Career sabbaticals, family educational journeys, milestone splurge trips-more and more travelers are finding reasons to book around-the-world tickets. And the major air alliances are offering ways to do it in style. For roughly the same price as a round-trip premium-class ticket between New York and Shanghai, you can book a 15-city itinerary-and fly the entire route in business class. Here’s how to start planning the trip of a lifetime.
Decide Which Airline Alliance Is the Best fit for Your Itinerary.
Figure out the “white space,” the areas of the world where the alliances have few or no routes. Australia is a popular destination for many travelers, but Oneworld is the only group that flies to its smaller cities. SkyTeam doesn’t serve many areas of Brazil, and Star Alliance only goes to the biggest cities in Russia.
How Spontaneous Can You Be?
Oneworld is the only alliance that allows travelers to start their trip without confirmed dates for onward travel. Star Alliance and SkyTeam make you pick your dates in advance.
Consider Letting the Airline Plan for You.
If you can’t decide on all the places you should visit, try a prepackaged trip. Star Alliance’s Nature Trail itinerary includes Ethiopia’s Salt Lakes and Auckland’s caves. SkyTeam’s 10 itineraries range from beach to off-the-beaten-track.
Look for Nonstops Whenever Possible.
Around-the-world itineraries are limited to 16 segments, meaning a leg with a layover counts as two segments. Picking obscure destinations means you could quickly use up all of your segments and vastly increase the cost of your ticket. Consider overnighting in a layover city for an extra day or two. São Paulo, Dubai, and Bangkok are major transit hubs worth a longer stay.
Watch Out for Surcharges.
Some alliances will tack on extra fees for choosing certain carriers. For example, Star Alliance adds a surcharge starting at $700 to fly in Singapore Airlines’ premier cabins.
Hire a travel agent. The consultants at AirTreks have specialized in multi-destination itineraries for around-the-world travel since 1987.