To outsiders, buying a Round-the-World plane ticket can be a mysterious process. How does it work? Where can you go? How much does it cost?
Unlike buying a simple one-way or round-trip ticket, you don’t just go to Kayak and click the “Everywhere” tab. (You don’t have to go look – there is no such thing.)
I have spent at least 40 hours, probably more by now, learning the ins and outs of Round-the-World travel. In this essay, I’ll explain a) why Round-the-World tickets can be an excellent value even if you’re not trying to visit every country in the world, b) how to plan your trip, c) how much it costs, d) 7 tips on optimization.
The Time Investment
Be aware that planning and shopping for a Round-the-World (RTW) ticket is a labor-intensive process. If you don’t enjoy planning a short trip, you’ll find it much more difficult to plan a complicated RTW itinerary. Personally, I enjoy the process, but then again, I also like airports and flying.
Also, before you can actually buy a Round-the-World ticket, you need to be willing to do all these things:
- Spend a couple of hours of initial reading
- Spend at least a couple of hours planning and optimizing
- Place an initial phone call (usually at least 30 minutes) setting up the trip
- Place a secondary phone call a few days later after the ticket has been validated
- Make any adjustments due to lack of availability or invalid routings
- Arrange to pay for the ticket with a local office in the originating country
Those are the minimum “time costs” for getting a Round-the-World trip set up well. Keep in mind that you can use a RTW ticket for up to a full year, so taking the time to do it well is important. The value I receive from my tickets well exceeds the planning time it requires, but as noted, this is not for everyone.