Ballpark Estimate: $1,500 to $16,000
If you’ve always dreamed of traveling around the world but never thought you could afford it, you may want to learn more about “round-the-world” plane tickets. This economical option allows travelers to pay one price for an extended vacation that consists of multiple destinations.
Get More for Less
Round–the-world tickets come in a variety of configurations and price ranges. A lot depends on where you want to go, how much time you have to get there and what you are willing to spend. You can customize your own trip, or rely on the guidance of a travel agent who specializes in planning round-the-world vacations.
Whether you book it yourself or seek help with the process, the cost of a round-the-world ticket with a variety of intercontinental stops can often be less than that of purchasing a ticket to just one far-away location. This means you’ll get to experience a lot more culture, while also saving money in the process to help pay for all of your meals and lodging, arrange ground transportation and collect souvenirs from the various stops along the way.
Many round–the-world deals also allow you up to a year to complete the trek, and you can arrange from three destinations (which is usually the minimum) up to ten or more places.
Regardless of how many stops you arrange, when you use a round-the-word ticket, you are usually required to travel continuously in one direction (for instance, going further east with each flight). This will require some careful coordination to accomplish this and at the same time, get in everything you want to see along the way.
Plan Your Itinerary Carefully
Many small and large airlines offer round-the-world tickets. When deciding on a carrier, a lot depends on where you want to go and who covers that service area. Since no one airline goes to every single location, some of them have formed alliances with their competitors to serve customers better. The smaller alliances are partnerships made up of just two or three airlines, while some of the larger companies coordinate with as many as 15 or 20 other carriers to make even remote areas of the world as accessible as possible for travelers. In addition, when you select an alliance of carriers rather than working with just one independent airline, you usually have more flights to choose from and can get the best possible price for each leg of the journey.
If you want to make more stops along your journey than your ticket allows, often for an additional fee you can add other destinations. Further, if you are planning a very complicated itinerary, you might look into coordinating a series of point-to-point tickets, rather than one general one, to get the best deal. A lot depends on where you want to go and if you are traveling in the most popular (translation: more expensive) season.
One strategy that experienced travelers use to get the most from their money is to plan to complete some of their travel by land instead of doing it all by air. This means that if you fly into France, instead of flying back out from the same airport, travel by train to Germany or Italy and fly out from there without its counting as another stop. Keep in mind, however, that some carriers do count this land travel between airports as part of the overall mileage limit that you are allowed. This is a very important point, since some of the tickets have a maximum number of miles (anywhere from 25,000 to 40,000 is typical) that you can travel throughout the entire trip.
The more miles you want to cover, the more you can usually expect to pay for your ticket. Some airlines also charge an additional fee for each continent you visit.
Do Your Homework in Advance
Once you’ve decided on your itinerary, it is important to start researching what documentation you will need for your trip.
First, you will need to make sure when you book your tickets that you have planned an “onward ticket,” or ticket out from each country to another destination. While in the past it was possible to travel with a one-way ticket and make your travel plans to your next stop later, this is no longer the case post-Sept. 11. Now you must have a planned exit for a region unless you have arranged for a permanent, school or work visa.
But while you do have to have an exit strategy, there is some leeway on how and where you travel. For instance, when you wind down your journey, you don’t have to fly back into the same airport, or even same area of the country, as where you began the trip. For instance, if you started in New York City but want to make your last stop in Las Vegas, you can do so and then buy a separate one-way ticket home from Las Vegas to New York without using another stop on your round–the-world ticket or taking up the miles you might prefer to spend elsewhere. This is an economical way to get the most from your trip.
Keep in mind that your journey’s starting point also affects the price, so some travelers buy an inexpensive ticket to another country, such as Thailand, and purchase the round-the-world ticket from there, since it costs less from this starting point than from the United States to travel in that area. (This can reduce the cost by a significant percentage but takes much planning and coordination to make it work.) Check with a travel agent to help you do something similar.
Other Travel Tips
Make sure your passport is up to date. As a rule of thumb, it should have an expiration date that is a minimum of six months after the expected end date of your trip.
- Find out if an international visa is needed in the areas where you will be traveling
- Plan to register with the U.S. embassy in locations where you will be staying for a month or longer
- Be sure all of your immunizations are up to date
- Plot your destinations using a mileage calculator
- Purchase travel insurance
- Join the airlines’ frequent-flier clubs so you can collect frequent-flier miles for your trip. You may have racked up enough miles for your next vacation by the time you return from this one
- Realize that taxes and airport charges will be added to the price of your ticket, so be sure to plan for this expense
What It Costs
The price to travel around the world can range greatly. Many round–the-world travelers don’t actually cover the entire globe, but focus on a handful of regions they want to see. A lot depends on where you decide to go, how many miles you will cover in your travels and how long you will be gone. You also have to decide how much comfort matters, so you know whether to splurge for business or first class or go the economy route.
Generally, economy trips start at about $1,500 from a discount travel broker and will allow you to see a limited number of destinations; the price goes up a great deal from there. If you choose to fly first-class with multiple stops and high mileage, your trip can set you back about $16,000.
Keep in mind that fees and taxes are an additional charge, and none of these trips include your land expenses. In addition, most round-the world-tickets originate from a major travel hub, such as New York City or Los Angeles.
One final word of caution: If you do take a round–the-world trip, never skip a prearranged flight. Many carriers will then automatically cancel the rest of your flights if you do. Therefore, if your plans change in the course of your travels, make sure to notify the airlines in advance.