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Round-the-World Tickets Revisited: How a Single Ticket Can Take You to 16 Cities + Earn 40,000 Qualifying Miles

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Long ago I wrote a post on Round-the-World tickets that continues to be one of the most trafficked posts on the whole site. It’s still mostly accurate, at least in terms of the broader principles.

I also still book and travel on at least one to two RTW tickets a year with itineraries similar to the one below:

JNB-DOH-CDG-DOH-LHR-LAX-MEX-DFW-JFK-LAX-SYD-PER-SIN-HKG-HND-HKG-JNB

RTW tickets can be split. For example, I did the first half of that trip (South Africa, Qatar, etc.), returned, and then did the second half (Australia!) one month later. There are two reasons why I especially like these kinds of tickets:

1. Flexibility

These tickets are highly flexible. I can change flight times whenever I want, for no cost or penalty, even on the same day. Changes are always subject to availability, but these tickets are booked in higher fare classes that don’t have the same restrictions as award tickets—meaning that availability is usually very good.

You can also change the whole routing of the ticket, even when you’re underway. This requires a change fee (currently $125) but when re-routing, you can make as many changes as you want. I usually end up paying one or two re-routing fees per RTW ticket, and for the flexibility the option provides, it seems very reasonable.

2. Elite qualifying miles

I couldn’t do all my travel for free—for the RTW trip above I had to requalify for status! Every one of those flights earned elite qualifying miles, meaning that they counted toward the 100,000 miles or points that I am required to earn each year for the highest status on American Airlines. That ticket alone got me nearly halfway there, in addition to a lot of additional bonus miles earned along the way that I redeemed for award tickets on other flights.

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If you’re just getting started, these days it might be better to focus on a single (or a few) trips with miles earned through travel hacking. But if you want to take a monster trip, and you value the flexibility of being able to make changes, and you have some cash, a traditional RTW ticket can still be a great value.

Happy travels!

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    Image: Faisal

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