Homer did it, why not you? FTF explains how RTW fares can save you money on your next family trip whether you roam with a group or independently.
If circumnavigating the globe by air, with the kids, over the course of a year, on a planned — but flexible — route appeals, you’ll find that round-the-world (RTW) travel with children has never been easier.
With many more regional carriers, greater synergy from the alliances created by the major airlines, and careful planning with one of the new breed of RTW travel agencies, you can count on a truly affordable global journey. The major difference between them is that airline alliances usually give mileage awards for flights purchased within their networks, while RTW agencies often assemble itineraries using consolidated fares and regional airlines, many of whom don’t issue mileage awards for your purchase. Rules common to most of these tickets include having to fly in one general direction throughout the journey; a minimum of 10 days travel and a maximum of one year travel for ticket validity; a minimum and maximum number of stops en route; and pricing based on the number of miles flown.
Affordable Air Fares With Major Airline Alliances
Courtesy of the Internet and the seismic change in the global airline economy, many families will plan their trip through an airline alliance, a marketing/sales network among several non-competing airlines to share routes and pool customers. The three major alliances familiar to U. S. families are SkyTeam, Star Alliance and Oneworld.
Oneworld boasts of 10 airline partners, including American Airlines and British Airways, serving 675 destinations and featuring 500 airport lounges for weary passengers. SkyTeam is comprised of eleven airlines, including Delta, Continental and Northwest, and three associate airlines, that together serve 841 destinations in 162 countries. Star Alliance combines the services of United and US Airways with 17 other carriers to serve 897 destinations in 160 countries. It’s the largest of the three networks, with over 17,000 daily flights. A recent New York Times study recommends Oneworld for its good coverage of Australia and South America routes, and Star Alliance for travel around New Zealand and the South Pacific. Skyteam is expanding quickly with smaller, regional carriers, making them a good choice for more off-the-beatean path destinations in some regions.
Booking Tickets with the Experts: RTW Consolidators
The traditional option of using the services of RTW travel professionals to build customized air travel packages through consolidators, ‘bucket shops’ and direct contacts with foreign carriers, is still a great one. For 2008, we found a basic “3Continent Special” at Air Brokers International (800/883-3273) which originates in New York and travels to London – Athens – Johannesburg – Bangkok and many places in between for $1,899 per adult.
Though fares are predicated on your departure date (not the time period of use), RTW agents caution that on some routes, rates for the mid-December to mid-January hot zone and other holiday periods will probably be higher. Also keep in mind that London and Bangkok — where many global travelers congregate before continuing their routes — are still good places to purchase these RTW fares. In today’s economy, travel companies must keep in mind currency market fluctuations when they quote fares, and base their rates on what local competitors are offering.
Typically, children’s fares are discounted (kids under 12-years typically pay 66%-75% of adult fare; kids under 2-years who travel as a “lap child” — no guaranteed seat — pay 10% of published rates depending on airline). Many families can realize big savings on long itineraries while other will find that some regional air passes, such as Cathay Pacific’s value “All Asia Pass” don’t offer children’s pricing, because as a spokesperson told us, “These fares are so cheap anyway we can’t possibly discount them more.”
Interested? Airtreks (800/350-0612) is a good place to start, because visitors who register on their site can use the TripPlanner function to virtually map out a route, including areas that will be traversed overland, and then get an instant price quote. As this is only an estimate, site visitors are asked to submit trip plans they like to an agent, who then gets in touch with them to verify rates and schedules.
Remember that most agencies were founded by, and still employ, past or present global nomads. This staff is available for custom travel advice and itinerary planning help, and sometimes their experience (and the grief it can save you) are worth any difference in fares.
Other Resources When RTW Travelers Want to Stay Put
As more and more people travel internationally, they need to be aware of the endless possibilities that await them. Exploring that faraway land is not limited to those packaged tours your travel agent, regardless of how helpful, has arranged.
Another excellent resource for independent travel is the engaging “TAzine.” This online magazine is produced by the editors of Transitions Abroad, which has provided readers with less publicized travel information since 1977. This collection of thousands of resources and programs is for travelers who want to pause and volunteer, learn a skill, study a culture, retire, school their kids, almost anything having to do with why we travel in the first place. The webzine and site highlights key articles, reviews and selects the best guidebooks and planning resources for unique travel opportunities like native art in Bali or cooking in Africa.
In response to readers’ diverse needs in travel planning, there are separate channels for seniors; the disabled; families with children; and socially responsible travel. It also devotes entire sections to studying and living abroad, as well as retirement opportunities. This is a fantastic free resource for the intrepid and wannabe intrepid travelers among us. See www.TransitionsAbroad.com for more information or call 413/256-3414.
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