What My RTW Flights Cost


Want to travel around the world?  You’ve come to the right place to learn about rtw flight budgets, what the average RTW Ticket costs, and what possibilities said tickets entail.

For most people, I don’t recommend buying a RTW (Round the World) Ticket.  Read The Real Cost of a RTW Ticket for all the reasons. Short version: I think there is no one-size-fits-all trip length, and RTW tickets don’t necessarily save you money.

Certainly the best way to start your trip is with a free flight.  Don’t make my mistake by missing out!

I’ve traveled RTW three times – twice for longer than a year, and once for only half a year.  Hopefully the following data will help you plan your RTW flight budget:

Trip 1:

  • Length: 23 months
  • Miles traveled aincludes overland legs that would have counted against an alliance ticket: 29,512
  • # of flights bIncludes some backtracking not allowed on some alliance tickets.  I didn’t count flight segments.: 10
  • Total cost: $2,497 USD
  • Continents: four
  • Countries: nine

The story: My long-term boyfriend  and I quit our jobs and spent the American summer attending weddings.  By the fall, we were ready to travel internationally but nervous about our depleted savings.  We applied for New Zealand working holiday visas, and headed to Auckland.  To our surprise, we stayed the whole year allowed, working for four months, traveling and work-exchanging for the other eight.  Asia was the next obvious destination.  We chose the Philippines, followed by Thailand, and then Indonesia (Bali) where we rented an apartment for a month.  We never intended to go to Europe, but we were sick of the tropics after just a few months.  We scored a cheap intercontinental hop out of Thailand, so we spent a few more weeks there before we toured Prague, hitched to Germany to visit friends, and flew to Sicily to start work-exchanging on farms throughout Italy.  Under the Tuscan summer sun, we decided to book flights back to the U.S for autumn family events.  Exhausted again, we rented an apartment in Croatia for six weeks with the intention of doing one last European travel stint before heading to the U.S.  We also booked flights and working holiday visas for Australia the following year, but then broke up.  He decided to stay in the U.S. and settle down, and I decided not to throw away a perfectly good flight and visa.  (See Trip 2).

river west coast new zealand - a place we experienced thanks to mastering our RTW flight budget

This RTW trip included a year in New Zealand (pictured) and nine months traveling through eight countries in Europe and Asia.

Hindsight:

  • Luckily, we didn’t research New Zealand very well.  If we had, we never would have “sacrificed” an entire year of travel time for such a small country.  We were both very grateful for our “error.”   Looking back we could see we got to enjoy things in ways that wouldn’t have been possible with less time.
  • We didn’t know how easily we would become exhausted, despite having traveled together previously for 2.5 months in South America.  By the time we got to our rented apartments in Bali and Croatia, we were so happy not to have to be packing up our bags every few days/weeks.
  • We loved our work exchanges.  They gave us a sense of purpose (visiting waterfalls and museums gets old very quickly) and allowed us to connect with lots of locals and local secrets.

Trip 2:

  • Length: 16 months
  • Miles traveled cincludes overland legs that would have counted against an alliance ticket: 27,242
  • # of flights dI didn’t count flight segments.:10
  • Total cost: $2,110 USD
  • Continents: four
  • Countries: seven

The story: I decided to use the flights and Australian working holiday visa I had booked with a partner, even though we split up.  I did a few awesome work exchanges before landing a full-time job.  I started dating an Australian co-worker, and he and I made international travel plans to commence at the end of my Australian visa.  He wanted to travel in America, but the cheapest flights were visa Asia and Europe.  So, we traveled for a few weeks in Asia and a few months in Europe before landing back in the U.S.  (Since I’m American, and since this is about RTW flight budgets, I’m counting our U.S. arrival as the end of this RTW trip.)

my RTW flight budget was a bit smaller for this trip to the land of gorgeous sea coasts (pictured)

The Australian coast isn’t that bad. Tolerable. Glad I didn’t make departure plans before arriving – it would have been money down the drain once I’d started a new relationship!

Hindsight: I’m really glad I didn’t book onward travel from Australia.  Doing so would have blown a sizeable chunk of my RTW flight budget.  Thankfully, I knew better than to try and predict my life a year from arrival.  Would I want to go back home?  Would I be keen to keep traveling?  Who knew I’d fall in love and end up on a completely different trajectory!

Trip 3:

  • Length: 5.5 months
  • Miles traveled: 29,955
  • # of flights eI didn’t count flight segments.: 7
  • Total cost: $1,835 USD
  • Continents: four
  • Countries: five

The story: My Australian boyfriend and I worked very hard to obtain the visa needed for me to return to Australia with him.  When he procrastinated buying his tickets to attended a wedding in Portugal, I finally volunteered to go alone.  Soon after, I realized I should volunteer to stop being his girlfriend.  I forfeited the cost of the flights I had to return to Australia from Europe, and instead completed the RTW journey back to the U.S.  (The cost of the forfeited tickets is not included in the financial total here, since I didn’t take the flights. FYI: the return OZ tickets were less than $600.)

this trip was hardest on my RTW flight budget, but at least I caught some gorgeous Australian sunsets!

