How to Weigh Your Options When Planning a Trip Around the World
So you are interested in traveling around the world?
Great news, there is way more than one way to accomplish this. If you aren’t looking to make the entire trek on foot there are several methods that make the adventure much easier. The clear choice is by flying from major destination to major destination. Some of the favorite travel planning options include using frequent flyer miles, airline alliance routes, travel agencies or cruise lines that have prebuilt packages. You could even fly in private charter planes.
Now, before you run off and book a trip be aware each method has positives and negatives. One of these may be a great fit for your journey or you may just find a new way travel that suites your needs. Let’s get started looking at the options.
Frequent Flyer Miles
Over the last few years major changes have happened in the airline industry. Airline mergers, baggage fees, destinations, and rates constantly changing. What about the loyalty programs, frequent flyer miles?
Frequent Flyer programs have changed too. Mileage programs still operate on a tiered system, meaning the more you spend on flights, the more points and benefits you receive. Most of the points programs are linked to specific airlines or credit card companies enticing you spend more to get more “free” travel. The occasional discount ticket redeemed from points never hurts, not to mention club lounges and complimentary checked bags. These can be solid perks if you fly regularly or charge on affinity credit card with a single airline.
Some programs are based on the per dollar amount you spend while others are derived from the miles you have flown. Both result in more points from more flights. Be careful though, there are often deadlines that you must use your points before you lose them all. That’s right, your points can expire with certain programs and airlines. Frequent flyer programs are typically married to the airline to keep you coming back. This means you aren’t going to be able to use your 200,000 American Airlines miles for flights on United Airlines, sorry. Also pay attention to credit card promotions that grant a bulk amount of miles (often enough for one free ticket) as a perk for taking out the credit card. Be aware though, these card typically charge a yearly fee of $95 or more. Study the airline alliances and decide which alliance has airlines that visit the cities you wish to include and then concentrate on earning miles in that alliance.
An airline alliance on the other hand, is the arrangement between two or more airlines, who agree to cooperate with each other. There are three major alliances: Skyteam, OneWorld, and Star Alliance. Each of the alliances provides flights to different destinations. Star Alliance is one of the biggest alliances by membership, and has access to nearly every continent and region in the world. If you are a member to any of the alliances you can use your miles from one airline in the alliance to book awards flights on airline partner. Sometimes an flight on an alliance partner will require fewer miles than with the major airline in your country, so it’s usefull to check all the partners.
Each alliances does have their negatives. Star Alliance partners pass on fuel surcharges, but United Airlines is an exception to this policy. Skyteam is inconsistent in its Delta low-level award availability. Air France’s website continues to get better but it still has bugs. OneWorld has limited miles with exceptions for American and British Avios miles. In addition there are heavy fuel surcharges on the British for most non-intra U.S flights. When redeeming flights with frequent flyer points, be aware that you will still need to pay all airline taxes and fees. It may pay to fly into a regional airport or less major city to avoid high taxes. Heathrow in London, for instance, is notorious for their huge taxes and fee. It might be to your advantage to fly into Gatwick instead.
Hire an Agency
Don’t want to go through the process yourself, look into using an agency. Travel agencies have been the preferred way to plan trips flying overseas or even cruise vacations. The cruises are interesting because they have their own perks to spice things up on your vacation and can transport you around the globe without long flights. When you turn to a travel agent, you are not only getting access to their expertise but any connections they may have within the industry. They can offer access to cruise promotions, airline tickets and special hotel room rates. These can typically be accessed through different web promotions but they save you the time and energy. You will get money back in amenities like breakfast, spa and beverage credits even when you see a service fee of $100.
When using a travel agent you don’t have to sweat the details. This can help avoid surprises such as meal costs, resort fees, and tourism fees usually the added costs that drain your budget. However, travel agents don’t work for free. If you do not want to pay for someone else’s connections, time and advice, then using an agent may not be worthwhile to you. There is no set fee structure as every agency operates differently. You need to make sure that you do your research on a travel advisor. If they don’t know what they are doing then they will provide you with limited options, and even still some of the programs may not be in your best interest. Are they a full time agency or is this a side project for them, how many around the world trips have they planned and do they specialize in this type of travel? This will help you recognize if you are a priority or not in their eyes. There are travel agencies online and in storefronts who specialize in around the world tickets and it’s worth your while to locate someone who knows the ins and outs of an around-the-world ticket.
Spare No Expense, Fly Private
If you aren’t worried about the cost and want that once in a lifetime experience, fly private. Flying with a private jet charter is an experience like no other. There is more flexibility when it comes to leaving and returning. You can also fly into the smaller airports that are closer to your destination. When flying in a private charter for business, your colleagues or customers won’t feel like they are being squished or spied on. The seating is often arranged like a living room or a conference room in comparison to the typical tight rows of commercial airplanes.
There will always be room for your laptop. TSA won’t stop you from carrying liquids or even sharp objects as long as the charter company doesn’t mind. The biggest con is the price for a private jet. Even the smaller charters can cost well over $2000 an hour but they are now developing their own frequent flyer programs to make their flights more affordable. Some charter companies also require you to give your social security number and birthday so the company can make sure you are not on some do not fly list. Keep in mind, private companies are going to offer services everyday of the year and availability 24/7. This means there is no need to follow a strict schedule.
Planning your world trip does not have to be complicated. The biggest factor to consider is how long you would like to be travelling, a few weeks, a month, 4 months, 4 years? The allotted time you have to work with will allow you to consider the different options. Shorter travel periods should have a more structured plan, you do not want to miss your flights. Longer travel needs to account for spontaneity, perhaps you change your plans and add a stop.
The next major factor is your budget, can you fly private or are you trying to circumnavigate the globe for the fewest dollars. Be sure to look at your options before committing. Maybe you start with a travel agent and plan a month trip and the next time around you have a better idea and decide to book through an alliance.
The biggest thing to remember is you have options. Take your time to plan the best option for you, where you would like to go and develop a budget to move forward. It doesn’t matter how you make the journey, what matters is that you do.
About The Author: Alex Fisher is a writer with Chapman Freeborn, a private jet charter company helping individuals, groups, and corporations travel worldwide for business and pleasure. He enjoys photography coupled with his passions for travel and writing and aims to visit every country in the world. Follow him on twitter @C_Alexndr.
Image Source: Pixabay.com