The Guide to Around-the-World Tickets

Airline alliances and loyalty programs offer a variety of cash and award fares for around-the-world itineraries.
JT Genter
By JT Genter 
Updated
Edited by Giselle M. Cancio

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For those who love travel, there may be no more romantic idea than taking off on a long trip spanning the globe. Airlines realize this and offer travelers the ability to book such a trip using an around-the-world ticket.

However, around-the-world tickets can be very complicated and quite expensive. Thankfully, travelers with a stash of airline miles or program points with a bank can book around-the-world mileage tickets.

Here's a guide to your options for booking an around-the-world ticket — both with cash and miles.

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What is an around-the-world ticket?

An around-the-world ticket is generally a series of flights that circumnavigate the world and start and end around the same general point, all booked as part of one airline ticket.

The rules for around-the-world tickets vary based on the airline, airline alliance or mileage program issuing the ticket.

The price of some around-the-world tickets is based on how many continents you fly through — regardless of the number of stops or distance. Other around-the-world ticket prices are based on the total flight distance.

Generally, around-the-world tickets are much more flexible than regular airline tickets. Some around-the-world tickets even allow free changes if you stick to the same itinerary. Plus, you'll generally earn miles on the booking when purchasing a cash around-the-world ticket.

Which airlines offer around-the-world tickets?

Most airlines offer around-the-world tickets through their airline alliance. Both Star Alliance and the Oneworld alliance currently offer around-the-world tickets. However, the SkyTeam alliance has suspended its SkyTeam Round the World pass.

Oneworld Round The World Airline Tickets

The Oneworld alliance — which includes American Airlines and Alaska Airlines — offers three types of multi-city multi-airline tickets:

  • Oneworld Explorer prices the around-the-world ticket based on the number of continents you visit.

  • Global Explorer is a distance-based around-the-world ticket.

  • Circle Pacific is a not-quite around-the-world ticket limited to continents bordering the Pacific Ocean.

Oneworld recently launched an intuitive new Oneworld Explorer tool that walks you through the city and date selection process. Input your preferred destinations, dates and length. Then, the tool will determine the right pass for your itinerary, help you select flights and book the around-the-world ticket.

Oneworld currently has the following restrictions on around-the-world tickets:

  • Trips should start and end in the same city.

  • Fly no more than 16 flights.

  • Visit at least three continents.

  • No backtracking allowed — you need to continue in the same general direction of travel.

  • Complete your trip within 12 months.

  • Cross the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean

Star Alliance Round The World Airline Tickets

As the world's largest airline alliance, Star Alliance is an obvious choice for around-the-world tickets. Star Alliance's 26 members combine to serve 1,300 destinations in 190 countries. You can build an epic trip to pretty much anywhere through a Star Alliance around-the-world ticket.

Know where you want to go? Start with the Star Alliance Round The World journey builder. Otherwise, get inspired with more than 20 sample itineraries.

Like Oneworld, Star Alliance around-the-world tickets allow up to 16 flights, up to one full year from the date of departure and require you to generally travel in the same direction. You can also book a Circle Pacific not-quite around-the-world ticket through Star Alliance.

How much is an around-the-world ticket?

If you're booking with cash, around-the-world tickets aren't cheap.

Oneworld around-the-world tickets beginning in the U.S. start at $3,599 for an economy ticket visiting three continents and climb as high as $6,899 to visit six continents in economy. And that's before taxes and fees. Business and first-class fares are even higher, often pricing above $10,000.

Two advantages of booking an around-the-world ticket are flexibility and the set price. Around-the-world tickets are priced at the same price whether you're flying during the off-season or peak holiday times.

If you want to fly on peak dates or pricey routes, it can be cheaper to book an award-the-world ticket than to piece together a trip using individual flight bookings.

Booking an around-the-world ticket with miles

Booking around-the-world tickets using cash is just one option. Several airline loyalty programs offer around-the-world mileage tickets.

Around-the-world awards have the obvious advantage of saving you a lot of cash out-of-pocket. However, you'll need to accumulate quite a stockpile of miles to be able to book these tickets. Plus, you'll need to find award availability on every flight segment — which can be a daunting task.

Here's a quick overview of the best around-the-world mileage options for each airline alliance:

ANA Mileage Club (Star Alliance)

All Nippon Airways — better known as simply ANA — offers arguably the best around-the-world mileage tickets. Travelers can book up to 12 flights and eight stopovers between their origin and final destination. The price depends on how far you fly and in which cabin:

Itinerary mileage

Economy class

Business class

First class

4,001 to 7,000

38,000.

63,000.

90,000.

7,001 to 9,000

43,000.

68,000.

100,000.

9,001 to 11,000

55,000.

85,000.

120,000.

