A ‘round-the-world’ trip is an incredibly exciting rite of passage for many people before starting university or before entering the job market. Increasingly people are taking career breaks either through redundancy or choice. There is also a growing ‘grey’ gap year phenomenon of retirees taking off to see the world. Whatever your reasons or time of life, however, the starting point for a round the world (RTW) trip is a plane ticket. We look at the options:
One of the best value fares for a simple round the world journey is ‘World Walkabout’ fare offered by Qantas. This fare allows a maximum of 6 stops worldwide with 12 months to complete all travel. You can change dates (apart from your first flight) free of charge. Change route or the date of your first flight will incur a fee of £70. Remember with Qantas that you don’t actually have to go around the world; you can head out to Australia, New Zealand and Fiji via Asia and go back the same way. You can, of course, return the other way via the United States. You can also use up to two ‘surface’ sectors. This is where you fly into one destination and out of another. Popular surface sectors include flying into Bangkok and out of Singapore, into Sydney and out of Cairns, and into LA and out of New York.
Depending on exactly where you want to go and when you plan to travel, expect tickets to cost roughly £1154 to £1500. If you find that you are coming up with a cost significantly higher than mentioned above when using the Qantas journey planner tool then you need to change one of two things; the dates or the route.
The date: Due to the sheer number of flights involved in a RTW itinerary, the planner does not offer alternative cheaper dates as you often find when searching a simple return fare. If you are unhappy with the price the planner returns then take a look at the dates you have inputted. Are you leaving soon? If so it may just be the first leg of the journey that is causing a problem. Play around with that date to see if that helps. If you are flying on the weekend (including Friday) this might be the problem, try a weekday instead. Are any of your journeys happening at a particularly busy time? A good example of this is the couple of weeks before Christmas and school/university holiday times. If this is the case then start by changing that date. This can be frustrating, but putting some time in now can potentially save you a lot of money, so it is worth persevering. Also, be flexible! This is the number one way that you can save money on your airfare. Do you really need to travel the exact day you picked? Check the price for the same journey on another day and see if that will save you some cash!
The route: Be willing to compromise on the route, but don’t be willing to compromise too much. Remember that flights around South East Asia (for example) can be very cheap, so if you want to go to Borneo (which isn’t included on this ticket) then fly into Singapore and then get a cheap Air Asia flight into Borneo. Equally if you want to visit several destinations in South East Asia (this ticket only allows one) then fly into the region and out again on this ticket and make your own way around between! Also apply this principle if you use the journey planner and the fare seems very expensive, just try another nearby city!
The journey planneris very good at showing you where you are allowed to go on the World Walkabout ticket, once you select a destination, places you can’t visit from there grey out. You will also find the sample itineraries useful.
If you are planning a simple round the world trip or if you want to travel in the South Pacific (Fiji, The Cook Islands, Samoa, Tonga or Tahiti), then Air New Zealand are also a great bet. Air New Zealand is the only airline in the world that actually flies its own planes all the way around the world. You can fly from London to Auckland via both Asia and North America.
Air NZ offers 3 different stopovers in Asia; Hong Kong, Shanghai and Tokyo. This offers you the option of something a little different to the typical stop in South East Asia. Not that we are knocking SE Asia though, we love it! If you want to visit SE Asia as part of your RTW trip we recommend you consider a stop in Hong Kong, a flight with Air Asia to Bangkok can cost less than £40 and could save you buying a more expensive round the world ticket! Another popular choice is to fly into Shanghai and make your own way to Hong Kong or to make your own way to South East Asia overland from China!
Obviously the kiwi carrier allows you to fly to destinations all around Australia and New Zealand before heading back to the UK via one of 5 pacific island stops and/or 3 stops in North America. In North America you can choose from LA and San Francisco, but also Vancouver. If you time it right, you can use these guys to get you two snow seasons and a beach holiday!
As with the Qantas option, we would advice you again to experiment with different dates and routes in order to get the best price. You are also able to make date changes to your Air New Zealand ticket, and have up to 12 months to complete your journey.
The options for stops are more limited than most round the world tickets, but with options that come in comfortably under £1000 in low season Air New Zealand is a serious contender. As an added bonus they also have the easiest journey planner tool I have ever used! Suggested itineraries can be found here
The Airline Alliance Tickets
If your itinerary can be achieved on a Qantas or Air New Zealand ticket, you will find that this will be your cheapest option. The only limitation of either of these options is that there are less stops (and less destinations) available compared to the round the world tickets from two biggest airline partnerships; Oneworld and Star Alliance.
Both alliances involve numerous airlines, so you can reach more places than you can with the Qantas and Air New Zealand passes, of course you also pay for the privilege as these tickets are a fair bit more expensive. The Oneworld tickets tend to be very strong on South America, so if you are planning a lot of flights around South America it may be worth considering. Equally, as discussed in other sections a lot of the charm of travelling is experienced on the ground, rather than at 30,000 feet, so also consider using a cheaper round the world ticket and doing more overland travel. GAP Adventures offers a broad range of trips in South America.