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With Kara and Nate spending nearly two years now traveling around the world, have you ever wondered how you can book a trip like this yourself? It’s not as difficult or expensive as you may think — at least in regards to booking the airfare. In fact, it’s quite easy with something called a Round the World (RTW) ticket. As the name implies, RTW tickets are tickets that allow you to travel the world on one ticket. Today, we’ll cover how you can book your own RTW ticket through airline alliances.
The three big airlines alliances — Oneworld, Skyteam and Star Alliance — each offer their own RTW ticket options where you could essentially travel around the world with any of its member airlines. What’s great about RTW tickets booked through alliances, is that they offer free date and time changes, are valid for an entire year and still earn elite-qualifying miles.
Here are links to the three major alliances’ RTW programs:
Unless you’re loyal to a particular airline, you want to plot out your itinerary using every alliance's interactive trip planner to compare costs and flight options. Regardless which alliance you decide to go with, you’ll be required to begin and end in the same country and cross the Atlantic and Pacific oceans once. For the sake of this article, we’ll be looking at Oneworld’s booking page.
Now that we have our cities picked out, it's time to pick out our flights. Since we're booking our ticket through an alliance, we can pick flights from any of its member airlines.
Assuming you’ll be traveling in Economy, your ticket will cost you somewhere between $3,000 to $5,000 depending on your point of origin and distance you plan on traveling — travel dates don’t matter. Each alliance has several possible maximum permitted mileage tiers for you to choose from. Here’s a look at Oneworld’s four tiers:
As long as you are within the allotted number of stopovers — 16 for Oneworld, 15 for Star Alliance and 5 to 15 for Skyteam — the number of flights you take will not affect the cost. In other words, to get maximum value from your RTW ticket, you’ll want to optimize your itinerary to get as close to the maximum number of miles permitted as possible. Since our itinerary covers 23,000 miles, our fare would fall under Oneworld’s lowest tier and come out to $3,599 plus about $800 is taxes and fees.
While we won’t actually be purchasing this ticket today, once you have finalized your itinerary, the booking process is pretty straight-forward.
After filling out passenger information online, you'll just need to call the first airline you'll be flying with to complete payment. Remember, to maximize your rewards earnings, you'll want to use the Platinum Card from American Express to earn 5x Membership Rewards per dollar spent on airfare purchased directly with the airline.
If we were to book these same flights without a RTW ticket, we’d have to buy each of them as one-way tickets or break them down into several multi-city tickets — multi-city itineraries are restricted to a maximum of six segments. This would cost upwards $7,000 and would not provide any of the flexibility that comes with the RTW ticket bought through an alliance.
Booking a RTW ticket through an airline alliance is a good option for anyone who wants to travel the world with flexibility. Plus, it’s a great way of racking up on a ton of miles on one airline and earning elite status. The major drawback of a RTW ticket is that while you can change of travel, your entire route is pre-determined and you can't make last minute changes to the cities on your itinerary. The other downside is that not every city is served by every alliance so you may find yourself having to book circuitous routes or even alternative methods of transportation to visit certain cities. While today's RTW ticket through Oneworld was heck of a lot cheaper than booking each of these flights separately, you might be able save even more money if ticket flexibility and alliance loyalty is not important to you. Check back next to learn how you can book a RTW ticket with ticket brokers and low-cost carriers.
Do you plan on booking a RTW ticket? Let us know in the comments below!