How to plan for a RTW trip – flights

Posted on Dec 28, 2014

How to plan for a RTW trip – flights

It’s time for something different. This blog post today does not contain an update on our whereabouts, but is a blog for our new page resources. This post will show you our insights on how to buy your Round The World(RTW) tickets.

Many evenings and weekends were spent in preparing for our trip. Some people who decide to do a trip like this start planning two or three years ahead. We did it a bit faster, we made the decision that we wanted to travel for a year  in June 2014 and we left our home early December. So we had exactly 6 months to get ready for this adventure.

In the process we learned a lot of new things and on this blog we like to share our knowledge back with the world, so that other people can start planning for their dream. Every now and then we will post a blog on a theme like budgets, flights, accommodation or packing and they will be added on a separate page Resources on this blog.

Today we will focus on one of the largest costs – the flights. There are many options to choose from and it can feel overwhelming in the beginning. But after trying out a few options, getting some quotes and comparing various sites, it starts to make sense and you will get a better idea of what you want and what is possible.

The two key factors to consider are cost and flexibility. If you are fully flexible, willing to fly to a place just because it is cheap then you are mostly better off by just buying single flights for every leg of your trip. Also if you don’t know how long you will stay at one place this option might best suit you. There are many sites that can compare prices for flights but we used mainly Skyscanner. It has a very handy feature where you can see the price on any day and you can just select the lowest price.

The next option that you can consider is to buy multi-leg tickets. This is useful if you have planned the first three months of your trip, but don’t know yet what you want to do thereafter. There are specialised companies who can stitch together say 5 single flights into one ticket and usual they can be cheaper than buying separate tickets yourself. For most of the companies you need to request a quote, but we found the online planner of Bootsnall very useful in the initial stages of our planning to get an idea for costs of flights. The benefit of this option is the lower price and the fact that you don’t need to look for flights while you are travelling. But the drawback of this option is that most of the tickets will not be flexible, so you need to stick to your route and dates.

The third option is to buy a full Round The World(RTW) ticket. The three major airline alliances (Oneworld, Star Alliance or Skyteam) each offer their own RTW ticket, with different conditions and prices. All three of them have online tools where you can try-out routes and see if it works – warning: this can be very addictive and will consume lots of time. Then there are a whole host of other RTW type tickets. Sometimes with two companies combined (e.g. KLM + Air New Zealand) or sometimes only bookable via a travel agent (Navigator). The benefit of the RTW tickets is that they are – within limits – flexible. You can change dates for free and even make route changes at a nominal fee. So if 6 months in your trip you decide to change the plan, it is possible. They can also be attractive cost wise. The problem with these tickets is that there are certain rules you must follow, e.g you need to fly in one direction (East or West) and can only cross oceans once. If you don’t want to literally fly around the world, but want to travel back and forth between contents this option will not work for you.

After reviewing all the options and comparing routes and prices we decided we wanted to book a RTW ticket. Because we travel with two young kids we don’t want to be too flexible and we will plan accommodation a few months ahead anyway. We also were quite certain on the countries we wanted to visit on this trip, so we could select a RTW ticket that would fit our route. The cheapest opIMG_19700102_022523352_HDRtion we found was about 8000 euro for 4 tickets in Economy, but we would need to buy additional tickets to New Zealand as this option would allow us only to fly to Australia. There were also some other restrictions that we did not like. The next good alternative was to book a RTW from either Oneworld or Star Alliance, as they both have airlines that fly on our routes. Skyteam is not that strong in Australia and New Zealand and we would not be able to fly direct routes. The price of both options was about 14000 euro for a family of 4 in Economy or 30000 Euro in Business class. In the end we landed on the Oneworld RTW as our best option. Oneworld calculates the price per number of continents and not per miles flown as the other alliances do and fitted our itinerary the best.

So we were about to book, but then I stumbled on a very useful forum called flyer talk. This is an online discussion forum where frequent flyers discuss anything that you want to know about airlines. They also have a very useful section on RTW. From this forum I learned that prices for RTW tickets will change depending on where you start your trip. So the same route starting in US or Europe would be much cheaper if you start in Africa or Middle East. We checked and our route would be about 30% cheaper if we would start in South Africa and not in Europe. The draw back is that you then first need to fly to your starting location. Luckily we had still plenty of frequent flyer miles from Taco his previous job when he travelled a lot, so we ended-up with the following cunning scheme. We would fly-out to South Africa for free using frequent flyer miles. Then we do a RTW starting and eP1000166nding in South Africa for a much lower price. And at the end we hope we have accumulated enough points on Oneworld, so we can fly back again on miles.

And so we did. With the help of American Airlines office in South Africa we managed to book and pay the ticket in South Africa and we were ready to go.