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Although they are difficult to understand, difficult to book and difficult to buy, you'll sometimes find RTW type fares well worth the extra effort.

In this part of our article series we look some more at RTW benefits, and also advise where to go to buy RTW fares.

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Round the World Airfares part 2

Helpful information including when you should spend more money and fly greater distances to get better value

While the airlines have made RTW fares less universally appealing than they formerly were, there can still be great value and benefit in a RTW fare, depending on where you want to go and what you wish to achieve.

Part 2 of a multi-part series.  Click for part 1, part 3, part 4.



Sometimes RTW fares are not as good a value as are normal roundtrip and other published fares.  But sometimes they are better value.

In addition to being better value, sometimes it is possible to use other features of RTW fares to your advantage, and sometimes it is a good idea to spend more on a RTW fare than regular fares.

In part two of this series we consider some of these issues, and also look at where and how you can find and buy RTW tickets.

Consider Upgrading to Business Class

If you're on your world trip journey of a lifetime, and if you're countenancing several very long flights as part of the itinerary, consider spending the extra money to upgrade to business class.

Normally the extra cost of flying business class is enormously more than a good value coach class fare, but many of these RTW fares will allow you to upgrade to business class for little more than a 50% premium.  Sure, this is several thousand dollars more to spend, but with the amount of travel you'll be doing, it might be a good idea.

Bonus - Frequent Flier Miles and Membership Upgrades

Needless to say, you're flying a lot of miles on a RTW ticket - probably more than 30,000.  A single RTW ticket can sometimes be enough to ensure you qualify for a higher status of frequent flier membership with your preferred airline's frequent flier program.

The benefit of flying a lot of miles for not much money (compared to buying a simple roundtrip somewhere) and qualifying for upgraded frequent flier privileges may be a sufficient reason in itself to switch from a simple international roundtrip somewhere to a RTW ticket.

In What Country Should You Buy Your RTW Ticket and Start Your Travels

You might think the answer to this is obvious - you'll buy a ticket somewhere in your home country and the first flight will be the flight from your home airport to your first destination.

This makes perfectly good sense, and so it is often wrong!

Sometimes there are much cheaper RTW fares from other countries, such as to make it better for you to buy a one way ticket to that other country, then have a RTW fare from there around most of the world, but ending your travels when you get back home and 'throwing away' the unused final ticket back to the place you started your travels from.

And because sometimes a roundtrip ticket is cheaper than a oneway ticket, you might fly to the other place on half of a roundtrip ticket and throw away the other half of that fare, too.

On other occasions, it makes sense to buy a roundtrip ticket somewhere else, do the complete RTW travel from and back to that other place, then fly back home on the other half of your roundtrip ticket to that place.

Some places in Asia, and sometimes London, often have very low RTW fares and might make a better place to start your travels.

There's one more case when you might need to start and/or end your travels other than at your home airport, and that is when the rules of the RTW fare are such that if you were to do all the travel from and back to your home airport, you'd be breaking one of the rules and either not be able to plan your itinerary as you wish, or compelled to pay a substantial extra fee on top of the base RTW fare.

Extending the Validity of a RTW Ticket

RTW tickets are offered for various lengths of time, and sometimes they also have a minimum stay as well as a maximum stay associated with them, so as to make them more difficult for business travelers to use.

The maximum validity of any airline ticket, including RTW tickets, is one year.  But if you're really planning for a very extended international journey, you can in effect extend the validity of your RTW ticket by making the first or last leg of your journey on a separate ticket.

Say, for example, you first plan to travel to Australia for three months, and then from Australia you'll travel on to other places around the world, and in total, you plan to be away for more than 12 months.  If you arrange your flight to Australia on a separate ticket, your RTW fare doesn't start until the flight out of Australia, three months later.

The same thing works at the other end of your travels too, of course.  If perhaps you planned to spend some months in Europe before returning home, maybe your RTW ticket includes a 'fake' flight from Europe back home within the 12 month validity period which you never use.  When you're ready to return back to the US, you travel back on whatever oneway or cheap roundtrip ticket you can buy at that time.

Adding Extra Flights to a RTW Ticket

Sometimes you'll want to go somewhere that is either not possible or which carries a substantial cost penalty to include into your itinerary.

In such a case, you may be better advised to add a 'side trip' to your itinerary, and buy an additional ticket, unrelated to the RTW ticket, to go to this extra place.

