Flying around the world

Nancy Stott of Walnutport, Pennsylvania, wrote, “I would like to see readers write on the topic of ‘around-the-world itineraries’ such as those featured by airline alliances and some consolidators. It would be great to have a few first-person accounts of experiences plus suggestions.”

We printed Nancy’s request in our June ’05 issue and received a number of responses. Several are printed below, and one reader’s very informative and comprehensive letter will follow next month.

If you have anything to add, write to Flying Around the World, c/o ITN, 2116 28th St., Sacramento, CA 95818, or e-mail (please include the address at which you receive ITN).

We have used the ’round-the-world airfares half a dozen times. We love them! There are the old-fashioned, one-airline, “keep going in the same direction” type of fares. However, we especially like the mileage-based fares where typically you can use several airlines in an alliance and double back (that is, go east, west, then east again. . .) as long as you cross both oceans and hit any given city for more than a day only once. (That is, you can go back to a city several times, using it as a hub, but you’re only allowed one stay there of more than 24 hours.)

With Star Alliance (Singapore Airlines, United, Thai Airways, etc.;), these fares (at this writing in June 2005) start at $3,800 for 29,000 miles, $4,400 for 34,000 miles and $5,150 for 39,000 miles. Business class is $7,400, $8,450 and $9,950, respectively. SkyTeam (Delta, Continental, etc.; visit also starts at 29,000 miles ($3,700 economy class/$6,600 business class).

In April ’05 we returned from a trip that took us New York-Frankfurt-Addis Ababa (Ethiopia)-Paris-Bangkok-Taipei-Brisbane-Singapore-Newark. The one before was New York-Geneva-Casablanca-Geneva-Rome/Milan-Zürich-Dubai-Singapore-Kuching/Kuala Lumpur-Singapore-San Francisco-New York. (/ indicates an “open jaw” or side trip on a separate ticket where only the direct mileage between the ’round-the-world cities counts.)

One look at these itineraries suggests we seek diversity on a trip. Mix some third world with some first world; mix some Europe, Asia, Africa, etc.; mix cultures, and perhaps toss in some group touring with independent travel and you will not get tired of lots of variations on a single theme. Each segment becomes a fresh and different experience.

It also permits travel to destinations that would otherwise be quite expensive to reach — perhaps more than each would be worth to you.

Here’s a method of planning to consider.

• Start with the “core” stops, those which are the basic reasons for the trip. In our case, we look for the airlines that serve those cities and where we can fly from/to those cities. A system route map such as those in the airlines’ onboard magazines or system schedules is great for visualizing possible routings.

• Next, using those same route maps, look at stops en route that interest you. It may be that a Persian Gulf stop en route from Europe to Asia might cost you nothing in terms of airfare.

• Also, consider the best way to get to a spot of special interest to you not served by your airlines. There may be a low-cost, easy round trip to that city from one you can do “en route” on your ’round-the-world trip. You can also break away in one city, use a separate ticket and rejoin your world itinerary in another city (see “open jaw” above).

• Remember, within the alliance, you often have a choice of more than one airline for a given flight. We love Singapore Airlines and therefore are delighted to use them whenever we can.

It may sound complicated, but once you’ve got the feel of it, it’s really more fun than difficult.

Finally, do not assume that the airline that books the trip will pass along your frequent-flyer number to all of the other airlines you are using. Call each of them.

Bill & Gerry Bryant
Middletown, NJ

My wife and I have made four trips around the world, beginning in 1982.

The first trip was part air and part train travel. We flew to London and then joined a tour with a British company (Voyages Jules Verne) that, after we crossed the Channel by ferry, took us from Paris to Hong Kong entirely by train. It took about seven weeks. We hit Berlin, Warsaw and Moscow, took the Trans-Siberian Railway to Irkutsk, then headed south to Ulan Bator, Mongolia, and into China, touring Datong, Beijing, Xi’an, Nanjing, Shanghai, Canton and Hong Kong. It was a wonderful trip; China had opened to the West just a few years before and Westerners were still an oddity.

The other three trips were all completely by ’round-the-world (RTW) air tickets in business class. I would highly recommend that anyone taking a RTW trip fly business class, as it would be very tiring otherwise with some of the long flights involved.

We have used Star Alliance for the last two trips and found the airlines first rate. We are great fans of Singapore Airlines and have used them for every flight possible. They do such a wonderful job of caring for their passengers. The other airlines within Star Alliance are also excellent, including Lufthansa and Air New Zealand, to name a couple we have used.

