Should I Buy a Round-the-World Ticket or Not?

Neon Tickets Sign

I’m considering taking a 3-continent trip this summer and am wondering if I should buy an around-the-world ticket–aka, an RTW ticket. Would it be more economical than getting separate tickets?

If so, how/where would I get it? Also, how would I set it up to have some flexibility without breaking the bank?

OR… is an around-the-world ticket not the way to go? Is there another option that would work better, such as buying from one airline that flies to one of the countries on the route I’m planning?

Where I Might Be Going

This trip, if it comes together, would include Asia (Indonesia), Africa (Kenya) and the West Coast of the USA (I live in the Northeast). The Kenya portion is very up in the air at the moment, so I’m not sure how/if it will happen, but if it does, I’d like to get the most bang for my buck when I make the ticket purchase. And obviously, time is flying (excuse the pun) and I should get the tickets soon–or at least, know how to! :)

Why I Need Your Advice

I’m writing this post to ask for your help since I’ve never been in this particular situation. Whether I take the complete trip or just part of it, I truly appreciate your advice.

Not only will you be helping me, but you’ll be helping others who may have similar questions at some point in the future. I thank you, in advance, for sharing your ideas/tips!

Here’s some more information about this possible trip and what makes it unique and a bit complicated.

Length of Time

Approximately 11 weeks.


June, July and most of August (would love to be home the final week so I can regroup before returning to my teaching job in September, but if not, that’s fine). If I pushed it, I might be able to stretch this to 12 weeks.

I could possibly fly out very late in May, which would be great because prices tend to be lower, but I’m not 100% not sure I can. Of course, if leaving on May 30th or 31st means I’d save a couple hundred dollars, then I’d definitely find a way.


If things worked out, I’d travel to these destinations in this order:

  • Indonesia for about 7 weeks—(very late May/June into and for much of July)
  • Kenya in late July or early August (for a few weeks)
  • The West Coast of the USA for 1 week to 10 days in late August (fly open jaws into San Francisco and out of Los Angeles or San Diego)

Safari in Kenya

Dates*/airport codes

May 31st: EWR or JFK to JAK (or MED?)

July 22nd: DPS or JAK to NBO

August 14th: NBO to SFO (or to EWR/JFK–for me to be home for a few days first)

August 24th (LAX or SAN to EWR or JFK)

*Dates are flexible, give or take a few days.

Note 1: If getting a deal on an RTW ticket means having to stay in Europe or elsewhere for a few days—to make the ticket work out—that’s not a problem. I think I can make that work.

Note 2: I have some airline miles from a credit card that I can use for domestic travel–not quite enough for anything else, unfortunately. Worst-case scenario, I can come home after Kenya and rest–then fly to the West Coast using those miles.

Indonesia Itinerary and Its Challenges

The Indonesian leg of the journey would begin in Sumatra due to a volunteer opportunity I may be taking on. I’d need to be in a town called Payakumbah (a few hours from Padang) as soon as possible—to help with teaching the first week in June. After that, the kids will be in testing and I won’t be able to do anything.

So…I must get to Payakumbah no later than June 3rd.

I was considering flying into Medan (international airport) in Sumatra, but it’s really far from Payakumbah (20-something hour hell ride on a bus to Padang, then a few more hours.) Also, the flight from Medan to Padang is a couple hundred dollars.

It might make more sense to fly to Jakarta, then fly one way to Padang for less than $100. Then, I could take my time heading up to Medan after I’ve volunteered and then fly East from there, possibly to Bali.

Sumatra (

Speaking of Bali…

I’d love to end the Indonesian leg of the trip there in Bali—meaning, I’d like to fly out of there if I can. If I can’t due to price or routing issues–then it’s back to Jakarta. I know the flights would be cheapest in and out of there, but I’d love to avoid the capital city at the end. I will compromise, of course, if I need to.

Your Advice Needed

So…Do I need an RTW ticket?

If I could save money—and have flexibility by purchasing this type of ticket—it would be worth it. What do you think? What’s your experience with this type of route and how best to buy a ticket for it?

