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What is a ‘round the world’ airfare?

I recently received an e-mail from Sue in Wheelersburg asking, “What is a round the world airfare (RTW)? Are they still available and where can we purchase them?”

The basic idea of an RTW ticket is to travel around the world at a set fare, regardless of the number of stops or mileage, within ticket and geographic limits.

Starting from the United States, you either head to Europe, then Asia, maybe the South Pacific and home, or you do it in the opposite direction.

You can also add South Africa and South America.

In any case, you have to cross both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, each just once. As long as you don’t back track and basically fly in a circle you can circumnavigate the planet.

Round the World Airfare (RTW) are programs offered by airlines and travel professionals allowing travelers to circle the globe for much less money than buying a series of one way tickets.

Many times an Around the World ticket, especially in Business and First Class may cost less, than a round trip ticket to the more remote regions of the world.

Put together a list of the cities you want to visit on your around the world trip. RTW tickets are really the most economical method of building complex multi-stop airline itineraries.

A good starting point is a detailed destination guide which gives details of attractions, cultural norms, tipping guides, hotel discounts, ground transportation options, passport and visa requirements.

For this task I like www.lonelyplanet.com but there are many good guides on-line.

Another great research tool is a good seasoned travel agent, someone who has plenty of experience in international air travel planning.

Plan the order of visits in a continuous direction around the world going from east to west or vice versa. By moving in a continuous direction and avoiding any backtracking you can save on your RTW final fare.

Most RTW fare calculations are based on a combination of stops and mileage so a practical itinerary works best. As such, for some short legs it may make sense to purchase a separate one-way ticket or alternative transportation such as rail.

You normally do not have to arrive and depart from the same city in each area. So for instance, you can fly into London and catch the Chunnel train to Paris to continue your trip.

This is called a “surface sector” in technical RTW ticketing language.

Most RTW tickets are for a period of 12 months. Some discounted ones are for shorter periods. Be sure to match the ticket length to your true travel wishes. Sometimes purchasing the 6-month RTW ticket and starting off the trip with a single one-way ticket can provide a savings.

Most RTW tickets are entirely flexible with dates so that you can extend or shorten your stay in each destination as you experience the trip.

If this is important to you, confirm that the RTW ticket you are exploring allows these changes.

If you’re a do-it-yourselfer there are plenty of RTW online booking tools that can help you get an idea of the types of trips available. Contact me at thetravelprofessor@gmail.com and I’ll share a list of some of my favorite sites.

I encourage you to play around with a few of them and explore the possibilities. Once you have some ideas please submit the itinerary on-line or take it your travel agent.

Either way around the world travel counselor will help fine tune your trip and make suggestions. They want you to truly enjoy your RTW travel and will take the time to make sure you get the perfect airline ticket and schedule for your needs.

A last word of caution before booking and purchasing your RTW fare is to be sure to check on passport and visa requirements. You don’t want any avoidable paperwork hassles and delays.

Got travel questions? E-mail thetravelprofessor@gmail.com . Plus you can now follow the Travel Professor on Twitter and Facebook.