You have to calculate the miles involved with the trip, since the RTW ticket prices vary by distance in usually three tiers. One caution — if you travel by land, say from Singapore to Bangkok, that mileage is charged to you as if you had flown.

All the trips were planned by me personally and mostly using the Internet, with some help from a very experienced travel agent who knew how to carry out my wishes. Hotels, rental cars, train tickets or passes, tours, if included, and all other arrangements were made before departure, and the itinerary was then followed without deviation. The trips usually lasted from four to six weeks. Some local tours were arranged through hotels upon arrival.

Our first RTW trip by air was in 1988 and included Switzerland, Italy, India, Singapore, Penang, Bangkok, Hong Kong and South Korea. In Europe, all travel was by Eurailpass or rental car. We ended our European travels in Zürich and then flew to India, visiting Bombay, New Delhi and Agra. From New Delhi it was on to Singapore, where we took the train to Bangkok, making a stop in Penang. Finally, we got to Hong Kong and South Korea.

Obviously, we stayed in all of these places for several days to a week to take local tours, use rental cars or do independent sightseeing.

On a trip in 1997 we went to London and the Channel Islands, popped up to Helsinki, dropped down to Malta and then went back up to Zürich to catch the flight to Dubai. After a day in Dubai, we made a long flight to Singapore, then flew to Indonesia’s Bali and Java (to see Borobudur) before heading back to Singapore and on to Taiwan.

Notice that on the RTW ticket you can go back and forth as you wish as long as you don’t exceed the miles you have paid for. Obviously, you must eventually go around the world and there are some restrictions, but they are not that bad. You do have to submit your itinerary to the airlines for approval.

Our last RTW trip, in 2000, was probably the most ambitious. We flew to Windhoek, Namibia, via Frankfurt and rented a car for a 2-week tour there. The hotels and game lodges all were arranged by a tour company in Windhoek I found on the Internet.

I must admit that the driving conditions in parts of Namibia were a little frightening, but we made it and it was a wonderful trip. We saw the sand dunes at Sossusvlei plus Swakopmund and the animals of the Etosha Pan.

We then flew via Johannesburg to Victoria Falls — most impressive — and on to Botswana for wonderful game viewing. We hooked back to Johannesburg for another long flight to Singapore and Bangkok, then caught a local flight to Siem Reap, Cambodia, for a tour of Angkor Wat. That portion was a prearranged tour, Bangkok-Bangkok, and was not included in the RTW ticket. Sometimes it is better to make separate arrangements that include air than to use the RTW ticket.

Our next stop was Auckland, New Zealand, to visit dear friends, with side trips (included on the RTW ticket) to Norfolk Island as well as the South Island for a train trip over the Southern Alps. We flew from Auckland to Los Angeles and finally to Atlanta for home.

I highly recommend the concept of around-the-world travel as long as you can make most of your arrangements yourself and you are somewhat adventurous. Of course, you could just plan an itinerary that includes a number of major cities throughout the world, getting reservations at the local Hilton or Sheraton hotels and taking local tours from the hotels to see a few sights. We would not enjoy that type of trip, as we prefer to get out and actually see more of the countries we are visiting.

In 2004, again through Star Alliance, we took a “Circle Pacific” trip. The fare structure is similar to the RTW trip, but you just circle the Pacific. A sample itinerary might be Los Angeles, Tokyo, Bangkok, Singapore, Sydney, Auckland and home. It is a little less expensive and you can include a lot of sights in your itinerary.

I would be happy to answer questions at

W.H. Lindsey, Jr.
Fayetteville, Ga

My husband and I took a 7-week trip in April and May ’05 around the world using Star Alliance airlines.

We began our trip with a flight on United Airlines from Chicago to Los Angeles. After a couple of days in the L.A. area we flew to Auckland on Air New Zealand and a couple of days later continued on Air New Zealand to Christchurch. At this point, we joined a 9-day tour of the South Island with Australian Pacific Touring (based in Hampton, Victoria, Australia, with an office at 4605 Lankershim Blvd., Ste. 712, North Hollywood, CA 91602; phone 800/290-8687 or visit We were very impressed with the hotels, food and service and would highly recommend an APT tour.

Upon returning to Christchurch at the end of the tour, we flew to Sydney on Air New Zealand. Our traveling across Australia was by train to Canberra and Melbourne and by rental car along the Great Ocean Road to Adelaide. We did have to add a flight outside the Star Alliance, taking Qantas from Adelaide to Perth.

From Perth we flew to Singapore on Singapore Airlines and, after a few days, continued on Singapore Air to Bangkok. Singapore Air’s excellent service had us completely spoiled for any other airline by the time we boarded our Thai Airways flight from Bangkok to London.