Or should I buy a multi-stop ticked from one airline?

A few friends have suggested trying to set this up with airlines that fly to a certain region of the world that includes one or two of my destinations. It might mean a few long layovers in places I wasn’t considering visiting, but it might worth it. Do you think this might work better?

And how do I get a free trip (via miles) from making this purchase?

Obviously, I’ll be covering a lot of ground if this trip comes together. I’d like to score as many miles toward a future trip as possible. How do I do that if I buy an RTW ticket? How does that type of thing work?

Thanks for your help–I truly appreciate it!

If this trip works out–and the advice provided helps me save money, etc.–I’ll perhaps do another post that includes the best tips and links back to those who provided them. This is time-dependent, however, and I’m not sure I can fit it in. I hope so…

And if the Kenya portion of the trip doesn’t come together, at least I’ll know for next time how to make this sort of trip happen.


Due to timing and finances, I’ve decided to remove Kenya from this plan and save it for next year. I thank everyone who helped me and provided advice. I do feel better able to plan a multi-continent trip in the future because of it. Thanks!

If you stumble upon this article and have information to share re: planning this sort of trip, feel free to share it even though I’m not going. You may be helping others in a similar situation. Thanks!

Photo Credits
Special thanks to those who made their photos available via Creative Commons (click on a photo to be taken to the photographer’s page). Alternatively, you can find them here:

Neon Tickets Sign: Dan 4th.
Safari: Thumbling

30 Responses to Should I Buy a Round-the-World Ticket or Not?
  1. Jeruen
    March 22, 2012 | 11:57 am

    Hmm, interesting situation. Let me chip in my two cents, which, I should say, must be taken with a few grains of salt.

    1) Do you really need that itinerary? I am not a fan of long-distance legs. Is there really a necessity to visit Kenya at this moment? Given the length of time you have, which is 11 weeks, I think you can fill that up with Indonesia and another country that is closer (hence, cheaper).

    2) Assuming Kenya really has to be visited, then I recommend getting an open-jaw ticket from one airline, instead of a round-the-world ticket. That being said, I only have experience buying an open-jaw, as I have never attempted a round-the-world before. In 2008, I had to be in Denmark for 2 weeks, and then I wanted to visit my parents in Hungary for 2 weeks. I live in the US Northeast. I bought a ticket on American Airlines, flying Buffalo-Chicago-London-Copenhagen (with the last leg as a codeshare with British Airways), returning Budapest-Paris-Chicago-Buffalo (with the first leg as a codeshare with Malev). I then separately booked Copenhagen-Brussels-Budapest with Brussels Airlines. I remember that was at least 300 USD cheaper than if I decided to book all three segments in one ticket. Most of the time, there’s plenty of LCCs that can take you from one leg to the other.

    3) So, if you really need Kenya, then I suggest you do an open-jaw on one of the Middle Eastern carriers. I believe Emirates and Qatar Airways both fly to Jakarta (Qatar Airways even flies to Denpasar) AND Nairobi AND New York City. I don’t think there’s LCCs that can link Nairobi and Jakarta/Denpasar, given the distance. You’ll probably be doing something like JFK-DOH-DPS-DOH-NBO-DOH-JFK.

    4) Finally, given where things are located, I suggest just buying the San Diego leg separately: the more stops/constraints one has on an itinerary, the less choices one gets, and prices get higher perhaps.

    So yeah, I’m only an amateur travel agent, helping my friends and family find the cheapest tickets for their travels, but that’s what I would do if I were in your shoes.

    That being said, I’d like to know what itinerary you come up with in the end, I am curious about how much this costs, and who knows, there might be ways on searching for tickets for itineraries like these are that cheaper than the ways I use.
    Jeruen recently posted..Stupidity and the American Reality ShowMy Profile

    • CB Driver
      March 22, 2012 | 12:07 pm

      Hi, Jeruen. Thanks for jumping in here–appreciate it! I feel like an amateur when it comes to this, too. Normally, it’s more straightforward for me since I go to one country or one region or two countries that are on the same route with partner airlines.

