A Round the World Ticket was the Wrong Choice for our Family

Checking in for our Award Flight to Dublin, no Round the World flights here
Recently, I spent some time chatting online with another family who was looking to do some long-term travel of their own. They were debating the merits of buying a Round the World Ticket vs just buying the flights (or using award tickets) as they went. I added my two cents to this debate and explained what we did and why.

What is a round the world ticket?

It is a ticket that costs a fixed amount for a certain number of flights that go around the world. Each airline partner group does this a bit differently. Some limit your number of flights, some restrict the miles you can travel, but they all have rules.

1. You can only fly in one direction, East or west. They do not allow backtracking. For example, if you are starting in the USA and fly East to London, you would not be allowed to “backtrack” west to visit Dublin.
2. You can cross the equator only once in each direction, north to south and south to North. You could fly Miami to Chile to Japan, but then you could not fly Japan to South Africa as you have already crossed the equator in that direction.
3. Some airline base the ticket and ticket cost based on miles, but you are charged for miles that you might not fly, the overland miles. Say you fly to London and take trains to visit Paris and Rome. You want your next flight to leave from Rome. Your mileage will be deducted for the route overland from London to Rome as if you had flown it.
4. The tickets are good for one year or less

Now, even with all those restrictions with careful planning these tickets can be a good deal. But it wasn’t the right choice for us.

We decide that we wanted to try and use miles as much as possible for our flights. I figured that over the course of 20 flights and 2+ years, this could save us as much as $20,000!  Now, we had to figure out which flights to use our miles for and which flights to just buy.

Lessons in not using a Round the World Ticket

Lesson #1: Be Flexible

Our first big flight was from the US to Dublin. I knew that we could get the flight for 60,000-80,000 points for the entire family one way. If I were to buy those tickets, it would have been $700 per person. So we felt like this was a great use of our miles. As soon as the award booking period opened, I was trying to book those tickets. I was scouring New York and Boston area flights for 4 award tickets to no available. I expanded my search to DC, still no luck. Finally, I went on the airline website and found that they had just started a flight route from Hartford and I was able to get 4 award tickets on that flight.

Lesson #2: Pay for the short haul flights

I was looking for some within Europe flights from Prague to Romania. I was pricing out the awards, and they were coming out to 60,000 miles for everyone. Considering that the flights were less than $100 a person, I just paid for them. I’ll use our miles elsewhere.

Lesson #3: Business class is an option

We are flying from Cyprus to South Africa. I had a very hard time finding 4 economy class seats. I ended up calling the airline and for 2 business class seats and 2 economy seats on the route that we wanted to travel on. The 2 business class seats were only 20,000 more miles each. So I am hoping that more open up closer and we can upgrade the 2 economy seats.
We will also be flying from South Africa to Singapore. I knew this would be one of the longer flights we would be on, almost 11 hours. I priced out the flight in economy for 4, 100,000 miles. In business class for 4 it was 153,000 miles. We booked the business class flight. I can’t wait to see the kids’ faces when we use those tickets!

Resources for booking Round the world tickets

Star Alliance
One World
Sky Team
Virgin

Resources for Travel Hacking and Miles

Travel Miles 101
The Points Guy
FlyerTalk
Expert Flyer

Even if you aren’t booking a round the world ticket, there are always ways to save on airfare. Tell us your best airfare savings story.

3 Comments

  1. I was wondering why you flew to Europe from Hartford!! Mystery solved!

    How long did you save all these miles? The airline point system is soooo confusing when trying to redeem them to try to get the most bang for your points. That’s why we chose a credit card that just gives a flat 2% cash return, redeemable towards any travel of any kind booked through their Expedia-like website.

    1. In the US, you can open a credit card with a bonus. For example, I think if you open a Chase Sapphire Preferred Card and spend $2000-3000 in the first 3 months, you get a 50,000 point bonus. So we both did that when we knew we had big costs coming up like summer camp or a new roof for our house. We did this on a few credit cards and had about 400,000 miles in about 18 months.

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