With the cost of round-the-world (RTW) flights starting from around £3,000 and weekly food and accommodation easily costing hundreds of pounds a week, there's potential to save a lot—if you know where to look. To help you save money see our tips on economical ways to fly, stay and eat—for instance by visiting hub cities and countries with a lower cost of living.
- Using Hub Cities to Save Money on RTW Flights
- How Much is an Around the World Trip?
- Which Countries are Cheapest to Visit?
Using Hub Cities to Save Money on RTW Flights
The most economical way to fly around the world is usually to buy a "round-the-world" ticket with an air alliance (or specialist travel agent), which can save you 30% or more versus buying individual air tickets.
The trick to getting the most value from a RTW ticket is to maximize the number of places you can visit by flying direct as much as possible—most easily accomplished by visiting hub cities. Airlines have more flights in an out of hubs, so you're more likely to find direct flights between hub cities.
Visit hub cities to create the most value from a RTW ticket. As most RTW tickets give you a maximum number of flights (e.g., 16), flying direct between hub cities would allow you to visit the most number of destinations (e.g., 15). For example, a RTW ticket composed of 16 flight segments gets you to 15 cities if you fly direct between each city (the last flight is for your return home).
On the other hand, flying between cities off the beaten path (not hubs) would significantly reduce your travel opportunities—for example, if the destinations you choose all require connecting flights, you'd reduce the number of cities you can visit from 15 down to 7.
Which Air Alliance is Best for a RTW Trip?
Choose your airline alliance based on how well their hub cities overlap with your desired destinations. Each airline alliance has a different set of hubs—airports that act as a major base for traffic for a certain airline. As a result, one alliance may better serve the destinations where you want to travel. For example, the OneWorld alliance has more hubs in Asia, Australia and South America, while Star Alliance has more hubs in New Zealand, India and Europe.
Before you start pricing RTW tickets, get a feel for which air alliance has better coverage of your ideal destinations. Use the map below to see hubs and focus cities for the three major air alliances—Star Alliance, SkyTeam and Oneworld. For reference, British Airways is a part of the OneWorld alliance, which is indicated by medium blue pins in the map.
Alternatively, if your priority is flying with one particular air alliance (e.g., British Airway's OneWorld) then use the map to see which airports are hubs and are therefore well posed to offer many direct flights in and out. Using these hubs to create an itinerary will help you visit as many cities as possible.
Once you have a sense for which alliance(s) best serve your destinations of choice, or vice versa, try mocking up a sample itinerary at one of the air alliances (Star Alliance, SkyTeam and Oneworld) to get a sample quote.
In addition to the air alliances, we'd also recommend getting quotes from RTW travel agent specialists such as AirTreks. The cheapest fares will depend on your particular itinerary so it's worth checking prices with more than one source.
Is Using Miles Cost Effective for a RTW Ticket?
Due to the high cost of airport taxes, using miles (or Avios) is generally not an effective way to to buy a RTW fare and may even cost you more out of pocket than a cash fare. This is because when using miles or Avios you pay the airport taxes on each leg of your journey, with no discount to reflect the long journey like you get on a cash fare. Given a RTW trip includes so many legs, the airport taxes quickly add up and can cost more than the £3k or so you'd pay for a cash ticket.
Alternatively, a good way to use your miles or Avios is to upgrade a long-haul leg of your journey from economy to business. You can read more about the best way to extract value from Avios in our American Express British Airways Premium Plus Card Review.
(Also, you cannot use a British Airways companion voucher for a RTW ticket.)
Cost of a RTW Airfare
We found that the price of a round-the-world (RTW) ticket is around £3,300, but can vary depending on destinations, number of flights, etc. To get an idea of the cost of a RTW fare, and to see how travelling to hubs can create 2X the value, we quoted two itineraries from OneWorld. OneWorld might be the preferred alliance for many Brits because travellers can earn Avios when travelling on a OneWorld alliance RTW ticket.
Our first itinerary travelled between OneWorld hubs (which we found using the hub map at the top of this article), using 14 flight segments to visit 13 cities at a cost of £3,375. Our second itinerary mostly stopped at cities that are not OneWorld hubs, making a connection necessary for most of the legs. That itinerary also used 14 flight segments and cost a very similar amount (£3,316)—but only covered 7 cities.
|Sample RTW Fares from London||Itinerary 1: Mostly Hubs (Direct flights)||Itinerary 2: Mostly Not Hubs (Connecting flights)|
|Cities||Moscow, Tokyo, Bangkok, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Perth, Sydney, Santiago, Sao Paulo, Lima, Miami, New York||Mumbai, Ho Chi Min City, Auckland, Buenos Aires, San Francisco, Vancouver, Boston|
|Number of Cities||13||7|
By visiting hubs, the first itinerary included an additional 6 cities for only £59. In other words, the hub itinerary included nearly 2X as many cities for just 1.8% extra in cost. Flying direct between hubs creates significantly more value from a RTW ticket.
How to Save Money on Accommodation and Food
Probably the most straightforward way to economize on food and accommodation is to visit countries with a lower cost of living. Use the heatmap below to see, at a glance, how the cost of living compares from country to country.
For example, Switzerland, Norway and Iceland are among the most expensive destinations. Travelling in places like India, Argentina and Indonesia will cost a fraction of the price of travelling in the most expensive countries in the world. Those on a tight budget can save bundles by targeting the right countries.
Where to Go?
If you need some inspiration, check out the sample itineraries at Star Alliance. These itineraries are designed with different themes such as World Food, Architecture Hotspots, Natural Wonders, Wine Tasting and Ocean Escapes. Wherever you go, be sure to buy travel insurance to protect you and your trip. Happy travels!