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Everything you need to know about booking a round the world ticket

Trotting off around the globe sounds like a pricey business, especially when you consider all the flights you’ll need to get you from continent to continent. But it doesn’t have to be. Whether you’re gearing up for a gap year or simply planning a multi-stop adventure, a round the world ticket could be just the – well – ticket.

So, how do they work and where can you get one? We’ve got the answers to all your FAQs…

What is a round the world (RTW) ticket?

A round the world ticket lets you create a custom round trip, so you can join the dots on your dream destinations. Most tickets last for one year. They’re possible thanks to airline alliances, which are essentially networks of different carriers. Your RTW ticket acts like a pass so you can book flights with any of the airlines in that alliance.

Who offers round the world tickets?

There are three major alliances that offer round the world tickets. They are: OneWorld (Global Explorer and oneworld Explorer), Star Alliance and Skyteam (World Journey). We’ve outlined the different options below, as well as a couple of smaller alliances you might find useful.

Oneworld Explorer

Mileage: No maximum mileage
Stops: 16 flight segments, and 5, 6 or 7 stops
Airlines you can fly with:

  • American Airlines
  • Finnair
  • LATAM
  • Qatar Airways
  • SriLankan Airlines
  • British Airways
  • Iberia
  • Malaysia Airlines
  • Royal Jordanian
  • Cathay Pacific
  • Qantas
  • S7 Airlines

Global Explorer

Mileage: 26,000, 29,000, 34,000 or 39,000 miles
Stops: 16 flight segments
Airlines you can fly with:

  • Aer Lingus
  • American Airlines
  • Alaska Airlines
  • Bangkok Airways
  • British Airways
  • Cathay Pacific
  • Fiji Airways
  • Finnair
  • Iberia
  • Jetstar
  • Jetstar Asia
  • Jetstar Japan
  • Jetstar Pacific
  • LATAM
  • Malaysia Airlines
  • Meridana and WestJet
  • Qatar Airways
  • Qantas
  • Royal Jordanian
  • SriLankan Airlines
  • S7 Airlines

Star Alliance

Mileage: 29,000, 34,000 or 39,000 miles
Stops: Minimum 2, maximum 15
Airlines you can fly with:

  • Air Adria
  • Aegean
  • Air Canada
  • Air China
  • Air India
  • Air New Zealand
  • ANA
  • Asiana Airlines
  • Austrian Airlines
  • Avianca
  • Brussels airlines
  • Copa Airlines
  • Croatia Airlines
  • EgyptAir
  • Ethiopian
  • Eva Air
  • LOT Polish Airlines
  • Lufthansa
  • Scandinavian Airlines
  • Shenzhen Airlines
  • Singapore Airlines
  • South African Airways
  • Swiss
  • TAP Portugal
  • Thai Airways International
  • Turkish Airlines
  • United Airlines

World Journey

Mileage: 26,000, 29,000, 33,000 or 38,000 miles
Stops: Max 15
Airlines you can fly with:

  • Air Europa
  • Air France
  • Aeroflot Russain Airlines
  • Aeromexico
  • Aerolineas
  • Alitalia
  • China Airlines
  • China Eastern Airlines
  • China Southern Airlines
  • CSA Czech Airlines
  • Delta
  • Garuda Indonesian Airways
  • Kenya Airways
  • Korean Air
  • KLM
  • Middle East Airlines
  • Saudi Arabian Airlines
  • Shanghai Airlines
  • Tarom
  • Vietnam Airlines
  • XiamenAir

World Discovery/Plus

Mileage: 29,000 miles
Stops: 6 stops max (must include Australia or New Zealand)
Airlines you can fly with:

• British Airways
• Qantas
• Cathay Pacific (on some routes)

World Walkabout

Mileage: 25,000 or 29,000 miles
Stops: Up to 7 stopovers
Airlines you can fly with:

  • American Airlines
  • British Airways
  • Emirates
  • LAN
  • Qantas

Great Escapade

Mileage: 29,000 miles
Stops: Unlimited
Airlines you can fly with:

• Air New Zealand
• Singapore Airlines
• Virgin Atlantic

So, what’s the difference between the tickets?