      By the way…originally, I was only going to do Indonesia, then come home for a couple weeks, then visit CA. But…the Kenya possibility came up a few days ago as a possible press trip. It wasn’t something I was really considering (I’ve really had my eye on Namibia and Uganda–if things stabilize there), but…the opportunity to go on a safari really appeals to me. I went on two when I was in South Africa many moons ago and would have to say, they were among the best experiences of my life! We’ll see what happens with Kenya. It’s only a possibility right now and could fall through…

      Anyway, I find what you said in #2 very interesting. I hadn’t thought of that type of scenario. It does seem to work well when Europe is involved. It seems like a lot of flights go to and from Frankfurt. I’ve had to stop there on some long hauls before. Hmmm. As for the Middle Eastern carriers, that’s exactly what one of my students suggested. I didn’t know that Qatar Airways flew to DPS. Wow–thanks for that info. Great to know!

      Thanks, once again, for your help!

  2. Justin
    March 22, 2012 | 12:12 pm

    I can’t stand the feeling of being locked in while traveling. I vote no on the RTW ticket. Then again, I never bought one before, but this is probably why!

    All the best!
    Justin recently posted..Random Travel Thoughts: American Vacations, Longevity, And Magic MushroomsMy Profile

    • CB Driver
      March 22, 2012 | 1:08 pm

      Hi, Justin. The thing is–I am semi-locked in on dates, so it might work. But…then again, I really don’t know. It’s tricky. Hopefully, it will get figured out over the next couple of weeks…

  3. Helene
    March 22, 2012 | 8:17 pm

    Hi there, I have no experience of flying from the US as I live in Australia, however, I recommend that you research an airline called Air Asia which operates out of Malaysia and does most Asian countries. If you can get to Kuala Lumpur (KL) they have a flight from KL to Padang for around $US34.00
    Have a look at I flew with them last year from Australia to 3 countries, 5 stops and they were wonderful and super cheap.
    I have found that spending the time researching all possible avenues is very worth while.
    Happy travels, sounds like a wonderful trip, love the itinerary.

    • CB Driver
      March 23, 2012 | 3:21 am

      Hi, Helene. Thanks for the advice! I just checked out Air Asia, based on what you said, and thought, wow. The prices are great! I also checked on flights from here to Kuala Lumpur and then from Singapore. If I only do Indo, this might work well. I could then go to KL and take the cheap flight to Padang….then fly from Bali to SIN at the end. Could work very nicely! The challenge, of course, would be Kenya, which I’m still figuring out.

      Anyway, thanks for that tip re: Asia Air! That could really make the Indonesia part of the trip work out well. No matter what, at least, I’d be able to get over the Payakumbah in time for that week of school.

  4. Nico C
    March 23, 2012 | 1:35 pm

    I was looking over your ideas and I couldn’t help but speak up. I hope you don’t take this for a shameless plug, and ultimately it’s your decision, but after reading your post I thought this was a perfect scenario for an AirTreks RTW ticket.

    For your trip I doubt DIY point to point tickets would be the least expensive way to go, considering that Africa is part of the trip. Africa is notoriously expensive to get in and out of when you’re not flying from/to the same place. Consolidator services like AirTreks have vendor partners in Africa who sell one-way flights at a discount with stopovers in places like Nairobi.

    Also, since you have pretty well solid travel dates Justin’s comment about not wanting to be locked in to dates wouldn’t apply. AirTreks does require you to set your dates ahead of time (as would the any service, as well as the airlines) and your having a little flexibility on the actual dates will help a lot in getting the best price.

    Nor would an open jaw ticket be the best option. Any airline that would accommodate a long-haul open jaw route like this would be cost prohibitive. For example, Emirates could accommodate it but for the distance traveled could possibly be more than an entire RTW ticket using various airlines. You’d also have to fill in the rest of the flights on your own.

    The cool thing about AirTreks is that we do all the pricing legwork and you decide whether you’re interested in buying the ticket. You can accrue miles on your frequent flier accounts as well, so the distance traveled wouldn’t be wasted on future tickets.