Our only complaint on all our flights was with the Thai Airways flight. We were seated on the upper deck of an aging 747 with the cabin temperature at 85 degrees or higher throughout the trip. When we complained to the flight attendants, they acted like they didn’t know what we were talking about. Their answer was to pull the sunshades. After a 12-hour flight in that sauna, we were exhausted and very dehydrated.

Following three days in London, we took the Eurostar to Brussels and three days later returned to Chicago via Frankfurt on Lufthansa.

My husband is a travel agent, but I plan all our personal travel. For this trip, we set our itinerary according to destinations we wished to revisit or new places we wanted to explore, as well as by which airlines my husband wanted to “try out.” We then submitted our plans to United Airlines for pricing.

With 10 flights and over 48 hours in the air, we decided to fly business class. We each paid around $7,500 for our ’round-world ticket, not including the Qantas flight. This price was approximately double the cost of economy class, but it felt like a bargain for the distance we were flying.

We feel our trip was well paced, as we spent three or four days at almost every stop once we left New Zealand and the APT tour. The dates of our trip were March 20-May 7, ’05. This meant that we had autumn in New Zealand and Australia, intense heat in Singapore and Bangkok and cool spring weather in Europe. It was the perfect time to be away from our home in Wisconsin, where the leaves don’t appear on the trees until well into May.

It also meant that we had to have a variety of clothing for the different climates we encountered, making “packing light” an impossibility. One problem we kept encountering was the inconsistent weight limits for carry-on luggage on domestic flights or on trains. We would always check ahead, but it kept us repacking using foldable totes.

Our “around the world” tour was definitely the trip of a lifetime and I would do it again in a heartbeat. We had no problems with any of our flight schedules. The Thai Airways and Lufthansa flights both were delayed an hour because of minor mechanical problems, but we had no connecting flights so this was not a problem. I also think it helped to be traveling with my travel agent!

The best advice we can give is to take Singapore Airlines whenever possible. Their Raffles Class will spoil you for any future flights.

Because you will be taking many long flights, spend a few days at each destination and have few connecting flights.

If possible, go business class! If you have to save for another year to do so, wait until you can go in comfort. And just think of all the miles you’ll accumulate!

Alice Eisendrath
Greendale, Wi

The specifics of our trip around the world will not be relevant since it took place in the early ’70s, but one or two observations based on our experience may be helpful.

Have the best-known airline issue the ticket. Although when we traveled there was total flexibility and tickets were interchangeable, the airline on which the initial leg took place was not the principal international carrier. This introduced an unnecessary complication when war broke out and we thought it prudent to alter the itinerary. Not every local foreign airline recognized the ticket stock.

Build in “down time,” both to allow for those delays when because of a change in plans you cannot continue without obtaining new visas, and for rest, physical as well as psychological. Bear in mind that for most of us an uninterrupted series of impressions becomes “Ho-hum, another exotic location.”

Do not put together too long a trip. Because of the American tax laws in effect at the time (and that’s another irrelevant point), it made sense for us to stay out of the country for no less than five months. Once the unusual became our everyday existence, it took something as powerful as the Taj Mahal or the Sydney Opera House to have a real effect. Sad but true.

S. Kudlick
Cambridge, Ma

I have been a member of the Circumnavigators Club (24 E. 39th St., New York, NY 10016; phone 201/612-9100 or visit www.circumnavigators since 1979. This club has been in existence for more than 100 years. Membership is by invitation and requires that the traveler must have crossed all meridians of longitude at some time in his/her life (plus acceptance by the club, being of good character, etc.).

On the board of directors for 10 years, meeting in New York City, my job as membership chairman was to review all applications. Based on these applications, the preferred city, by far, was Bangkok. EVERYONE stopped in Bangkok, except for the occasional astronaut or the more recent member Steve Fossett. (Among other accomplishments, Fossett was the first to, in 2004, fly around the world alone nonstop in a balloon and the first to, in 2005, make a solo, nonstop, nonrefueled circumnavigation of the globe in a jet aircraft, in 67 hours, two minutes and 38 seconds. — Editor)

Crossing the Indian Ocean seemed to be the hurdle. Anyone who crossed that body of water almost had the circumnavigation in his pocket. We have a member who circled the North Pole in a submarine (it counts!) plus others who crossed the Pacific and back in WWII and completed the requirement 40 years later with an eastbound to the Pacific. (The trip can be in two segments, decades apart.)