This RTW trip started with (southern hemisphere) summer sunsets in Australia.

Hindsight: This story is more proof that you just never know what life will bring!

How Do You Succeed with a Small RTW Flight Budget?

It’s true – $2,497, $2110, and $1,835 are far cheaper RTW ticket costs than most people expect.  What am I doing?  Riding in the cargo hold?  Booking flights before I was even born? fIt’s generally not possible to book flights more than 11 months in advance, so the answer here is a rhetorical “No!”  And how do you get around onward flight requirements?

And how do I have the flexibility to make travel plans as I’m traveling and still stay within a shoestring RTW flight budget?

Good news: it’s not hard!

Don’t forget, when you travel around the world you have the number one cheap flight factor at your disposal: flexibility.  I always use this method on Skyscanner, and for my trouble I’ve gotten some crazy cheap intercontinental fares.

Really, it’s just research and a bit of planning ahead.  On Trip 1 – the trip that looks most like your typical RTW adventure – I booked my average flight only 4.3 weeks in advance.  On Trip 2, the average is 14.4 weeks, but it drops to 10 weeks when the repurposed flights are left out of the equation.  I booked Trip 3 flights an average of 8.4 weeks in advance; however, it was a RTW trip only in the flight sense, and even that was unintentional.

To help you understand what’s possible as you set your RTW flight budget, here’s some data from the trips above – where I flew, how far in advance I booked the travel, and how much each flight cost:

Trip 1:

Point A & Point BTime Between Booking
and Traveling
Cost
Los Angeles, USA and Auckland, New Zealandfour weeks$685
Auckland, NZ to Christchurch NZtwo weeks$63
Auckland, NZ to Manila, Philippineseight weeks$151
Manila, Philippines to Bangkok, Thailandsix weeks$86
Bangkok, Thailand to Denpasar, Indonesia (Bali)five weeks$105
Denpasar, Indonesia (Bali) to Phuket, Thailandfour weeks$100
Bangkok, Thailand to Prague, Czech Republicsix weeks$399
Frankfurt, Germany to Trapani, Italyfour weeks$69
Zagreb, Croatia to Stuttgart, Germanytwo weeks$151
Frankfurt, Germany to Billings, Montanatwelve weeks$657

Takeaways:  I booked my flights as soon as I knew my travel plans.  The most advance planning I did (3 months) was knowing I wanted to leave Europe at the end of the summer, followed by knowing I’d need to leave places when my visas ran out.  I booked my flights to Europe – again a place we never dreamed of going at the outset (too expensive, save the easy travel for when we’re older, it will always be there, etc.) – six weeks in advance when we got sick of the tropical heat.

Trip 2:

Point A & Point BTime Between Booking
and Traveling
Cost
Portland, USA to Hawaii, USAeight months$246
Hawaii, USA to Sydney, Australiaeight months$459
Sydney, Australia to Perth, Australiasix weeks$185
Perth, Australia to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysiaeight weeks$157
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to Singaporethree weeks$18
Singapore to Bangkok, Thailandthree weeks$61
Bangkok, Thailand to Frankfurt, Germanysixteen weeks$432
Dusseldorf, Germany to Madrid, Spaintwelve weeks$162
Barcelona, Spain to Stockholm, Swedentwelve weeks$101
Stockholm, Sweden to Los Angeles, USAfive months$289

Takeaways:  On this trip, half my travel plans were made well in advance thanks to several variables.
1) I had planned to go to Australia as part of a previous life.  I stuck with that plan eight months later.
2) My Australian boyfriend and I planned to go to the U.S. together gthe “end” of the trip for the purposes of this RTW ticket exercise and immediately bought the cheapest intercontinental legs (Asia to Europe – $430, and Europe to the U.S. – $289).
3) a month later, the connecting details firmed up and we spent the remainder of our RTW flight budget on the interconnecting tickets.

Trip 3:

Point A & Point BTime Between Booking
and Traveling
Cost
Los Angeles, USA to Perth, Australiatwelve weeks$995
Perth, Australia to Bangkok, Thailandtweleve weeks$160
Bangkok, Thailand to Stockholm, Swedenfourteen weeks$276
Stockholm, Sweden to Amsterdam, Netherlandsfourteen weeks$52
Amsterdam, Netherlands to Lisbon, Portugalthirteen weeks$91
Lisbon, Portugal to Brussels, Belgiumseven weeks$43
Brussels, Belgium to Miami, USAseven weeks$218

Takeaways:  This wasn’t a RTW trip in the traditional sense.  However the data from the flights that took me around the world are still useful to those trying to understand what’s possible.  I didn’t book my flights all that far ahead, even when I knew I’d likely be going to a place.  Experience told me there was no need to book months in advance, especially because things change so much.  The $995 flight is incredibly uncharacteristic of my flight habits, but I wanted to make it back to the arms of my beau during a peak travel time.

