The Definitive Report on Around the World Airfare – Fall 2014 Update

When I went to study in Australia in 1996, my idea of travel was limited to a vacation and one week. Anything close to taking a year to go around the world before I was 65 was not in my paradigm. The travelers I met at a Brisbane hostel before I found a place to live exposed me to a way of learning and seeing the world that still drives me today. Long-term Indie Travel, RTW Travel, Vagabonding, Career Breaks, whatever you call it, is perhaps the best way to give yourself an education. Mark Twain said something like, “Don’t let schooling interfere with your education.” I couldn’t agree more.

So what is the Around the World Airfare Report?

What is it: This is the fourth update of the report and is the result of months of research to evaluate all the different options for Multi-Stop, or Around the World Airfare (your trip doesn’t have to literally circumnavigate the globe)

We researched 3 different routes, all departing from North America (we have evaluated routes leaving from other locations around the world in the previous 3 reports, and we will do so again in the next version)

  1. Route 1: A 4-flight trip, departing from Chicago and ending in Thailand
  2. Route 2: A 7-flight trip, departing from and returning to Vancouver, Canada
  3. Route 3: A 9-flight trip, departing from and returning to Denver.

For each route, we created 3 different personas, complete with a back story,  to try to best simulate a real shopping experience. We secret shopped each route and acted as that traveler in each case, not disclosing who we were or that we were doing this for research purposes:

  1. Chris: Single male, 30’s, experienced (has been on a RTW trip before).
    1. His story: He is moving from the United States to Thailand, and he has nearly 2 months to see other parts of the world before getting to his final destination, where he then plans to live.
  2. Michael and Nicole: Couple, 20’s, inexperienced (have never traveled for longer than 10 days, have only been out of their home country twice).
    1. Their story: They have both been out of college for about 5 years and want to take a career break. Michael has received a leave of absence from his job, and they hope to travel for about 6-7 months.
  3. Sam, Melissa, Joe, and Oliver: Family (kids are 10 and 7-years-old), semi-experienced (the entire family has traveled internationally before, but never for more than 2 weeks)
    1. Their story: They want to take their kids on the ultimate field trip, teaching them on the road while traveling for about 9 months.

We shopped each route through several companies, including the airline alliances and the DIY (do it yourself) method, using Kayak. We wanted this report to be as data-based as possible, so we looked at these three factors while searching:

  1. Cost: How much does the ticket cost?
  2. Service speed: How quickly can you receive a bookable price
  3. Frustration factor: How frustrating is the process of building and pricing a multi-stop route?

Confused yet?

We were, too.  The world has around 200+ international airlines that are members of IATA.  Stringing together an itinerary, via a company that specializes in it, an airline alliance, or figuring it out on your own can be a mind bending experience.  If you have done any research into it already, you’ll know what we mean. We have spent over a decade learning about this type of travel and the airfare options for it.

For this particular version of the report, we spent months talking to these companies (as customers – not reporters – so they did not know we were doing this research or that we were from BootsnAll) to figure out what they are good at and and what they are not as good at. Even though we have been building and updating our Around the World Travel Guide since 1998, we learned a ton from this research. 

If you are planning or dreaming of a RTW trip, this report will save you DAYS of time and research. The end result is that each company has its specialty and reason for being. There is not a one-size fits all flight option for RTW travelers, which we tell travelers time and time again.

Though we own two of the companies we searched, we ALWAYS advise travelers to check ALL their options and settle on the best one for them and their trip.  

I’ve read hundreds of blog posts and articles about why this company is the best or this alliance is the way to go.  The facts show that depending on what your style is, what you are looking for, and where you are going, each company can be a good fit for you.

By the way, we are giving this report away for free.

All of the companies we reviewed are also listed on our site (publishing since 2001).  If you have taken or used one of these companies, we’d love to see you submit your review as well. So that’s the what.

Now what’s the why?

To start, long-term, RTW Travel is my favorite type of travel.  It’s the most epic Indie Travel trip a traveler can do.  I’ve heard a RTW is to what Indie Travel is the same experience that going to Mecca is for our Muslim brothers/sisters.  You don’t have to go to Mecca to be a Muslim – but it’s strongly encouraged.  I’d agree with that for Indie Traveler wannabes.

I firmly believe that taking extensive time for long-term travel is the most life altering thing you can do in your life. Airfare for a trip like this is one of the biggest barriers for folks.  This research report suggests which companies are a good fit for different types of travelers, and our goal was to make the process much easier to understand vs. the mind bending experience mentioned above.

We launched the Indie Travel Manifesto several years ago. An Around the World trip is a way to connect to the values inside the Manifesto. We are so busy running around, checking our digital devices and keeping up in the rat race, that it often takes something like a big trip trip to open our eyes to what the world is really like. It’s another chance, if you never loved school, to love learning.  You can explore whatever it is that you love in this world, but you can do it in an intensive way among people that you did not grow up with or work with.

We did the research and created this report as another way to help get you on the road. That’s the purpose and idea behind BootsnAll and what we do on a daily basis. We want to show you that not only can you do it, but also to show you how to do it and give you all the tools necessary that will make this experience easier and more fun.

So download the report, read through it, check out the reviews over on Round the World Ticket, contribute your own reviews if you’ve used one of these companies, and start planning an epic adventure of your own.

We plan on updating this report again, so we’d love to hear your feedback.  Comment below to share what you thought about this report (both good and bad), and what you’d like to see included on the next report.

  Photo credits: Yezepchyk Oleksandr