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So, now you've chosen the best type of RTW fare, how to make best use of it?

Less can sometimes be more; try and avoid the temptation to visit too many places.

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Round the World Airfares part 4

Planning your round the world itinerary

So you're all set to fly away - where do you go, how do you get there, and what other issues should you consider when planning your itinerary?

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



Part of the complete process of choosing your RTW fare is also choosing where you go and how you get there.  Some of your choices will be better than others, and you need to avoid the 'kid in a candy store' temptation to cram too much into a world tour.

The information below will help you enjoy the best travel and destination experiences as part of your RTW experience.

How to Best Use a Round the World Ticket

If you've decided that you're going to spend a month or however long traveling the world, then perhaps a RTW fare is a good choice.  But beware of the 'kid in a candy store' syndrome, where you decide to 'get your money's worth' from the fare by stopping in as many different places as possible.

That is generally not a good idea; you'll end up spending too much of your time away on airplanes and too little time actually sightseeing and enjoying the destinations you visit.

You should also use your RTW fare to travel to far away and widely disparate places, rather than using it to make a series of small flights within a single region.

As a general rule of thumb, you should allow yourself a minimum of three days per country and two days per stop, and traveling days should not be counted as part of those time allocations.

The chances also are that you won't be able to go to everywhere you want to go, all as part of one single globe-circling journey.  You'll run out of time, the rules of the ticket won't allow you to go everywhere, and the extra cost of side-trips or extensions to the base RTW ticket will end up becoming prohibitive.

Direction of Travel

Should you travel east-bound or west-bound?  There are several considerations to keep in mind when deciding this major issue.

We also have two pages of information elsewhere on our site about when is the best time to travel.


If you're on a journey for an extended period of time, you should try and work out which direction will give you the best weather overall.

Remember that the seasons are reversed south of the equator, and remember the rainy and typhoon/hurricane seasons closer to the equator, and try to get the dates as optimized as possible for the consistently best weather overall.

Time Zones and Jetlag

People generally find it easier to adjust to new time zones when traveling in a westerly direction rather than an easterly direction.  This is because the human body's daily cycle is actually slightly longer than 24 hours, so it is easier to adjust to longer days than to shorter days.

We have two pages of information about jetlag causes and cures elsewhere on the site.

If all other things are equal, you'd probably slightly prefer to plan your trip in a westerly direction for this reason alone, especially if you're on a shorter itinerary, meaning you have less time to allow for adjustment/recovery days after each flight than if you're on a longer duration trip.

Deciding Where to Go.

Now for the exciting part - where in the world will you go?

Step One - Three lists of destinations

We suggest you create perhaps three lists of destinations - a 'Must Visit' list, a 'Should Visit' list, and a 'Would be Nice to Visit if Convenient' list.

Perhaps mark up a world map with dots - eg red, yellow and green, to graphically show where the different places are, to help you when it comes to working out how to travel between the places.

Step Two - How much time do you have

Then decide how much time you have for your total vacation, and think about how long you'll want to spend in each of the places on your three lists.

At this point, you should be starting to get a feeling for some of the constraints that will act upon for - for example 'I want to go to four 'must visit' destinations, seven 'should visit' destinations, and five 'would be nice to visit' destinations, but I only have time to go see eight places during my total time away.

So, which eight places will you go to?  In this random example, you could in theory do all four 'must visit' destinations, plus four of the other destinations too.  But maybe you might see, on the map, a cluster of places you want to go to, all close to each other, and which would cut down on your traveling time and hassle (and possibly cost).  Maybe you then find yourself having to choose between visiting one 'must visit' destination or two or three of the lesser priority destinations.

Also consider places that are easy to visit on other occasions, because they are close or inexpensive to travel to.  Perhaps these are places you might leave off the major world trip if you need to start cutting back.

Step Three - Fitting your itinerary to the different RTW choices and costs

The next step is to see how the various different RTW fares would apply to the possible itineraries you have in mind.  Maybe some places can't be reached on some of the RTW fares, and maybe other places would cost considerably extra to add.  This will start to inject a note of financial realism into things.

Step Four - What is your travel budget

You need to decide how much you're willing to spend for your world trip.  Consider how this money will be allocated for airfare, for hotels, for meals, for sightseeing, and for miscellaneous expenses.

Maybe some destinations are very much more expensive to stay in than others.  And maybe some destinations will cost extra airfare to get to.

So if you're starting to reach your budget limits, you may decide it is better to eliminate an expensive destination, leaving you more time and money to enjoy more moderately priced destinations.

Step Five - Leave some things for next time

As part of your eliminating some places process, consider if your complete world trip wouldn't be better taken in a series of shorter excursions rather than all at once.  Many of us find that once we've been away from home for over a month, not only do we start to get homesick, but things that we've deferred for a month at home start to become more pressing and more demanding of our physical presence and attention.

For example, here's a mythical itinerary that is crammed full of travel, and gets you to eight countries in 29 days, and nine of those 29 days (more than one in three) are spent (ie wasted!) traveling, with much of the world still untouched.

Day 1 :  Fly from US to Iceland
Day 2,3,4 :  Three full days in Iceland
Day 5 :  Fly from Iceland to the UK
Day 6,7,8 :  Three full days in the UK
Day 9 :  Fly to France
Day 10,11 :  Two full days in France (cheating by acting as if 'Europe' is a single country for the two/three day rule of thumb)
Day 12 :  Fly from France to Germany
Day 13, 14 :  Two full days in Germany
Day 15 :  Fly from Germany to Italy
Day 16,17 :  Two full days in Italy
Day 18 :  Fly from Italy to Greece
Day 19,20 :  Two full days in Greece
Day 21 :  Fly from Greece to Egypt
Day 22,23,24 :  Three full days in Egypt
Day 25 :  Fly from Egypt to India
Day 26,27,28 :  Three full days in India
Day 29 :  Fly from India back to the US

Considering this mythical itinerary, the thing that should obviously strike you is that you're wasting a lot of the potential of the RTW fare by flying around Europe.  You'd be better advised to make a separate trip to Europe by just buying a roundtrip ticket to Europe (probably an 'Open Jaws' type ticket - this means you fly in to one city and out of another) and travel within Europe on a Eurail type rail pass instead.

If you did this, you'd free up time in your RTW itinerary for adding extra stops such as other places in Asia (China, Japan, etc), down to the South Pacific (Australia and New Zealand), possibly a South Pacific island (Fiji, Tahiti) and even time in South America.  This is adding many more 'expensive' and 'far away' destinations to your itinerary.  Europe is easy to get to and easy to travel around, but some of these other places are much harder to get to and travel about.

In Conclusion

Finally, you have to make the difficult choices of how much extra to pay for places you really want to see, and which places you'll have to leave off the itinerary.  And that's a part only you can do; we can't help you with that!

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 back to part three.

Related Articles, etc

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Originally published 14 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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