Earlier this month, we did something crazy. Awesome. But crazy. We bought “Round the World” tickets. This wasn’t something that was on our radar, but rumors and then verification of an irresistible deal reeled us in. Irresistible. The catch to this irresistible deal: Your original flight has to depart out of Maputo, Mozambique on the east coast of Africa.
We were in Mozambique in 2009
No way this deal is for real
As soon as I learned about these tickets, I also learned that complex rules dictate your itinerary, making it difficult to put together (more on that later). So, I spent a solid week on the phone and in an incredibly helpful forum on FlyerTalk trying to play with the rules. And, as I learned in the process, the rules are a moving target. As I got closer to perfecting our itinerary, rumors surfaced that the ticket price was about to increase because the folks at American Airlines realized that at the price offered, people were willing to fly out of Maputo. In fact, when I called to book the ticket, the agent chuckled when I told her from where we would be departing and she said that she had booked a lot of these tickets that week. So, we went through the lengthy process of booking two separate itineraries, passed the rule requirements, was quoted a base fare and was told to call in the morning to get the total price, which would include taxes and carrier fees. I called first thing in the morning and…the base fare had gone up. And, because these were not yet ticketed, the base fare quoted initially could not be honored. I was devastated.
The next day, a couple of people from the FlyerTalk forum messaged me to tell me that some other members of the One World alliance hadn’t yet increased their base fare. The very short version of what happened from there is that I spent another few days making long Skype calls to Australia and tried all I could to chase this fare, but it didn’t work.
One world, one year of travel
After much thought, we booked the tickets even at the higher base fare price. Our original itinerary on American was perfect, it was still on hold and there were a lot of reasons to move forward with it:
1. It was still an amazing fare.
2. It included destinations to which we were planning on traveling anyway.
3. We already had flights booked to Africa, so we wouldn’t have to figure out a way to get there for the originating flight.
4. Because we already had a round trip flight to Africa, we were able to cancel the return flight and have the points we used and the fees and taxes refunded.
5. It will be a great boost to this travel writing/photography pipe-dream of mine.
6. And the biggest reason: our 10 year wedding anniversary is right around the corner. Neither of us are into “things”. What we are really into is each other and exploring the world together. So, for our tenth wedding anniversary, we are giving ourselves and each other the gift of travel. One year of travel.
Eddie’s itinerary is a little different from mine as he has a business to run and client’s to take care of. But, I think we worked it all out brilliantly. There will be parts that I will do on my own and, in complete honesty, I’m feeling some trepidation about traveling alone, which I think I’ll get past quickly, but the hardest part will be being apart from Eddie. The few segments that I travel to without him will be places that I want to tick off my bucket list, and are farther down on Eddie’s list.
Photo courtesy of palawanisland.org
“You’re going to be gone for a year?!”
Our Round the World will be broken up into three phases over 2017. So if you are wondering (and we have been asked this question many times) no, we will not be gone for an entire year. We start this journey in December (on my birthday) and, as of now, it will end in early fall of 2017. I hope you all follow along on this journey.
For some, the above may be all you care to know (if you even cared to know that much). For the aviation junkies, adventure lovers, travel addicts and those who are curious about how the Round the World ticket works, read on.
Oneworld round the world. Here’s why
I’ve known for a while that these Round the World (RTW) tickets exist, but that was the extent of my RTW knowledge. I’ve learned a lot about them recently and that they carry some great benefits:
1. They save money.
2. Although the booking process is complex, the ticket itself is flexible.
3. It’s a great way to fill up your frequent flyer account.
One World offers a couple of options for their RTW tickets, but we selected the “One World Explorer”. This ticket is a continent and travel class based fare, where you choose the amount of continents you will visit and in which class you’ll travel (e.g., economy, business, first, etc.).
Regardless of the number of continents you choose, you have 16 segments you can use. Each flight counts as a segment. Or, you can include a surface segment, which means you will find your own transportation between the last city you arrived in and the next city from which you depart. One reason you would do this is if you want to fly around a little more in a certain country or area and don’t want those travels to take up your 16 allotted segments. One more very important thing, the original place from where you depart greatly impacts the ticket price.
I’ll just leave this here so you continue reading.
Good luck and godspeed
Are you with me so far? Great! Let’s get into the rules.
The rules can get really complicated, so I am only going to include the basics here:
1. You have one year from the date of your original departure to complete your RTW ticket. If you’re really ambitious, you have a minimum of ten days.
2. You can only fly in one direction: east to west or west to east.
3. Other than a few exceptions, you must end in the same country from where you departed. One of those exceptions is Africa. Here, you just need to end on the continent.
4. You can fly multiple directions within a continent, but there are some tricky restrictions on doing so.
5. You can change the date and time of your flights without a fee.
6.You can change the departure/arrival locations of your flights. If you make the change after you complete your first segment, you may incur a fee (as of the time of this post, I believe it is $150 each time you request one or more changes). If you make a change before you complete your first segment, you may be subject to any fare increases.
The above is just a basic explanation of the rules. You can find the rules in their entirety here. Just remember, they change often.
You’ve got options
Still with me?
As mentioned above, you have several options with the type of One World (OW) Explorer ticket you purchase based on the number of continents you visit and the travel class for all of your flights. The number of continents and travel class also affects the ticket fare. You can choose between three and six continents and you can jet around those continents in economy, business or first class. Whichever class you select will be the class you will be in for all of your flights unless that class is not offered on a particular flight, in which case you will be upgraded to the next available class.
You could see the northern lights with your RTW ticket.
Once you have selected the number of continents and your travel class, your ticket will be labeled as such. The base name of the OW ticket is “ONE”. On the end of the base name is the number of continents you selected and at the beginning is your travel class. Economy = “L”, Business = “D” and First = “A”. So, if you purchase a five continent economy ticket, it would be called a “LONE5”.
Those are the basics. If this interests you, I suggest checking out The One World Round the World website here. You’ll get a good overview there but, the most beneficial information you will find is in FLyerTalk. Once you get in there, take a good amount of time to read through the posts. Look for questions you have that have already been answered, take the time to learn and understand the lingo and, when you’re comfortable, start asking questions. You will not find a more helpful group of people. This is also THE spot to find out where the best deal is.
Get to know the lingo!
From there, go back to the OW tool and test out your itinerary. The OW tool is not great for obtaining a price for your ticket, but it can be used to make sure your routing meets the requirements. You can book your ticket with any of the OW carriers, but the RTW Desk at American Airlines seems to be the most competent. As I have mentioned before, the rules change a lot. Often, the ticketing agents aren’t aware of the changes and often don’t have a full understanding of the rules. Because of this, it is really important for you to know the rules. As strange as this is, you will probably have to explain the rules, item by item, to the ticketing agent. I don’t want to deter you, but I think it’s important to know that the booking process can be time-consuming and intensive. However, it is so worth it in the end.
So what did we end up with? We purchased a DONE4. Eddie’s itinerary is a little different than mine, but here are my 16 segments:
MPM- xDOH-SIN-DPS-HKG-MNL-NRT-SAN-LAX-JFK-TUC-LAX-LHR-CDG-DOH-SEZ. Although, a segment or two may change. It’s already changing.
Makes total sense, right?
Fantastic, right!? Now, all that’s left to do is to find some beautiful hotels and amazing adventures. Oh, and a flight home at the end of all of this.
I am looking forward to sharing this journey with you!