As a member, I have been privileged to meet Lowell Thomas, Sir Edmund Hillary, James Michener, Steve Fossett and many others over the years. We have had presidents, statesmen, scientists and many common folks on our membership list, which is capped at 1,000 worldwide.

The Circumnavigators Club, with the headquarters in New York City, has chapters around the world, including in London, Singapore, Chicago and Florida. Our local chapter meets several times during the year and hosts writers and unique world travelers, all with interesting stories to tell. For a bit of philanthropy, we send several college students on study-tour scholarships around the world.

My daughter Lisa recently completed her circumnavigation. She lives near Pittsburgh and we’re hoping to get a chapter going in her area, as New York with the bulk of big-time events is not nearby. There are 13 chapters in the world and it would be wonderful if Pittsburgh could become the 14th.

Benefits would be that the local club could host interesting programs, enlist new world travelers into its fold and sponsor local tours to places not easily visited. I have had a tour of the U.N. building, seen The New York Times roll out its daily newspaper, visited the QE2 and lunched on a real Chinese junk (in New York City, yet) — all because this club is prestigious and its name can open doors and do things.

I invite anyone living within 100 miles of Pittsburgh (where Lisa lives) to contact me if interested in such a venture (Box 494, Forest Grove, PA 18922; e-mail capnjim1928@ Starting a new club is always exciting — meeting new people, lots of work, a bit of hustling — and what else are you doing in life besides traveling?!

Jim Schmitt
Forest Grove, PA

I have taken a total of three trips around the world. I enjoy travel, and I keep up with the commercial aviation industry, so I set up the trips myself. American Airlines has a ’round-the-world (RTW) desk, which is of great help, especially when getting the schedules straight. The trips were very rewarding, and I will set up another one next year, as I need more miles. :-)

Jules Verne and Michael Palin each had 80 days to circumnavigate the globe; time constraints limited an around-the-world trip I took in 2000 to 14 days. To make the trip efficient, I had to fly at night as often as possible, using the plane as a hotel.

Determining which airlines to take was the easiest question to answer. American Airlines is a member of the Oneworld network ( In order to rack up frequent-flyer miles, I flew on the member airlines. I ended up using only three of the Oneworld alliance airlines (American, British and Qantas) and added a leg on Air Zimbabwe.

The most fun about a trip is planning it out — deciding where to go, how to get there, where to stay, what to see, etc. This one took some time to figure out.

I wanted to visit some new Hard Rock Cafés, so I penciled in Buenos Aires, Argentina, as well as Australia. I had recently visited Surfers Paradise in Australia; the other Hard Rock Café locales in Australia were Melbourne and Sydney. Unfortunately, the Sydney HRC was still closed due to a fire. That left Melbourne as a destination.

Then I got to thinking, ‘Why not Africa? And, if Africa, why not something big?’ I had always wanted to see Victoria Falls, so it got put on the itinerary. Qantas flew from Harare over to Perth, so there’s how I would get to Australia. And if I was in Australia I might as well visit New Zealand for a day or so before coming home.

How to get to Africa? British Airways flew from London to Harare, Zimbabwe, and Air Zimbabwe could take me from there to Victoria Falls. I would have to pay extra for that round trip, but that was okay. Looking at the schedule more closely, I found a partner of British Air, Comair, that flew from Johannesburg to Victoria Falls. So much for the Harare-Victoria Falls round trip on Air Zimbabwe; now all I’d have to do is pay extra for a one-way fare from Vic Falls to Harare, since I would now fly from London to Johannesburg to Vic Falls on my RTW ticket.

Now I had to flesh it out a little. If I was going to be down in South America, how about a new country? (I’d already been to Argentina.) I had to work backwards here, looking at routes flown by member airlines. Lo and behold, British Air flew between Santiago, Chile, and Buenos Aires, so Santiago came into play. American flew to Santiago, so the dots started to connect.

Finally, I had to decide which direction to fly. I started in the middle and worked backwards from there. Qantas flew only from Harare to Perth a couple of days a week. With that in mind, the best way for me to go would be to the east. Done!

Around-the-world fares are an interesting thing. Overall, they’re much cheaper than simple point-to-point fares. Just about every airline has partners and can put together itineraries. In my case, I could pay by the mile or by the continent. It was cheaper to pay by the continent.

So off I went, spending nearly all of my time in the Southern Hemisphere, using local transportation, taking local tours and basking in the fall weather.

I might mention that, on my way to Johannesburg, getting from Buenos Aires to London cost me a day or so. I wanted to fly directly from Buenos Aires to London on British Air, but American Airlines won’t give any frequent-flyer miles for transatlantic flights unless they are on American. (For what it matters, South African Airways flies from Buenos Aires to Johannesburg, but that flight, too, wouldn’t have counted for miles.) So I went from South America to Africa via New York and London. The only positive here is that I was able to FedEx my Hard Rock Café pins home from New York. This lightened my load considerably.