    Probably the worst option is to go to the airline alliances. They don’t always allow for overland legs (where you travel from one city to another on your own), the overall price is almost guaranteed to be higher, the service will be cold and unfriendly and the route won’t be as efficient as it could’ve been had it been open to any available carrier.

    I recommend pricing out your route on our TripPlanner and seeing what you come up with, then when you’re happy with the results you can submit it to an agent who will get in touch.

    Sorry if this comment comes across as self-serving, but I thought in this case we may be the right option for you. When you submit a trip you’re not obliged to anything until you’re satisfied.

    Hope that helps!
    Nico C recently posted..Take Your Kids Traveling – How to Fly with your Kids and Not Go CrazyMy Profile

    • CB Driver
      March 23, 2012 | 4:51 pm

      HI, Nico. Thanks for writing. I don’t see your comment as self-serving since I am looking for advice. Actually, I appreciate that you took the time to write and share your ideas. I’ll definitely try out your TripPlanner and see what it says. Perhaps I’ll check the 3-continent combo, as well as Indonesia plus California. I’m thinking that if the Kenya trip doesn’t come together that I could still possibly combine the other two somehow if it means saving a bit. If not, then perhaps Indonesia and Malaysia since that’s an obvious stopover scenario. Whatever the case, I think that if I’m laying out the money for Indonesia, I should get another country out of it–even if it’s just another one in the region.

      So thank you! I”ll check this out over the next few days and see what I come up with.

  5. Stephanie - The Travel Chica
    March 24, 2012 | 9:35 am

    Exciting travel plans! Unfortunately, I have no clue about RTW tickets. Good luck with planning.
    Stephanie – The Travel Chica recently posted..Foto of the Week from … Valparaíso – Silhouette in a PrisonMy Profile

    • CB Driver
      March 25, 2012 | 6:57 am

      Hi, Stephanie! Thanks–hopefully, it will all come together very soon. I’m now considering dropping Kenya (making it all too complicated) at the moment and maybe just doing Indonesia, Malaysia (a few days at least) and the West Coast.

  6. Lisa Anderson
    March 24, 2012 | 11:31 am

    Hi, sounds like a great trip! Our family did a RTW trip last year hitting N and S America, Europe, Egypt, Jordan, Thailand, Bali and Oz. We island hopped on the way home. We did not book a RTW ticket, and saved literally thousands of dollars by that choice. It also permitted us to have flexibility when the world went crazy (riots, earthquakes, record flooding, etc.) in our path. I found that the local airlines in each country were much more flexible (schedule and price) than the “alliance” partners on the RTW tickets. For example, I couldn’t get from Peru to Spain unless I rerouted to USA, but with the local airline we flew through Columbia for only $350 each.
    Try http://www.Vayama. com for an excellent website to find “deals” on international airfare. One way tickets are available, so you can “hop” to your destination. We also flew Air Asia, and though had some delays, it was more than fine. When heading from Asia to US, the best routes seemed to be through Hong Kong and Korea. We did Virgin Airlines to Australia and then Fiji by Polynesian airways. Okay airline, but pack your own lunch. We picked up a cheap $199 Honolulu back to Calgary. Go on to get a cheap ticket from Hawaii to anywhere in the States.
    Don’t be afraid to book your tickets last minute, once you are sure you are completing the trip. Flights are often less expensive roughly 10 days in advance, and on a Tuesday (don’t ask me why?)
    PS Virtual tickets worked everywhere in the world except Australia, where they insisted we have printed copies.
    Happy planning!

    • CB Driver
      March 25, 2012 | 7:05 am

      Hi, Lisa. Thanks for sharing that info! Interesting that you did well by not booking an RTW ticket. Funny that you should mention Vayama. I’ve seen them many times and wondered what the deal was. Glad to see that you recommend them. Will keep that in mind.

      Also, thanks for telling me about Air Asia. They may be the key to my getting to where I need to go. Based on another comment, I checked out some flights and am happy to say that I may be able to save a lot of time/energy because of them. If I fly to Kuala Lumpur, I can fly them to Padang cheaply. Then, I’ll just be several hours away from the village I’ll be visiting/volunteering in. That’s a much better situation than flying to Northern Sumatra and having to take a 20-hour bus or into Jakarta and having to take a not-so-cheap flight.