  1. Stops vs mileage: Some alliances will give you a maximum number of stops, while others only care about mileage.
  2. Travel direction: The majority of tickets expect you to travel continuously in the same direction and will only let you cross the Atlantic and the Pacific once. Some even require it: with a World Journey ticket, you have to do one transatlantic and one transpacific flight. Other tickets are slightly more flexible and let you double-back over continents (but not oceans). The lowest fare usually equals the fewest miles, so try to avoid backtracking unless you really have to.
  3. Travel restrictions: This varies per ticket, so get checking that small print. Some tickets insist on a ‘minimum stay’. For example, with Global Explorer, you can only return to your point of origin after 10 days.
  4. Changing flights: Plans change, especially when you’re booking travel so far ahead. Most RTW tickets are flexible and will let you change the time of travel for free, but they will charge for changing a destination – usually around $125.

What’s the best round the world ticket?

It really depends what you’re after. A Great Escapade ticket gives you unlimited stops, while the oneworld Explorer is great because there’s no maximum mileage, and it doesn’t dock overland  ‘surface’ travel from your mileage like other tickets. If you’re planning on mixing up flights with travel via trains or car – the oneworld Explorer could be the best option. It mainly depends on where you want to go though. The best ticket for you is the one that flies to all the places on your travel bucket list.

When is the cheapest time to travel?

Unlike other airline bookings that change over time, prices for a round the world ticket tend to remain steady. Most alliances have an online booking tool, so you’ll get an upfront quote for the whole itinerary. Play around with dates and destinations and see how it affects the price. Generally, leaving between April and mid June is the cheapest time. If you’re thinking of booking each leg separately, our handy tool can work out the best time to book.

How can I save money on a round the world ticket?

Book your ticket at least four to six months in advance for the best price. Tickets also vary in price depending on your start city, so you could save by starting somewhere other than your home airport. For example, it might be cheaper to start your trip in Madrid rather than London. You’d still need to get to and from the cheaper city, but if you can do that on a budget airline, the potential savings could more than cover that cost.

Turning your layovers into stopovers will also give you more bang for your buck. With some tickets, they’ll count as stops anyway, so make the most of them by extending your stay for a while. Popular stopover destinations include Dubai, Singapore, Amsterdam, New York, LA, Bangkok, Tokyo, and Fiji.

Can I buy extra miles?

Let’s face it, travelling is fun. So fun in fact, that you may well decide to extend your trip. Most tickets give you the option to buy extra miles – with a Great Escapade ticket you can add up to 33,000 miles.

Do I need an onward ticket before landing in some countries?

Yes. In some places, you have to provide proof of your departure date (and ticket) to get a visa. Your travel agent or the Foreign Office can tell you which countries need this.

What’s better, a round the world ticket or booking multi-city flights myself?

Go for a round the world ticket if:

  • Your trip is less than a year
  • You’re not bothered about flying with budget airlines (like Ryanair or AirAsia)
  • You have a set travel plan
  • You’re buying tickets on behalf of a group or family
  • You’re part of a frequent flier programme and collect miles and perks

Look into multi-city flights if:

  • Your trip is longer than a year
  • You don’t have a set plan yet
  • You want to fly using budget airlines where possible
  • You’re not part of a frequent flier programme
  • You’re doing a lot of overland travel
  • You want to be more flexible

A round the world ticket will save you roughly a third on the full-cost price of all your flights, however it’s worth checking both options. If there are legs you could do with budget airlines, you could save more money that way.

What’s the best direction to travel around the world?

Totally up to you, although travelling west can help with that pesky jet lag each time you fly.

It’s a better idea to plan your direction based on the weather conditions at each of your destinations. You probably don’t want to hit India in the middle of the Monsoon. Equally, if you’re planning a seasonal highlight, like experiencing cherry blossoms in Japan (April) or whale watching in South Africa (June to November), you’ll need to be there for specific times of the year, so this will influence your choice.

Bear in mind that other people might have the same idea. Most European travellers head to Asia first, for example. Going against the grain, including flying to places off-season or in shoulder seasons, could cost less and earn you an adventure off the beaten path.

Ready to go? Find your perfect flights for you’re next round the world adventure, right here 👇

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