The final tally? Four continents (five if you count North America), eight countries (four of them new, for me), two new Hard Rock Cafés and an accumulated 38,000 frequent-flyer miles.

Two years later, in 2002, it seemed like a good time to wander off again. I needed the frequent-flyer miles, and what better way to get them than to hit six continents?

This time I decided to fly west, although most of the trip was in a north-south direction, bouncing up and down between spring and fall. This way I was able to maximize the mileage. Maximum miles, minimum time. I fly with American Airlines, so I used the Oneworld group of airlines as much as possible.

Unfortunately, I only had two weeks to spare, so I basically picked a location on each continent. I got to a couple of spots in Asia but only used London as a stopping point in Europe.

I picked red-eye flights as much as possible, using the plane as a hotel. Near the end of the trip, I spent two nights in a row on the plane.

The result? Six continents, eight countries (one new one), four new Hard Rock Cafés and another 38,000 air miles.

Now, where can I go next year?

Steven Ahn
Tracy, Ca

I took my third independent trip around the world by air, Jan. 24-March 24, ’05. I had an absolutely fabulous journey and took over 10,000 photos with my new digital camera (a Canon 20D).

I followed these steps in arranging this ’round-the-world (RTW) trip:

1. I decided where I wanted to travel by using the friendly website I wished to fly from Seattle to Paris, then to Northwest Africa, back to Central Europe (Germany), then to the Middle East and Southeast Asia before returning to Seattle. An Airtreks representative contacted me by e-mail and telephone to confirm the specific places I wished to visit and the dates on which I wished to travel. Incredibly, she arranged all my flights within 24 hours.

2. I booked my Paris hotel on the Internet.

3. I purchased two organized tours (one of Mali and one of Lebanon, Syria and Jordan) with

4. I booked an independent tour of Myanmar at the website (see below).

The costs involved were as follows:

1. The RTW flights were all on safe, well-known airlines. The tickets cost $4,328.

2. Two nights at Hotel Le Regent in Paris plus meals and airport transfers came to about $250.

3. I stayed with friends in Germany, so costs were minimal there, including ground (train, subway) transportation.

4. The 2-week tour of Mali cost $2,995, including hotels, ground transportation, guides, meals and tips. Ditto for the Middle East tour, which totaled $3,340 for three weeks.

5. My 9-day tour of Myanmar came to $1,705, including hotels, internal flights, airport transfers, meals, visa and tips.

6. I spent $500 on vaccinations, which I got across the border in Canada, and $180 for two months of travel insurance obtained through

I can pass along these recommendations:

1. I very highly recommend Airtreks (301 Howard St., Fourth Floor, San Francisco, CA 94105; phone 877-247-8735 or visit www. This company specializes in RTW trips, and I found the representatives to be professional and personable folks.

2. I do NOT recommend Explore (visit — the U.S. rep is Adventure Center in Emeryville, California; phone 800/227-8747), because I experienced five incidents with this company that I found unacceptable, all on the Middle East tour.

3. I recommend Visit Myanmar, aka Golden Rock Travel & Tours (72 U Wisara Road, Room 203, Kamayut Township, Yangon, Myanmar; phone [95 1] 502 479, fax [95 1] 527 379). Their services and personnel and my custom tour were excellent. I worked with Golden Rock’s travel agent Khin Thi via e-mail.

I had to send my check for these arrangements to the owner of that company, Joe Shein, who lives in Diamond Bar, California. At the time, it seemed strange to do so, but it all worked out well. (It is quite difficult to send money to Myanmar, and the use of credit cards there is nearly nonexistent.)

4. For high-quality and low-cost insurance, I highly recommend STA Travel (offices worldwide; in the U.S., contact 5900 Wilshire Blvd., Ste. 900, Los Angeles, CA 90036; phone 800/781-4040 or visit Nonstudents and travelers of any age are accepted.

I spent several months carefully planning this trip, including doing a great deal of research on the Internet. As a result, the journey went quite smoothly, especially the RTW flights for which I received many frequent-flyer miles, mostly on Delta Air Lines.

Now I am organizing and editing my photographs to present travelogues, to accompany magazine articles, etc. Hopefully, the proceeds from these endeavors will pay for another RTW trip!

Jim Hendrickson
Bellingham, Wa

More tips on setting up an around-the-world airline itinerary will appear in next month’s issue of ITN.