When to buy a RTW ticket

In this week’s Travel SOS, Kay O’Sullivan has advice for Alison who wants information on round-the-world fares. 

Q. Alison
I’ve often heard it said that a round-the-world (RTW) ticket can be cheaper than booking several one-way fares when travelling to many different destinations. Is this really the case? And how easy is it to book a round-the-world ticket? Are there any common traps to avoid? I’ve tried to look online but can’t find a decent website to help my search.

A. According to Joanna Luke, the manager of Flight Centre’s Round-The-World team, RTW fares are excellent value for money. “A lot of our basic RTW tickets are not that much more than a return Europe ticket,” she explains.

And they can be great value if you are flying at peak times, such as Christmas and school holidays, as RTW fares don’t fluctuate in the same manner as normal return fares and often are close to the same price year round. “On occasion we have even found lower fares,” says Joanna. Plus you get all those extra destinations into the bargain.

Another advantage to RTW fares is that you can mix and match cabin classes, which means you can fly business in one leg and economy in another. Something definitely worth remembering if you are doing an extra-long overnight leg on your journey.

Joanna says travellers need to be aware that if you are on a RTW ticket, you are only allowed to travel in one direction, i.e. you are not allowed to backtrack.

For example, Sydney – New York – Los Angeles and then to Europe is not allowed as you are backtracking from NYC to LAX to get to Europe. But Syd-LAX-NYC and then onto Europe is fine because you are flying in the same direction all the way.

She also says that travellers need to be aware that most RTW journeys have to be completed within 12 months, and some airlines, specifically with sale fares, will stipulate a six-month limit. “It’s best to double check that with your travel agent at the time of booking, says Flight Centre’s expert.


Kay O’Sullivan is no accidental tourist. More than a decade ago, she decided to combine two of her favourite things – journalism and travel – and become a travel writer. Since then, she has worked for numerous papers, magazines and on the internet, both here and internationally.

Written by kayo