Hope all these numbers help you gain some confidence in the plan-as-you-go department.   Good luck figuring out your RTW flight budget!

If you have an itinerary in mind, you can get a guesstimate to put your mind at ease.  Call Airtreks or input your destinations into Indie – a flight planning tool that requires a free account but gives you a general idea faster than looking up flights one by one.

Trying to budget for the rest of your trip?

Check out What it Costs to Travel Around the World.

And if you subscribe, you get a PDF detailing my Costs for 2 Years of RTW Travel!

Happy Traveling! ♣

Flights aren’t the only way to save money on your trip.  Use these travel hacks, too:

References   [ + ]

a, c. includes overland legs that would have counted against an alliance ticket
b. Includes some backtracking not allowed on some alliance tickets.  I didn’t count flight segments.
d, e. I didn’t count flight segments.
f. It’s generally not possible to book flights more than 11 months in advance, so the answer here is a rhetorical “No!”
g. the “end” of the trip for the purposes of this RTW ticket exercise


19 comments

  • March 17, 2017 at 12:02 am

    Hi Jema, I’ve just discovered your website and it’s fabulous. My mother and I are planning to embark on RTW travel late this summer and you have some of the most helpful info I’ve seen so far. One question about your flights – I would also like to book flights as we go, especially when we are not necessarily planning on returning to the US within a year. Did you ever have a problem traveling on a one-way ticket when going through immigration or boarding outgoing flights? I’ve heard NZ requires proof of a future flight in order to enter the country.

    • March 17, 2017 at 2:48 pm

      Amie! So glad you’re finding the site helpful! I’ve never been asked for proof of onward travel, although once in the Philippines I was so worried about it that I bought a throw-away ticket. Most travelers find that most places that have the rule don’t actually ask. Except when they do and it puts a real kink in your trip, hey.

      Here: I’ve explained this hack in a newsletter email to readers before. Thanks for the inspiration to get it onto the site:

      http://halftheclothes.com/2017/03/17/get-around-onward-flight-rule/

      Hope that helps! Hope you and your mom have an amazing trip!

  • July 19, 2016 at 12:41 am

    Flexibility is key!! You never know what the future will bring. Also a bit of research, like you said. Skyscanner is awesome!

  • July 18, 2016 at 2:25 pm

    I was really shocked at how low the flight costs were. Even after seeing the breakdown it still looks unbelievable! It’s amazing how much cheaper flights can be when you have flexibility on your side! I hope I can be that flexible as well sometime in the near future.

  • July 18, 2016 at 7:59 am

    Wow this is really extensive! Thank you for making the effort, those are a lot of locations. You got some great deals though, thank you for sharing all the tips and resources!

    • July 19, 2016 at 1:40 pm

      You bet! You’re right – took forever to compile, but happy to help 🙂

  • July 18, 2016 at 7:37 am

    Great breakdown of how you managed to travel so much and how you found the flights! Your style of staying in each place for several weeks or months is similar to how my husband and I like to travel. Since flights are often the most expensive part of a trip, it’s worth staying in one place longer!

    • July 19, 2016 at 1:31 pm

      Amen! Slow travel is where it’s at, hey? I’m sure your friends, family, and strangers all have a refrain similar to mine – “How do you afford that?!” That’s the secret, hey? 🙂

  • July 18, 2016 at 2:52 am

    Now this is worth reading, it helps us plan more and in a lot of ways I agree with the saving parts. I could’ve easily made double the digits for my own breakdowns, I probably could just laugh over it but I’d rather laugh with smiles all over a new destination.

  • July 17, 2016 at 3:34 pm

    Such a great round up. Really appreciate having the three different trips to compare costs and where you’ve been during them. Sounds like you’ve had some great adventures and can’t wait to hear what you do next.

    • July 17, 2016 at 6:35 pm

      Glad you liked it! Looking forward to adding RTW trip #4 🙂

  • July 17, 2016 at 1:58 pm

    Love the transparent insight into your travel expenses. Very helpful as I plan my next trip!

  • July 16, 2016 at 8:15 pm

    Your cost breakdowns are so much cheaper than I would have expected! Bangkok to Frankfurt for $430 is definitely a steal!

    • July 16, 2016 at 8:16 pm

      And your Bangkok to Stockholm flight, even more so!

      • July 17, 2016 at 12:35 am

        Amen! At first I felt lucky finding low fares, but it’s happened so often now, I know they’re there if you look. Just started following a few more miles/fares bloggers to keep up with the game. 🙂

  • July 16, 2016 at 4:52 pm

    This is an excellent and impressive breakdown! I’m obsessed with saving money on flights and had a blog dedicated to just flight hacking especially when airline mileage charts were extremely favorable 2-3 years ago. Are you also taking advantage of airline hubs to save money on a flight?

    • July 16, 2016 at 6:41 pm

      Hi Susan, glad you liked it!

      I do try to get to hubs when I can, but so many of my family and friends live in remote, super-rural places. Travel hacking helps so much with that!

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