      So…thank much for sharing your ideas/tips. I truly appreciate it!

  7. Erica
    March 24, 2012 | 1:09 pm

    Really found this post interesting! I’ll be pinning this on pinterest!
    Erica recently posted..How to be ordinaryMy Profile

  8. Cindy
    March 26, 2012 | 6:04 am

    I didn’t really knew such traveling solutions even exist! Great replies!

  9. Lyka Ricks
    March 27, 2012 | 2:25 am

    A round the world ticket may lead to pressure. I prefer to go in countries with nearby countries like in Europe or Asia. Your schedules may fit to more than 5 countries. Isn’t that enjoyable? When you’re in Europe, you can visit 3-4 countries for a couple of weeks. In Asia, you can visit 3-5 countries as well like Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Hongkong, Vietnam. Then back to West USA. But still, this is up to you.

    • CB Driver
      March 27, 2012 | 8:05 am

      Hi, Lyka. You make some good points. I may end up sticking to just Indonesia and some neighboring countries. Thanks!

  10. Christy
    March 27, 2012 | 3:48 pm

    I wish I could be more help regarding the RTW ticket, but I have never bought one. They also seemed expensive to me. It seems like you would have more luck buying tickets separately, but that’s just my opinion and I’m not expert! Regarding San Diego, let us know when you are here. We have an extra room!
    Christy recently posted..Kuang Si Waterfall Tips and Photos – LaosMy Profile

    • CB Driver
      March 29, 2012 | 8:09 pm

      Hi, Christy. Thanks for stopping by. Tricky ticket situation, no? Anyway, as it turns out, I think Kenya may have to wait until next year. So it may be Indonesia and a little bit of Malaysia plus a day or two in Singapore. Then, back to NJ for a few weeks. Then over to CA. Thanks so much for that invite–would love to stay with you. I’ve never officially been to San Diego–just La Jolla. Would be great to meet you in person! Will you be around in August?

  11. RTW Sam
    March 30, 2012 | 5:52 am

    Hiya, firstly, very jealous of the trip! Looks amazing!

    As a couple of people have said, the main issue with regards to cost here will be flying between Africa and Asia, there are relativley few carriers that fly these routes and as such they tend to command a higher price.

    However, it may be worth having a look at Emirates who i would imagine might be able to help with your route. From here in the UK they have great multi destination tickets that work out much cheaper than individual legs – it would mean passing through Dubai a couple of times though.

    They fly to both NYC and SFO. Airline ticket rules vary from country to country and I am not sure of how this might work out of the US, but it might give you a lead to work on :)

    Cheers, Sam

    • CB Driver
      April 1, 2012 | 4:22 pm

      Hi, Sam–and thanks so much for sharing your ideas/advice! Looks like I may just do Indonesia–and perhaps, a little Malaysia. If so, then I won’t need to buy this ticket. Having said this, it’s great to know what to do in the future should I be in this type of situation again. Appreciate your help!

  12. Naomi
    April 9, 2012 | 7:07 pm

    Hi there,
    great you’re making it to Indonesia! I too second Air Asia. Tiger Airways used to have a Singapore-Padang flight which was dirt cheap also. Unsure whether it’s still running. You can get a bus from the airport to the highway then jump on another bus to Payakumbuh, no worries.
    Have also heard that there are some cheap routes from US to Singapore/Bangkok/KL through Hong Kong/Shanghai/Taipei. look up all the cheap chinese airlines (eva air, dragon air, air china, china eastern). heard the planes are stuck together by chewing gum though!!
    It’s possible to get cheap internal flights in Indonesia, you just won’t find them on the internet, but in country (just buy a week or two before hand).
    Oh, and get your 60 day tourist visa now, don’t even think about trying to extend the 30 day VOA, everyone says it’s a nightmare.
    Naomi recently posted..A running commentaryMy Profile

    • CB Driver
      April 10, 2012 | 8:02 am

      Hi, Naomi. Thanks for stopping by and for all the advice! I decided to fly with Singapore Airlines. As luck would have it, they fly right to Pekenbaru! So from there, I’ll take a bus to the village. I’ll end the Indo leg of the trip in Bali and take a cheap flight to Singapore and fly home from there. If I get restless in Indo, I can always do several days in Malaysia.

