out of Cairo, Copenhagen and elsewhere. None of those worked for me. However, South Africa had the best tax/currency situation for me as I was buying in Pounds Sterling.
Therefore, I called American Airlines via their Call Centre in South Africa. Because I did that, the purchase was processed as a South African purchase and I paid local taxes (which were lower than the UK).
7. Positioning Flight
Obviously, if you book a Round the World trip out of somewhere like Johannesburg in South Africa, you need to get to Johannesburg. This may make NO sense if Johannesburg is not already on your wish list or the price of taking a positioning flight to get to your starting city adds too much to the overall price.
I was lucky, I had a voucher to use with Virgin Atlantic and I managed to get to Johannesburg for free (where I needed to visit for work, handily). However, this won't be the case for everyone and so your overall calculation must include the price of positioning for that first RTW booking.
I hope you find these 7 Secrets to Round the World Ticket Planning useful. These are intended to be practical insights to the process. I saved over $1,000 USD by NOT starting from London Heathrow and planning ahead. And that was a big chunk of budget I got to spend on something else! Enjoy your planning!