Your RTW fare probably allows for 'multiple open jaws' as part of the itinerary construction - in other words, you don't have to fly consecutively from point A to B, then from B to C, then from D to D, and so on.  Instead you could possibly fly from A to B, then get to point C in some other way unrelated to the RTW ticket, then fly from C to D to E on the RTW ticket, then again make your way to F a different way, and so on.

If this is possible, then plan your side trips to maximize the remaining value in your RTW fare and to cost the least.  Sometimes RTW tickets are costed based on how many miles you fly in total; in such a case, you'd want a side trip to go from one city to the side destination and then to take you on to the next destination rather than back to where you last officially were on your RTW ticket, so as to get more miles of travel 'for free' - well, not for free, but at least not at extra unnecessary cost as part of your RTW fare.

Most Travel Agents and Airlines hate RTW Fares

Are you starting to get a feeling for how creative you can be - and sometimes need to be - so as to get the best value out of an RTW fare when applying it to a complex itinerary?

Most 'regular' fares have all their rules neatly entered in a standardized format in travel agent computer systems, making it easy for travel agents to understand the fare, and to book the fare, and then to get their booking system to automatically confirm and price the reservation.  But, almost always, Round the World fares have very little rule information online, and almost never can be automatically confirmed and priced.

Booking a RTW type fare can take a travel agent an enormous amount of time, and it is necessary to understand the commercial realism of this time/cost equation.  Why would a travel agent want to spend another hour or two of frustrating research, possibly with the net result being to save you $50 or $100 on your fare, but in return for which, the agent gets nothing at all, or possibly even a reduced commission?

Just like any other person who makes money through selling their time and service, travel agents have to be reasonably efficient and match the time they spend with the money they will make, and RTW fares usually involve them in a great deal more time than normal fares.

I say this not to accuse or condemn travel agents.  Quite the opposite.  I say this to explain to you that if you're seeking to book a RTW type fare, you need to do several things - you need to have realistic expectations as to the level of support to expect, you need to consider going to specialist agencies that concentrate on these types of fares, and/or you need to do most of the research yourself.

It is a similar situation when you approach an airline.  Chances are the person you speak to on the phone is not familiar with the often labyrinthine rules of their RTW fares, and chances also are they will have to send anything they do off to their 'Rate Desk' to get it manually checked and quoted (this can take a day or two), and unless you strike it lucky and get a friendly expert agent, your experience with the airline will be difficult.  And, even if it is positive, you're only going to get information on the RTW fares that the airline you're talking to offers, of course you won't get any competitive information on similar fares offered by other airlines.

Indeed, sometimes you'll have an airline tell you 'yes, it is true we participate in the RTW fare offered by (a different airline) but you'll have to speak to them about the rules and requirements, not us'.

And if you can get a person to talk to you about RTW fares at an airline, typically there strategy is to ask you to tell them where you wish to travel, and then they'll cost it out for you.  That makes sense from their perspective, but it may not make so much sense from your perspective.  You want to know, up front, where you can go, and what the cost implications of choosing different destinations will be.  It is very hard to get that type of information from an airline.

Many airlines don't even have RTW fare information on their websites, or, if they do, it is sketchy and incomplete.

RTW Fares Compared and Contrasted

Here is a table of current Round the World fares offered by various carriers and alliances.  Information is sometimes sketchy and incomplete, and you should use this only as an initial guide to the differences, and check everything direct with the airlines before making any decisions based on the information presented.?

Where to Buy a RTW Fare

Okay, so if travel agents and airlines all hate RTW fares, where do you go to get helpful friendly positive service?

Your best bet is to go to one of the limited number of travel agencies that specialize in RTW type fares, and then to supplement the information they give you with such information as may be in this article series, and what you can find elsewhere.

Perhaps the best known of the specialty agencies is, located in San Francisco.  On their staff is well known travel writer Edward Hasbrouck, if you get him working with you, then you're getting gold plated travel advice.

Two more helpful agencies are in Seattle and in San Francisco.

These types of agencies will look at the cost of your travel from several different perspectives, and will cost out your itinerary with the best combination of regular fares, discount fares, air passes, and RTW type fares.  You may end up with something that isn't actually a true RTW ticket, but which gives you a lower price for the travel you wish.

Read more in the rest of this series

Click the links in the related article box at the top of this article to visit other parts of this series, or click here to move to part three, or here to move back to part one.

Related Articles, etc

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Originally published 7 Mar 2008, last update 30 May 2021

You may freely reproduce or distribute this article for noncommercial purposes as long as you give credit to me as original writer.

Related Articles
Round the World Airfares part 1
Round the World Airfares part 2
Round the World Airfares part 3
Round the World Airfares part 4
Table of different RTW Fares

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