Round and Round You Go: Taking a Trip Around the World

Ten tips for finding, choosing, and buying the perfect around-the-globe plane ticket
 (Illustration by PhotoDisc)
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So, you’ve finally collected enough spare change in the expendable savings account, you’re dying to tell your jefe to shove off, and your brother—just finishing his studies—is begging to sub-lease your room for a year. Seems the stars have finally aligned: It’s time for that round-the-world trip you’ve spent countless Monday-morning office meetings daydreaming about. But where to start? How do you stretch your pennies so you can escape the rat race for as long as possible?

For most long-term bargain travelers, airfare is by and large their greatest expense. And while a few true adventurers (or lucky poor planners) manage to hook up on-the-go deals from bucket shops in mega-hubs like Bangkok, Hong Kong, Amsterdam, and London, the rest of us desire the security, flexibility, and ease of a round-the-world ticket. Here’s how to find the ticket that’s flexible, cost-efficient, and perfectly tailored for your round-the-world adventure:

1. Choose your destinations carefully
Paradise may be wherever you find it, but it is different for everyone—hammocks on a beach in the South Pacific, teahouse trekking in the Himalaya, a safari on the South African savanna, hash bars in northern Europe, or all of the above. First things first: Decide, in general terms, where you’d like to go. Most air brokers offer specific itineraries that include circling the South Pacific, Europe, Asia, or a true, east-to-west round-the-world ticket. These standard itineraries tend to be a bit cheaper (often under $2,000 for a six- to seven-stop trip) and less hassle to arrange, but customized trips can be nearly as inexpensive ($75 and up for additional stops depending on where and when), so contemplate where you want to while away your days and go from there.

2. Get the biggest bang for your buck
Air Brokers (1-800-883-3273; www.airbrokers.com), one of the largest, easiest, and cheapest round-the-world ticket agents, offers several suggestions to keep your ticket costs low: Travel in one direction only (east or west), travel during the shoulder seasons when air tickets are at their lowest demand, and link several of your flights together with overland travel (fly into Sydney and out of Cairns after some overland touring of Australia, for example). Off- and shoulder-season travel has the added benefit of cheaper accommodations, smaller crowds, and discounts with most outdoor outfitters. And one of the best ways to get to know the local people (as well as what’s up in the regional travel scene) is to travel by bus, train, or boat. A Eurail train pass, the Trans-Siberian railroad, a South China Sea ferry, the Ghan train through the heart of the Outback, or a Saharan camel trek are all excellent and exciting ways to see more of the world, and—in most instances—save a little cash.

3. Take your time
Unlike last-minute, space-available deals on some bargain Internet sites specializing in one-way or round-trip fares, round-the-world agents get the best prices by shopping the global wholesale air-travel market, then getting tickets issued wherever they are least expensive. To get the best price and to take full advantage of this global network of suppliers, you usually need to purchase your ticket at least a month in advance of your departure, says Air Treks (1-877-247-8735; www.airtreks.com). These global ticket suppliers can buy a tremendous volume of air tickets and therefore can negotiate prices much lower than published fares. Also, make sure you know the life of your ticket; you may want to extend or shorten your stay in any given destination. Three-month and 12-month tickets are most common, sometimes at nearly the same price, sometimes at slightly increasing intervals.

4. Balance budget and time
A limited budget does not necessarily mean a short trip. You can easily be on the road for six months for only $6,000, including airfare, if you spend the majority of your time in less expensive destinations such as northern India, Cambodia, Turkey, and Eastern and Central Europe. On the other hand, if you have only three weeks for the entire round-the-world experience, consider westward travel to minimize the effects of jetlag and reduce your number of stops, so that you spend your time exploring your destinations instead of the inside of an airplane or your budget hotel room.


Published: 4 Jan 2005 | Last Updated: 2 May 2012
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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