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The Ins and Outs of Around-the-World Tickets

Did you know that sometimes it’s cheaper to fly around the world, stopping in a number of different locations than it is to fly round-trip to a single destination? It is.

And did you know that you can purchase an around-the-world, multi-continent, multi-stop or circle-the-pacific airplane tickets easily? You can.

Have you ever just dreamed of taking off and going around the world for an extended journey? Dream no more.

Airline ticket agencies that specialize in around-the-world, multi-stop and multi-continent trips are the hottest thing out there in alternative travel. Using their services, you can customize a trip that will take you almost anywhere you want to go with more added value than a regular, round-trip ticket.

GoNOMAD’s Mini Guide to Around the World Plane Tickets will give you the basics to help you get started on planning that trip of a lifetime (or even just a less expensive way to get where you want to go). To price out your trip now go to the AirTreks TripPlanner for multi-stop international and around the world airfare estimates.


An Around-the-World (RTW) or Multi-Stop ticket is a series of individual airplane tickets strung together and designed to take you to a number of destinations at discount fares. Some mileage-based tickets have set itineraries and rules (continuous travel in one direction, etc.).

But with a special, customized, routing-based ticket you can fly from New York to London, then on to Rome, Nairobi, Johannesburg, New Dehli, Kathmandu, Bangkok, Hong Kong, Syndey, Bali, LA, and then back to New York. Or you can customize any itinerary you might want, beginning and ending wherever, stopping wherever and backtracking or overlanding wherever you want. You can travel for one week or one year, or any length of time in between.

Because these tickets are bought at discount rates, the cost is usually substantially cheaper than purchasing the tickets individually from the airlines themselves. Some RTW tickets have specific dates and flights (especially for the first leg of the flight) and steep penalties for changing, while others–particularly those in the middle of your trip–are open-ended or changeable at no cost. Most have a one-year limit. There are also discounts for seniors and children.


Around-the-world ticket agents work with a number of airlines to find you the best fares and schedules for your itinerary. Essentially, the agent is purchasing a series of one-way tickets–or round-trips with stopovers, each valid for a year from purchase.

Some have specific dates and reservations, while others are open-ended, and you must make reservations when you are ready to fly, which may not always be available. Whenever possible, get confirmed, reserved tickets for specific dates: you can always change them, if you have to.

Basically, you decide where you want to go and when. Select your destinations and when you would like to depart.

You can also decide when you would like to arrive and depart specific destinations, but it pays to be flexible. Certain routes may be cheaper than others: for example, it may be cheaper to fly from New York to London to Johannesburg, than it is to fly New York-Johannesburg-London. It may also be cheaper to arrive in a destination during off-season, rather than peak.

Specify any portions of your trip that will be completed by surface transportation. For example, you may want to fly to London, travel to Paris by train and then on to Madrid by bus where you will catch at flight from Madrid to Rome. You also need to specify if you must be in a certain destination on an exact date or for a specific period of time.

The main thing is to be as flexible as possible, as a good RTW agent can suggest alternative routes, destinations and dates that may significantly reduce the cost of your tickets.


If you are interested in RTW or Multi-Stop tickets, it is best to work with a ticket agent that specializes in these complex fares and routings. Your neighborhood travel agent may not be the best choice. In the US, there are several companies that specialize only in these tickets.

GoNOMAD’s partner,, is one of the most experienced and reliable, and offers on-line estimates based on your itinerary, as well as real people to help you plan the best route and fares. Other RTW agencies can be found in the UK (London) and in Asia (Bangkok).

You should begin planning your RTW ticket purchase at least six weeks in advance of your intended departure to make sure that you have all your tickets before you leave. Though it is possible to purchase tickets a few days before you leave, it’s risky, especially for longer itineraries.

If you are planning to travel for longer than 11 months or a year, or are uncertain of your route after a certain destination, you may need to purchase tickets in stages. It is highly recommended that you have the actual tickets in your hands before you depart; don’t count on "vouchers" being valid. If possible, pay for your tickets by credit card, and purchase trip cancellation/interruption insurance.


While you can change your route mid-trip for a fee, it is best to plan as much of your itinerary as possible--at least dates and destinations--in advance. True, it takes a little of the serendipity out of travel, but also allows you the security of knowing that you have to be someplace at a certain time, and can save you money and hassle of waiting around someplace for a visa and a plane ticket. Many destinations also require that you show proof of onward travel when you arrive.

In other words, you need to show them that you have a ticket out of the country. If you are planning to visit these destinations, it may be best to plan a route that flies you in and out of that same country. A specialized RTW agent can tell you which countries require proof.Now is the time to think seriously about that extended round-the-world journey, and by purchasing tickets through a specialized agency, you’ll know exactly how much that part of your trip will cost!

Read about a couple who planned their trip around volunteer opportunities in different parts of the world.

Get information on passports and visas.

Don't go without travel insurance!

Some tips on staying healthy on your trip.

Kelly Westhoff and Quang Nystrom offer tips on how to pack for a long journey.

Penny Mason suggests twelve things to do before you leave.

Read articles about great destinations around the world on

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