Why buy a round-the-world (RTW) ticket?

When does it become cheaper to purchase a RTW ticket? This handy guide explains how these confusing tickets work, and when you should consider booking one.

What is a RTW ticket?
A RTW ticket allows you to make multiple stops as you complete a journey, often using a variety of different carriers.

Why would I book a RTW ticket?
For a regular trip you are better off booking one or two flights on your own. But once your trip begins to contain multiple destinations, or to traverse multiple continents, a RTW ticket can be a significantly cheaper way to travel.

How does a RTW ticket work?
There are thousands of possible routes you can take with a RTW ticket. The cost will be calculated in one of two ways. Either it will be based on the total number of miles which you intend to fly, or it will be based on the number of continents which you wish to visit. If your proposed itinerary covers more than the maximum number of miles allowed on one ticket, you can purchase extra miles. Tickets are usually valid for one year from the date of the first flight.

Which way should I fly?
As you are usually charged by miles, it makes sense to try to fly in one direction. By avoiding or having as little back-tracking as possible, you will maximise the value of your ticket.

What restrictions should I know about?
In order to dissuade business travellers from cashing in on a RTW ticket, many fares will have a ‘minimum stay’ clause of anything up to two weeks for each destination. The other one to be aware of is that, although you will be able to change your travel dates as you go, in some instances you may have to pay a fee to do so.

Which airlines offer RTW tickets?
As mentioned above, RTW tickets are rarely offered by a single airline. Instead, airlines form alliances, and these groups offer RTW tickets together.

This list is by no means comprehensive, but it will give you an idea of some of the RTW ticket alliance groups on offer.

How can I ensure I don’t make a mistake when planning a RTW ticket? It looks complicated.
The short answer is that it is complicated. While there are an increasing number of online tools to help you book these tickets yourself, it is highly recommended that you visit a travel agent for RTW bookings. They will have the insider knowledge to get you the right ticket to suit your trip, and if something goes wrong while you’re overseas you can call your travel agent and have them fix it for you, instead of having to deal with the airlines on your own. Having someone with travel know-how on your side is, in this case, very much worth the travel agent’s fee.