For most backpackers looking to bag cheap round the world flights, the default plan of action is to start by checking around for bargains on the Internet.
And why not?
You can easily go to any of the big airline alliances and book your RTW ticket directly on their website. Or you can price single and partner airline round the world tickets on each specific airline's website.
And if you've got even more time (and energy, and patience) on your hands, you can always try to string together your entire itinerary from cheap one way flights.
But when you suddenly realise you've gone way over the airline alliance's mileage limit, or you can't find any cheap flights to where you want to go, or your plans aren't coming together as easily as you thought they would
. . . it's time to talk to a travel agent!
Yes. A real live travel agent.
Okay, I have to admit it.
When I first discovered how and where to get great deals on plane tickets online, I didn't see the inside of a travel agency for years. It wasn't until I was forced to go to an agent one day (just to change a ticket) that I realised I'd been missing out — big time!
Travel agents can often get you much better prices on round the world flights than you could ever get yourself. And for far less hassle.
Of course, they can book you on any of the airline alliances or figure out your best combination of single or partner airline flights. But what you really want to go to a RTW travel expert for is total route flexibility at the lowest price.
The best RTW travel agents specialise in complex, multi-stop round the world flights.
They have contracts with airlines and wholesale suppliers as well as connections with other agents around the world. With their combined efforts, knowledge and experience, they can piece together a round the world ticket for you from discounted one way flights you'd probably never be able to get on your own.
So . . . where do you find these guys?
If you live in a major city that's also a big transit hub (San Francisco, London or Bangkok, for example), you're in big luck. These are the places to look for travel agents specialising in round the world flights.
But don't worry if you live closer to the North Pole than to San Francisco or London. These agencies deal with customers from anywhere and everywhere. Just give them a call, send them an email or get in touch via their websites and they'll have you on the road in no time!
Here's my list of some of the most highly recommended RTW travel experts around. All of them can organise your round the world flights no matter where you live, but some of them might work out better or cheaper for you than others.
Remember to shop around!
If you're lucky enough to qualify for student, youth (under 26) or even teacher fares, talk to STA Travel. Located in over 90 countries, when it comes to negotiating jaw-droppingly cheap RTW student deals, they can't be beat!
Based in London, roundtheworldflights.com ranks right up there with the crème-de-la-crème of specialist travel agencies. They've got a fun, friendly website packed with info and they go all out to bring you the whole RTW experience!
Round the World Experts are actually the RTW division of Flight Centre (Flight Center in the US), which has over 2000 branches worldwide. With such a huge network, they have access to some of the world's lowest airfares.
Also UK based, Travel Nation is one of the most reputable round the world experts out there. They might be smaller than the others, but the staff is well-travelled and they really know their stuff. Definitely worth contacting for advice and quotes.
San Francisco based, Airtreks is the RTW guru of gurus. They employ some of the best international travel consultants in the business and source tickets globally, so you can be sure they'll get you the cheapest round the world tickets going.
Click here to share your favourite RTW travel agents with the Shoestring Backpacking community or to check out where other budget travellers go to get their round the world flights!