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The Little-known Type of Airline Ticket That Can Take You Around the World on a Budget

Travel + Leisure logo Travel + Leisure 1/12/2018 Cailey Rizzo

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There’s a little-known type of airline ticket that could help travelers on a budget circumnavigate the globe.

A round-the-world ticket — sometimes referred to as RTW — is typically offered by an alliance of airlines. Using partnerships like the Oneworld Alliance (including American Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Qantas) or SkyTeam (Delta, AirFrance, Korean Air, AeroMexico), travelers can book flexible, long-term travel around the world for much cheaper than individual flights.

a couple of people posing for the camera © Courtesy of Ian Paterson In 2010, Ian Paterson, a travel consultant and blogger behind Resfeber Travel, booked a trip, traveling from the U.K. to South America, through Australia and Asia, and then returning back to the U.K. He has since been advising fellow travelers on how to do to the same.

Paterson’s first piece of advice is to link up with a travel agent who has similar priorities, travel styles and ideas.

“These tickets are extremely hard to do on your own,” Paterson told Travel + Leisure. “It’s not like booking a normal flight. You can’t go online and book it yourself.”

a couple of people posing for the camera © Courtesy of Ian Paterson

When Paterson embarked on his adventure around the globe, the travel agent did more than book his flights. His agent — a former backpacker himself — was able to properly advise a route, determine how long to stay in each destination and offer tips about what to do in each locale.

“Find someone you can work with,” Paterson said. “Someone who really engages with the trip.”

a man standing in front of a mountain © Courtesy of Ian Paterson

While travelers are on the road, agents remain the point of contact between airline and passenger. The best perk of RTW tickets is the flexibility they afford. Paterson’s round-the-world adventure — booked through Qantas — lasted about a year. But because travel dates are almost impossible to predict a year in advance, the travel agent was able to simply change flights whenever Paterson sent an email.

There is one small but important detail travelers should know before booking a RTW flight. They operate like any other multi-leg travel. If, for any reason, a traveler misses one leg of the ticket, it could cancel out the rest of the trip. Travelers prone to missing flights should proceed with caution.

A round-the-world ticket can start as low as $2,000. Prices increase based on seasonality, route and specific requests. Travelers can compare all different RTW options with Paterson’s guide.

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