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The intricacies of round-the-world plane tickets

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We can hardly believe it, but it’s only 2 months until we set off on our round-the-world adventure.

With the departure date drawing so close, it occurred to us that we really should get organised – starting with buying the tickets!

The big wide world beckons

The big wide world beckons

In my debut post I wrote about what’s changed since my last round-the-world trip eight years ago. I can now add ‘ticketing options’ to that list. Back in the day, there were STA Travel and maybe one or two other companies that sold competitive round-the-world (RTW) plane tickets; nowadays it seems every travel agent under the sun is vying for our business, which can only be a good thing. We’ll still possibly go with STA Travel as they’re a good company that I’ve used many times before, and – much to Adrian’s delight – they have a price-matching policy. Adrian is the king of price-matching, and he is flexing his muscles in preparation for the challenge.

RTW tickets

For anyone not familiar with RTW plane tickets, they broadly work like this:

  • You plan a route around the world, generally comprising a mix of one-way flights and overland travel. This is for two main reasons: 1) You miss a lot of cool stuff if you ignore overland travel completely, and 2) RTW tickets usually have a miles limit, meaning you need to factor in some overland travel anyway.
  • Because of the miles limit, your route should involve as little backtracking as possible. Our route is East to West, mainly because I get less jet-lagged when I travel East (I may do a future blog post on this!) but many people head West for the Americas and travel through Australia and then Asia to get home to the UK.
  • Only fairly well-travelled routes tend to be included in RTW tickets, so if you want to visit more unusual destinations you may find it’s cheaper to buy some extra flights as a separate purchase, as we’ve decided to do for South Korea (see below).
  • The destinations you select for your RTW ticket are fixed; the dates are not, with the exception of your outgoing flight from the UK. However, date changes are subject to availability and incur a fee to re-issue the ticket, so it’s best to plan your dates as accurately as possible before you buy the RTW ticket.
  • RTW tickets can cost anywhere from £750 up to several thousand pounds. The cost depends on how many miles you need, how many separate flights, and how popular the routes are. We will pay a premium for including South America on the ticket, as we discovered when we requested quotes.
  • Most RTW tickets require you to return within 12 months of your UK departure date.

Our route

After a lot of deliberation, we’ve just about settled on the following route, encompassing China, South Korea, Australia, Chile, Bolivia and Peru:

– Fly London-Beijing

– Fly/Ferry Beijing-Seoul-Beijing*

Adrian: king of price-matching and general value-for-money

Adrian: king of price-matching and general value-for-money

– Overland Beijing-Hong Kong (probably train)

– Fly Hong Kong-Cairns

– Overland Cairns-Brisbane (bus/ car)

– Fly Brisbane-Melbourne

– Fly Melbourne-Santiago

– Overland Santiago-La Paz-Lima (bus/car)

– Fly Lima-London

*Not included on RTW ticket, as South Korea is not a popular enough backpacker destination and it’s therefore cheaper for us to organise a trip there from China.

Keep your eyes peeled for the results of Adrian’s price-matching exercise … £1866 is the price to beat!

Written by Emily

July 11, 2011 at 9:48 pm

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