Around the World Travel
If You’re Halfway There Already,
Why Not Keep Going?
you start your plane travel around the world, why
Some travelers set out
with a plan to circle the globe, while others plan a single
trip and later decide, “Why stop there?” There
are a lot of advantages to visiting multiple countries on
one trip. First of all, you’re already packed. If
you take a backpack that’s not stuffed to capacity,
you can move easily from place to place and switch out clothes
to fit the local climate. Once you start moving, you’ll
find that in many countries you can stay in hotels and eat
in restaurants for far less than you spend just getting
by at home. Once you jettison those fixed costs for rent,
car insurance, and utilities and stop spending money on
a work wardrobe and dry cleaning, finances become much simpler.
Many round-the-world travelers find that they are living
better while spending less.
The biggest reason to
keep going once you’ve started is that transportation
costs become cheaper with volume. Taking separate vacation
trips to Asia, Africa, and South America could cost a fortune.
Visiting all three on a round-the-world ticket is far less.
Following are three options
for round-the-world (RTW) or circle-the-globe airline travel,
with the pros and cons of each method.
Global Airline Alliance
Oneworld Alliance and
Star Alliance offer the choice of buying one round-the-world
ticket that covers a variety of well-known airlines in the
alliance. You pay based on distance and/or continents visited.
fly on known airlines with good safety records and you earn
frequent flier miles on one system—often enough for
an additional international flight. You always have an onward
ticket to show any over-zealous immigration folks. In theory
anyway, you’re dealing with well-staffed customer
service departments who speak English.
is usually the most expensive option from the U.S., where
the price is almost double what it is in the most other
parts of the world. Figure on close to $3,000 for the least
number of stops. From Canada or London, the price is more
reasonable. You're locked into a set itinerary and your
ticket is only good for one year. Also, your choices are
limited to where the partners fly and there are some strange
restrictions, such as a mandatory stop in Africa on Oneworld’s
Consolidators patch together
a series of tickets to cover your destinations and work
out a price based on market rates for those combined segments.
Sometimes referred to as “bucket shops,” consolidators
often purchase the tickets from international sources. STA
is a student-centered travel agency, but they also operate
as a consolidator when it comes to RTW tickets.
are usually far cheaper than the formal alliance deals and
offer more flexibility: you can use any airline and go anywhere
there’s a flight, provided you’re willing to
pay for it. You can sometimes reschedule the last leg with
a particular airline locally, extending the yearlong expiration.
Again, you’ll have an onward ticket to show immigration.
departure dates (after the first one) are flexible, you're
still locked into a set itinerary. You can end up on some
odd airlines you've never hear of (Tarom, Biman Bangladesh,
Air Jordan, etc.). You will not get frequent flier mileage
on some or all legs of the trip. If you run into a problem,
there’s often no local contact to sort it out.
Buy as You Go
With this option, you
buy a one-way ticket to your first stop, then purchase additional
one-way tickets locally as you go after that. You get the
local prices, which are often far cheaper than in your home
country, especially for 1-way flights.
option is usually, though not always, the cheapest. It also
offers unparalleled flexibility. If you decide to stay somewhere
for a while, you don’t have to worry about tickets
expiring. If you change your itinerary in midstream, no
problem. You can choose destinations based on flight prices
or political changes as you go, when you’ll know more
about the options than you did at home.
will not know at the outset what your whole trip will cost
and you’ll have to hold money in savings to cover
flights, so this is not an option for those who can’t
stick to a budget. During peak times in some places you
could have trouble getting a ticket. You’ll fly on
some strange airlines and likely not earn much frequent
flier mileage. You will not have an onward ticket if you
get hassled by an immigration official (rare outside rich
countries, but it happens).
It’s also possible
to combine elements of a consolidator ticket and the pay-as-you-go
model. Some travelers buy a bare bones “skeleton” ticket
to cover four or five main stops, then fill in the rest
with short local hops.
Keep in mind that you
can visit a great many countries by going overland or on
ferries. There are several well-worn travel circuits where
this is quite simple: through Southeast Asia, Mexico and
Central America, South America, and much of East Africa
for a start. A flight to Bangkok can get you to eight different
countries by land or sea, so you can save a bundle on flights
from there if you have the time. The world is a much simpler
place to get around than it used to be, so take advantage
of it and branch out.
World Travel Ticketers
note: Indie — Global TripPlanner: indie.bootsnall.com.
Highly recommended new website which allows
maximum flexibility in the scheduling and
purchasing of round-the-world tickets, with
a great intuitive interface. A very well
conceived website and concept which will
save you bundles in these days of skyrocketing
airline ticket prices.
STA Travel: www.statravel.com
Star Alliance: www.staralliance.com/en/
LEFFEL is the author of some classic
books on budget travel and travel writing. He is
also editor of PerceptiveTravel.com,
featuring narratives from some of the best wandering
authors on the planet.