Round and Round You Go: Taking a Trip Around the World
5. Prowl the Internet
Once you've chosen your places and seasons, shop around. Airline alliances such as Star Alliance (a network of 15 worldwide carriers, including Air New Zealand, Lufthansa, Scandinavian, and United Airlines; www.star-alliance.com) or Sky Team (including Delta, Korean Air, and Air France; www.skyteam.com) occasionally offer better deals, especially if one of your destinations is more expensive or off the beaten path. Both of these alliances feature over 650 destinations, but are rarely as flexible or user-friendly as the brokers specializing in round-the-world tickets. Airline alliances typically insist on at least one transatlantic and one transpacific flight in your itinerary, and unidirectional travel is a must.
6. Take advantage of your advantages
If you are a student or under 26, make sure you check STA Travel (1-800-781-4040; www.statravel.com) for special student and youth bargains. Likewise, if you are over 65, traveling with children, or belong to any airline preferred-passenger clubs, ask your broker what discounts exist.
7. Get your paperwork in order
If you don't have a passport, or if it expires before your trip will end, take care of that ASAP; the process can easily take up to two months (applications can be picked up at your local post office or online at the U.S. Department of State website). In addition, it is important to make sure all your visas are in order. A visa service can handle your needs for a fee, but most air brokers specializing in these types of trips will happily tell you how to take care of it yourself. Knowing whether a visa is required for each of your destinations, how to apply, how long it usually takes, how long the visa lasts, and how much it costs can easily be found out by contacting the embassies or consulates of the countries you plan to visit. In addition, most countries insist that arriving travelers have proof of onward travel. If you don't have an outbound ticket in hand, you will need to show evidence of your other travel plans. Your ticket broker should be able to help you with this.
8. Make copies
One absolute necessity: copies, copies, copies of all your important records (passport, visas, travelers checks, credit cards, and ticket information). Email these to yourself, leave them with a trusted friend, hide them in a bag, and trade them with your travel partner. Should you lose your important stats, narrowly escape certain disaster with nothing but the clothes on your back, or have anything stolen, you'll need to consult these copies, particularly for reissuing your plane tickets.
9. Changing your itinerary
Found your raison d'être, the love of your life, or just a really good chicken tikka-masala and simply have to stay one more week? It's important to know how to change your itinerary on the road. Most tickets are good for up to one year and changing dates is usually free. Adding destinations is a different story, though. Sometimes that will cost as little as $75, but it is important to know the parameters of your ticket before you leave, as well as what on-the-road support you can expect. As you travel other travelers will know the best places to stay and what to see and do, especially since even the best guidebooks are a year or two out of date. This means you'll want to be flexible, and you'll want your ticket to be flexible, too. Discuss the costs and change-of-plan options before purchasing your tickets.
10. Check the fine print for added benefits
Many air brokers, such as Air Treks and Around the World Tickets (1-800-627-0715; www.aroundtheworldtickets.com) offer great bennies such as emergency medical transportation insurance and 24-hour medical, legal, and travel assistance. When you are talking about similarly priced tickets, these added extras just might help you make your decision.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication