Define a RTW



Give me the short version

Easy. An RTW – or round the world if we’re being formal – is a flight ticket that allows you stop at multiple destinations on multiple continents for a relative pittance. Which, obviously, is a Fairly Good Thing.

And the slightly longer, more tedious version?

Airline alliances sell special (and famously complicated) round the world tickets. These allow passengers to book a series of flights at once, at a price that’s generally far cheaper than booking the flights individually. The price is generally dependent on where you stop, how many miles you cover and how many continents you visit.

You can usually include ‘surface’ sectors where you travel overland (ie. Fly into Bangkok, get the train to Singapore, fly out of Singapore), and the tickets tend to be valid for a year.

Dates can often be changed free of charge or for a relatively tiny extra fee – so you can alter plans on the hoof.

Most importantly, these tickets are often not bookable online – they’re too complex for most web systems to handle. Attempting to book multi-stop flights online will generally end up with a very expensive quote, because the legs end up priced individually, rather than being lumped into one ticket.

But I don’t want to go round the world…

That’s fair enough. There are other tickets which serve similar purposes. If you’re only going to one continent, it’s possible to do it as an ‘open-jaw’ ticket, then add on internal flights. A good example would be flying into Lima, then out of Buenos Aires, while tacking on short hops elsewhere in South America.

There are also multi-stop flights that are technically normal return tickets which allow stopovers. Going to New Zealand via Asia and Australia on one of these often works out cheaper than an RTW, for example. A route along the lines of London – Singapore – Sydney – Christchurch – Auckland – Brisbane – Bangkok – London fits the bill here.

What’s the catch?

There are thousands of permutations, and switching one destination for another can bump the price up by hundreds of pounds.

Generally, you also have to go in one direction – backtracking usually adds big chunks to the overall mileage, and therefore costs more.

Also, the cheaper the ticket, the more it will probably cost to change later on.

So how do I get the best deal?

It’s best to start with a rough idea of where you want to go, and how long you want to spend in each place. Be prepared to be a little flexible, and then give a call on 020 7704 5700.

Years of fiddling with RTW tickets and access to the airline systems mean money-saving tweaks can usually be found. It may mean stopping in Kuala Lumpur rather than Singapore, flying into Melbourne rather than Sydney or spending 19 days in New Zealand rather than 20. But talking through the options will usually find that happy medium between dream itinerary and dream price.

As for the cheapest time to travel, the best bargains tend to be on departures after Easter but before the school holidays start.