      Funny that you should mention the visa situation. I was worried about it. Kept seeing conflicting info re: 30 vs 60 days and how to get one. Anyway, I called the Consulate and learned that as of February, it is now possible to get the 60-day visa up upon one’s entry. I was relieved to hear it! Now I can just get there and do what I need to and not worry.

      Re: the gummy flights…yeah, that’s a tiny bit concerning–for sure.

      Thanks for all!

    • CB Driver
      April 10, 2012 | 8:02 am

      PS: You’ve been to Indo, right? I vaguely recall you saying that, but I could be mistaken.

      • Naomi
        April 10, 2012 | 7:55 pm

        I think you may be mistaken about the 60 day visa on arrival. I think they mean extending the 30 day VOA, which is apparently a pain. (takes a few days) It seems most reports about this are coming from US but the indonesian authorities haven’t changed anything. also checked Perth consulate which is pretty on the ball with the number of people heading to bali every day of the year) and nothing on there about a 60 day VOA. see this post

        yes I’ve been to Indonesia five or six times (i’ve lost count!). feel I’ve only scratched the surface, so much to do and see… feel free to ask away.
        Naomi recently posted..A running commentaryMy Profile

        • CB Driver
          April 11, 2012 | 9:00 pm

          Hi, Naomi. I’d better double check this. The woman I spoke to reassured me, but…I’m going to call New York City tomorrow to see what they have to say. Hmmm.

          You’re been to Indo that many times? Wow. I will definitely have questions for you. PS: What’d you think of today’s quake? Did any hit when you were there?

          • Naomi
            April 12, 2012 | 6:49 am

            trouble is that the embassies say one thing and the immigration at airport don’t know anything about it. Pekanbaru would mostly be getting international business visitors so the immigrasi may not know anything about any changes, even if NY says so. Ask them specifically whether they mean extending the 30 day VOA or an up front 60 day VOA and how much it costs.

            have never experienced a quake while in Indonesia, but a few small ones here in australia. hung out with a few earthquake/ ocean floor researchers when I was in Padang in 2008 who said the research suggests it is only a matter of time till another big tsunami hits that part of Sumatra, especially near Padang. truth is there are small quakes all the time in Indo, it is on the ring of fire after all. Payakumbuh is way inland though. check out my blog from august 2008 for some piccies etc. of the area around Payakumbuh.
            Naomi recently posted..A running commentaryMy Profile

          • CB Driver
            April 12, 2012 | 8:08 am

            Thanks, Naomi. What you’re saying makes sense. I Googled this many times last night and found the same thing–that the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing or whatever. I’ll call the New York office and ask, just as you worded it. If they say no, then I’ll see if I can purchase that visa in advance somehow.

            Um, that’s a little scary re: Indonesia. “Only a matter of time.” But yeah, it’s positioned for it. I’m glad Payakumbuh is where it is. Will check out your photos, etc. Thanks!

  13. Tony
    April 21, 2012 | 1:53 am

    Lots of people say the RTW tickets are bad value, but it really does depend on where you’re starting your trip and where all you’re going. For some reason if you’re starting in North America most of the RTW tickets cost about 50% more than if you start from somewhere else like NZ, Australia or South Africa. Even starting from the UK is cheaper. I’ve just finished a page on my website that compares the RTW tickets available from the three big airline alliances, as well as a bunch of other options that are out there, so if anyone is interested check out for more info. Tony

    • CB Driver
      April 24, 2012 | 7:35 am

      Hi, Tony. I think I know what you mean re: the pricing not working out so well with a starting point here in the U.S. It always seems better in Europe and elsewhere. Anyway, thanks for sharing the info. For now, I’ll just be going to Indonesia and Singapore. Perhaps at some point, I’ll need a different kind of ticket.

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