This blog post was updated on August 6, 2019.
You’re a traveler that wants to see it all…all of the world that is! In theory, it sounds amazing: book one ticket, and find yourself traversing the globe. But a round-the-world (RTW) trip, as life-changing as it may be, is no easy feat when it comes to planning the logistics while also attempting to book cheap international flights. And that’s why you have us! With the plethora of options available for all the travelers of today, being a globetrotter has never been easier and neither has planning the vacation of your lifetime.
Here’s all the information you need to jet set on your worldwide adventure!
So…How Do I Book This Thing?
Luckily for you, there are some airlines that offer worldwide tickets through alliances (ie: OneWorld by American Airlines or Star Alliance by United Airlines). These partnerships between conglomerate carriers and major airlines allow you to book your cheap international flights together and apply your frequent flyer (FF) miles for each leg while you’re at it. Tickets through alliances cost anything from $1,600-$10,00 (yikes)! Fortunately, there are more affordable options out there such as using a third-party organizer, like Flystein or AirTreks. These organizers build an itinerary according to you your preferences and budget (but use various carriers, so you may not be able to rack in those FF miles with this option).
Before you book through an alliance service or third-party organizer, here are some things to remember before you reserve your ticket:
- Getting around the entire world is probably going to take you a while. Be sure to plan for a trip that lasts a minimum of 6-8 weeks (but preferably longer)!
- You must end your trip in in the same country you started in.
- Tickets tend to only be valid for one year from your start date. Plan accordingly, especially if you’re planning a longer trip.
- Usually, you can only cross the Atlantic or Pacific ocean once. This means you’ll need to make sure your flight path moves either east or west, in one global direction (so no backtracking – sorry!).
- Some countries require visitation visas before you get there. Make sure you check which ones on your travel agenda need one before you book your ticket. (The last thing you want is to be packed and ready to go, RTW ticket in hand… and realize you can’t even enter some of the countries on your itinerary!)
- Lastly, you must book all your flights before departure. Although you cannot change the destinations, you can change flight dates later on, but you will incur penalty charges.
Where Should I Go and When?
There’s no such thing as perfect, you know that! This rule also applies to travel. Do your research and try to pick a focal point of your trip. Are you the outdoorsy type dreaming to trek through the Himalayas? Well, then be sure not to land in Nepal or Tibet in August; it’s in the middle of their monsoon season! Are you looking to beach-hop and/or surf? It’s probably best not to plan the Australia leg of your trip in between October – March when the tides are high and flooding is a constant threat!
Unfortunately, when it comes to traversing the globe on a set schedule, there is no workaround for ending up in certain destinations in their off-seasons. Although this may seem like a total bummer, there are actually some great benefits of traveling off-peak! For example, Zambia in wet season means much cheaper prices on safaris, and with the lush green landscapes in full bloom, you’re more likely to see more animals!
Remember: you need to travel in one global direction if you’re booking through an alliance or third-party organizer, so take your time plan your potential itinerary. Make a list of your top destinations. Research them, thoroughly and decide when you want to be there and what you want to do/see in those locations. Once you have that path down, see what places are along the way and add destinations accordingly (don’t forget to factor in your budgetary, weather, time and directional constraints).
How Do I Pack For This?!
Less is more. There’s no other phrase out there that can better describe how you should pack for your RTW trip. While you’re continent-hopping, lugging around a big suitcase and heavy bags will be both difficult and impractical to carry.
For expensive belongings (like tablets, Kindles, cameras and etc) you should err on the side of paranoid. Make sure to keep ample space in your bags to be able to store your valuables in them at all times. Why? Well, while shirts and deodorant are easily replaceable, your fancy new DSLR might not be! Everyday goods such as over-the-counter medicines, contact lens solution, soap and etc can all be easily found abroad so, don’t waste your precious luggage space on these things. Instead, when you’re mapping out your route, highlight the most popular cities you’ll be in and purchase the necessities you need while you’re there. Oh, and of course, make sure you’re not buying anything too bulky in size (remember: less is more).
When it comes to clothing, repeat after us: function before fashion. Yes, we know…you want to look like a superstar in all of your pictures (as if globetrotting for months isn’t cool enough already) but for a trip spanning multiple climates, seasons and social atmospheres, packing a different outfit for every day can be a wee bit difficult. But we promise that you’ll still have plenty of options to choose from:
- 1 lightweight sweater
- 1 coat (thickness will depend on where you’re going and when)
- 2 pairs of comfortable shoes (sneakers are best!)
- 3 pairs of comfortable pants (skirts/skorts are also welcome, ladies)
- 6-8 tops and/or shirts
– that combined with a good laundry routine is MORE than enough for your travels. Trust us!
What Kind of Mishaps Should I Prepare Myself For?
Skipped Flights. When you’re wanderlust-ing abroad, it’s easy to fall in love with a certain place. And when this happens, you’ll also want to skip your flight and stay on for an extra few days. A piece of advice: don’t do this. No matter how entranced you are by the crystal blue waters of Santorini or enamored by ancient temples in Angkor Wat, we highly suggest to change your flight and take on the penalty fees instead of skipping your flight. Why? Once you skip one flight, your airline or third-party organizer is likely to cancel all subsequent flights. (Talk about a nightmare!)
Language Barriers. More likely, than not, you’ll end up in a few places that non-English speaking. Don’t worry! There are tons of way to overcome language barriers. Again, researching and learning basic terms in a certain language will get you a long way and if you’re someone who is very worried about communication, go ahead and plan a guided tour. There are plenty of them out there, with English-speaking tour guides.
Running Out of Money. Yes, most places do have an ATMs or money exchanges, but they’re not always easily accessible. If you’re planning on doing a lot of sightseeing (and especially if you’re agenda is to do outdoorsy activities) you’ll want to make sure you have enough of the country’s currency on you. Outside main cities, for example, places like Asia and Africa are known to have innumerable cash-only establishments…and if you’re a street food lover, it goes without saying that having enough cash is imperative!
Health Issues. Needless to say, traveling across the globe is not for the weak-hearted…or the weak-stomached. In the midst of exhausting your body from travel and being away from home, chances are that your immune system might take a small toll. Take enough medication to last you throughout the trip and then some! Whether it’s OTC medicines for a headache or upset stomach, or a prescription, the last thing you’ll want is to be in a foreign place, sick and unable to get access to the medicines you need, quickly (or at all). Also be sure to add researching each countries healthcare options and how far a hospital is from when you will be staying.
Now that you know all the ins and outs of RTW traveling, let us know where you would go on your next globetrotting adventure. Already traversed the globe? Tell us about it in the comments below!