rtw rookie: booking your airfare

RTWrookieHappy New Year, travelers!

I’m sure it’s no surprise that I’m pretty pumped for 2013… mainly because, two months from today, I depart for my very first round the world adventure. If you need to catch up, check out past posts here.

Now that we’re all on the same page, let’s talk about my next step: booking airfare.

According to this report, there are a couple of options for RTW airfare.  Download the free report, and you can see Airtreks vs. STA Travel vs. do-it-yourself (Kayak) for airfare purchase. We went with Airtreks, which ranked high on flexibility, customer service, and price for our projected number of stops.

The high customer service rating is no joke. We worked with Chris Wadsworth, who provided some very general advice before we even started talking details. He had helpful suggestions on:

  • When we could and should buy tickets (for instance, because you can’t book any flight more than a year in advance, we booked ours in two parts)
  • What order to visit destinations to maximize value
  • Which immunizations are necessary
  • Which countries require visas
  • Any location additions/subtractions we could make to maximize our budget

Our two-part booking process, with Chris’s help, was highly successful.  We went to him with a pretty detailed itinerary, and he cut some of our original destinations out, explaining that  in many cases, it would be easier to travel overland once we arrived. He also added a few places we hadn’t planned on visiting, either due to convenience or airfare costs (see: Singapore).

Since we want to spend about 4-6 weeks in most regions, we will still have the flexibility to explore any additional countries or cities that we had originally discussed, but won’t be tied to exact flights.

After a few conversations with Chris and each other, we booked the first part of our itinerary in June:

  • New York, NY > Honolulu, HI – 1 week, 3 days in Hawaii
  • Honolulu, HI > Nadi, Fiji – 1 week in Fiji
  • Nadi, Fiji > Auckland, NZ – 4 weeks in New Zealand, traveling overland to Christchurch
  • Christchurch, NZ > Sydney – 4 weeks in Australia, traveling overland to Perth

This leg of the itinerary cost us $3,916.00 total—for TWO people!  This also includes travel insurance and our Australian visas, as well as one waived change fee should we need to move anything around.

In September, we finished booking our airfare, the balance of which cost $3,552.00:

  • Perth > Singapore – 4 weeks in Southeast Asia, traveling overland to Bangkok
  • Bangkok > Doha – quick layover in Doha (our only scheduled layover of the entire trip)
  • Doha > Istanbul – 5 weeks in Europe, traveling overland to London
  • London > Reykjavik – 1 final week in Iceland before…
  • Reykjavik > New York

So, total damage for two travelers:

NYC – Hawaii – Fiji – New Zealand – Australia – Singapore – Thailand – Istanbul – London – Iceland – NYC = $7,468.

To break it down for you, that’s $3,734 per person, or $415 per seat, including travel insurance, a free flight change, and one number to call for any customer service-related issues. Though we’re underbudget for airfare, we are keeping all of our overland travel in mind–mainly all the stops we’re planning between Singapore and Bangkok and Istanbul and London.

Now, we have a full list of flights and an empty itinerary. Time to get planning!

First stop–Hawaii.

Til next time,

RTW Rookie

– Please note that AirTreks in no way sponsored our flights or offered any incentive to use their services. Though that wouldn’t change my opinion of the experience, I want to note that I am not affiliated with their program.



  1. Anita Mac January 2, 2013 / 10:06

    Very exciting! Love your picks on places to go! I think RTW tickets are the way to go. It has been a while since my RTW trip – don’t know if AirTrek was even an option when I went. Just wanted to clarify – are you limited to only one ticket change over the duration of the trip? And are all your flight times already booked?
    I can be a little scattered at times and change my mind on a whim – should I do another RTW trip in the next few years…I am looking for some flexibility!
    So excited for your upcoming trip…it sounds pretty awesome.
    Anita Mac recently posted..Atlas Run Snowshoe ReviewMy Profile

    • RTW_Rookie January 2, 2013 / 10:20

      Anita–booking was so easy, and it was great to have some guidance. Regarding changes… Airtreks includes one free change over the course of the trip. I think all additional changes are about $100, but they might vary a little depending on the individual airline’s change process. We’re traveling on a variety of airlines (most cost efficient), so each one has a different policy.

      All of our flight times and dates are booked already, so the basic itinerary is ready to go!

  2. The World Wanderer January 2, 2013 / 17:35

    So fun! I’m so excited for you. I’ve been to a few of these places, but have always wanted to do a RTW trip. Hopefully one day that will all come together! Can’t wait to follow you to Hawaii!
    The World Wanderer recently posted..2013: The Year of No Limits.My Profile

    • RTW_Rookie January 2, 2013 / 17:54

      Would welcome any tips or must-do activities that you’d recommend! Thankfully, Hawaii is one stop that is almost 100% planned. One step at a time…

    • RTW_Rookie January 3, 2013 / 09:28

      My budget will allow for mainly backpacker accommodations, but hopefully the Starwood points I’ve saved will allow for a few “Mrs. O” style experiences!

  3. Raul (@ilivetotravel in Twitter) January 3, 2013 / 20:24

    Sounds great! Lots of good places to see. 4 wks in NZ is very impressive. I may have done 5 in Oz and 3 in NZ but you will love NZ for sure! I can’t wait to read about this awesome adventure. Safe travels!
    Raul (@ilivetotravel in Twitter) recently posted..My Favorite Nativity SetsMy Profile

    • RTW_Rookie January 11, 2013 / 09:47

      Currently trying to figure out how to plan the best campervan situation in NZ… lots of options!

  4. Edna January 3, 2013 / 23:04

    Super excited for your trip! Thanks for the breakdown of the flight costs as well. The fiance and I are looking at RTW tickets for when we get married (we have family on three continents and would like to have receptions on all three) so will keep AirTreks in mind!
    Edna recently posted..Recap: My 2012 resolutionsMy Profile

    • RTW_Rookie January 11, 2013 / 09:49

      What an awesome wedding idea! the value of buying plane tickets in bulk was a pleasant surprise.

  5. Traveling Ted January 4, 2013 / 19:40

    I am disappointed to see airfare in the RTW discussion. I think there should be cross country trips by bus, car, rickashaw, and whatever else you come across. When you hit a coastline then jump a boat, canoe, kayak, or swim. I think you should scrap the plane :)

    Just kidding of course. Great info for those who thinking of the exciting RTW.
    Traveling Ted recently posted..Feeling like an ass in the Guyana Rupunini SavannahMy Profile

    • RTW_Rookie January 11, 2013 / 09:51

      Ya know, Ted, I tried to line up a very expensive kayak for the trip from Hawaii to Fiji, but plans fell through. Guess I’m stuck with airplanes.

    • RTW_Rookie January 11, 2013 / 10:36

      when you decide to go, I’ll send you my full itinerary to tweak however you please!

    • RTW_Rookie January 11, 2013 / 13:28

      the open itinerary is a bit daunting… but i’m hoping to find some unplanned adventures along the way

    • RTW_Rookie January 11, 2013 / 13:29

      i don’t think nag is the right word. would love to share my planning experience!

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