11,001 to 14,000

60,000.

90,000.

140,000.

14,001 to 18,000

65,000.

105,000.

160,000.

18,001 to 20,000

75,000.

115,000.

180,000.

20,001 to 22,000

85,000.

125,000.

200,000.

22,001 to 25,000

100,000.

145,000.

220,000.

25,001 to 29,000

120,000.

170,000.

260,000.

29,001 to 34,000

140,000.

200,000.

300,000.

34,001 to 39,000

160,000.

220,000.

340,000.

39,001 to 44,000

180,000.

270,000.

390,000.

44,001 to 50,000

200,000.

300,000.

450,000.

Travelers can limit flight mileage by booking up to four "ground transport" segments. These segments don't count toward your total distance. That means you can use a low-price award or cheap cash ticket to keep your around-the-world ticket distance down.

Restrictions to keep in mind:

  • Limit of one crossing of the Atlantic Ocean and one crossing of the Pacific Ocean.

  • Backtracking isn't permitted.

  • The full journey must span at least 10 days.

  • Must return to the same country you departed.

The best way of getting enough ANA Mileage Club miles for an ANA around-the-world ticket is by accumulating American Express Membership Rewards.

You can transfer AmEx points to ANA at a 1:1 transfer ratio. And you can top off your ANA account with transfers from Marriott Bonvoy, but points transfer at a rate of 3:1.

Asia Miles (Oneworld)

Asia Miles — the mileage program of Cathay Pacific — doesn't technically have around-the-world tickets. But you can piece together an epic journey around the world using the mileage program's Oneworld Multi-Carrier Award chart.

Since it isn't a true around-the-world ticket, it doesn't have some of the same restrictions. That means you can backtrack and don't have to end your trip where you began. Award pricing depends on your class of service and the distance of your trip.

Cathay Pacific Asia Miles Oneworld Multi-Carrier Award Chart

Economy

Business class

First class

0 - 1,000 miles

30,000.

55,000.

70,000.

1,001 - 1,500 miles

30,000.

60,000.

80,000.

1,501 - 2,000 miles

35,000.

65,000.

90,000.

2,001 - 4,000 miles

35,000.

70,000.

95,000.

4,001 - 7,500 miles

60,000.

90,000.

140,000.

7,501 - 9,000 miles

65,000.

100,000.

150,000.

9,001 - 10,000 miles

70,000.

110,000.

160,000.

10,001 - 14,000 miles

90,000.

135,000.

220,000.

14,001 - 18,000 miles

100,000.

155,000.

250,000.

18,001 - 20,000 miles

105,000.

165,000.

260,000.

20,001 - 25,000 miles

115,000.

185,000.

280,000.

25,001 - 35,000 miles

130,000.

210,000.

300,000.

35,001 - 50,000 miles

150,000.

240,000.

345,000.

Maximize your Oneworld Multi-Carrier Awards booking with up to five stopovers. And use the two allowable open-jaws to connect the dots where Oneworld doesn't have a good option.

Make sure to fly at least one flight on Cathay Pacific to remove the limitation of just two airlines. The only major limitations are that premium economy awards aren't available and your journey must be limited to 50,000 points.

Build your Asia Miles balance by transferring points from:

Aeromexico Club Premier (SkyTeam)

One of the only SkyTeam airlines that offers a compelling around-the-world mileage ticket is Aeromexico. And it's a pretty solid option. Travelers can book a whopping 15 stopovers, meaning you can piece together an absolutely epic trip in the one-year ticket validity.

The cost sounds extremely high, but remember that these are in kilometers instead of miles: 224,000 Premier Points in economy or 352,000 Premier Points in business class.

American Express Membership Rewards transfer to Aeromexico at a 1:1.6 transfer ratio. That means you need 140,000 AmEx points for an economy SkyTeam Around-the-World ticket or 220,000 AmEx points for business class.

While AmEx is the best option, you can top off your Aeromexico Club Premier account by transferring points from:

  • Capital One Miles (1:1).

  • Citi ThankYou Points (1:1).

  • Marriott Bonvoy (3:1).

Other loyalty programs to consider

Several other airlines offer around-the-world mileage tickets — or multi-carrier awards with multiple stopovers. Here's a quick summary of other options and why we didn't highlight them in detail:

If you're considering booking an around-the-world ticket

There's a lot to keep in mind when considering an around-the-world ticket.

For cash fares, consider booking through one of the major airline alliances for the best options. Just pay attention to the restrictions. Just as importantly, consider what isn't restricted. You might be able to add additional destinations for no additional cost.

Many airline mileage programs also offer around-the-world mileage tickets, although some are labeled "multi-carrier awards" instead. These can be an excellent deal as long as you can find award availability.


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