A “Round the World” Trip (or “RTW”) is the ultimate gap year or career break. There is a reasonable amount of information around on how to plan one of these trips, for example Rough Guide’s book called “First Time Around the World”, but I thought I would pass on how I went about it…
I have started by shopping around the travel agents, and I found STA Travel, which is a UK travel agent. It is often perceived as for “students-only” but is in fact available for everyone, although the students benefit from the cheapest fares. It is worth looking at, even if just to get an idea of market prices. The RTW ticket that I purchased through STA Travel was great value, going from England to USA, then New Zealand, Australia, and Japan, for around £1300.
If budget is your main criteria and you are fairly flexible on where you go, and you want to stick to the usual gap year tourist trail (ie Thailand, Australia etc) then STA will get you around the world at good value prices. They are therefore ideal for gap years.
However if you have definite ideas about where you want to go and those places are slightly unusual, then you may be better advised to plan the trip yourself. This is what I decided to do on a subsequent trip after the quotes from STA were either too expensive and/or inflexible. STA’s routes required us to compromise as to which cities we wanted to go to, but on a trip of a lifetime, this is not what I wanted to hear. I therefore decided to navigate the airlines’ websites myself.
I found that if you book consecutive flights with the same airline you can often opt for “Multi-City” which makes it much cheaper. I therefore planned my own RTW trip by stringing together multi-city flights with Delta, Canada Air, Air China, Emirates etc. The air fare was in the same ball-park as the quote that STA gave us however, crucially, I was able to visit the exact cities I wanted to visit.
The downside to this is that it can be a stressful task. Finding flights is fine, but booking flight after flight after flight in one session is a big task. We found all the fights we wanted over a few weeks. Then in one sitting, we checked that they were all available and hadn’t gone up in price. They were, so we then booked them all one by one. I spent the entire session praying that the subsequent flights would still be available when I came to book them. Half-way through this session, one of our credit cards cut out for “security reasons”, so we had to call our credit card company, which caused more delay. I was sweating! I realised then how stress-free booking an RTW ticket through a travel agent is – the travel agent can put the flights on hold until they press the button and book the whole thing for you.
Once travelling, I also became aware of the risk I was taking – if one flight was delayed and caused me to miss the following flight then the risk was mine, and there was no holiday company I could turn to. All I can say is leave an extra day between flights just in case.
Having said that, would I do it again? If it means that I can plan my dream trip exactly as I want it, absolutely!
Next blog: How to afford a Round the World Trip
Awesome tips. I love STA–I’ve had such good luck finding cheap tickets on their website (including a one-way ticket from NYC to Santiago, Chile for $190!).
Thanks! That sounds fantastic- I’ve always wanted to go to Santiago, so I hope you have a lovely time there! 🙂