January 26, 2012

DIY (Do It Yourself) RTW Ticket Review

We shopped prices for RTW plane tickets from eight different companies and rated each company based on five criteria – price, search options, customer service, date flexibility, and route flexibility.

Below are the three routes and dates that we shopped:

For the DIY option, though, some of these ratings criteria don’t apply. Since we were doing it all ourselves, we didn’t deal with any customer service reps. We used Kayak exclusively for searching these one-way flights, and because you can’t book directly through Kayak, we did click through to the site necessary to book to make sure the price was accurate and there were still seats left.

Note: Keep in mind that we searched these flights all at once. In a typical Round the World scenario, the traveler would be booking flights as he or she went, and we all know how prices fluctuate, so use this only as a guide. We also only searched Kayak, so there could be better deals to be had on smaller, regional airlines that Kayak doesn’t cover.


Pricing for doing it all yourself and buying one way tickets as you go was very competitive to other options. For the simplest route that only had 4 flights to major hub cities, the DIY option was cheapest leaving from New York and London. It came in 7.2% higher than the lowest price leaving from Sydney. For the second, more complicated route, DIY was on average 9.13% higher than the lowest options. For the most complicated route, DIY offered the lowest price from London and was an average of 9.03% higher than the lowest price from New York and Sydney.

Search Options

We stuck to online searches using Kayak, which we’ve all most likely done before. Because you can’t book directly through Kayak, we did click through to the site offering the lowest price to make sure the price was accurate and the flight was still available.

Customer Service

Not applicable.

Date Flexibility

This option obviously provides the most flexibility in terms of dates because the traveler ultimately decides when he or she wants to book. The main downfall is that if you wait too long, the price could go up dramatically. But on the flip side, you can also find last minute deals.

Route Flexibility

Again, choosing this method gives you the ultimate flexibility in routes. But it pays to do some research before leaving. For example, getting from South America to Southeast Asia or Australasia can be complicated and expensive even when you do it on your own, so it pays to know ahead of time which routes/destinations may be pricey.

If you have used the Do It Yourself method for your round the world trip, we want to hear from you. Comment below to share your experience, and click on the stars below the comment box to rate.

Overall 4.4 star rating
Price 4.5 star rating
Date Flexibility 5 star rating
Route Flexibility 5 star rating
Search Options 3 star rating

4.4/5 -
based on 7 reviews

7 Responses to DIY (Do It Yourself) RTW Ticket Review

  1. says:

    I haven’t booked it yet, but I’m looking to fly one-way from Paris to Auckland, sometime around fall 2014 maybe, doing stopovers in Iceland, NYC, YQM (Moncton, Canada), San Francisco, Hawaii (2 islands), Fiji & Western Samoa for just under 2300 USD.

    1st ticket: CDG-KEF on FI [1 week free stopover] KEF-NYC on FI [one week $40 stopover] NYC-Canada preferably on WS/AA —or even PD or AC (FI interline partners)— for 672,30 $US

    2nd ticket: YUL-SJC on AA [free fare-break stopover] SJC-LIH [$75 stopover] LIH-HNL on AA for 638,40 $US

    4th ticket: HNL-APW [stopover] APW-NAN [stopover] NAN-AKL on FJ for 955,60 $US

    IMO, when you plan to travel for more than one year or go to places that are not flown to by major airlines, DIY is the best.

    Apart from the 2 Icelandair flights, it can be all done on AA or partner airlines. When maximizing the routing to get the best CPM, one can earn a bit more than 12000 AAdvantage Miles.

    Overall 5 star rating Price 4 star rating Date Flexibility 5 star rating
    Route Flexibility 5 star rating Search Options 5 star rating
  2. says:

    I don’t really get this. It seems like the entry requirements for nearly 100% of destinations these days require a return or onward flight in order to be allowed into the country in the first place. I know that all entry requirements are different but I honestly haven’t come across a destination yet where you don’t need to have a return or onward flight to gain entry. How can you remain so flexible if this is the case? Am I missing something? I’m currently trying to plan a RTW and would prefer the DIY route but how can you do it if you always seem to need a return or onward flight to enter a country?

    • says:

      Ryan, it really depends on the situation when it comes to onward travel. During our RTW trip (2008-2009), we were only asked for proof of onward travel twice. Once was leaving the US to go to Peru and the other was when we flew through the US to go to New Zealand.

      For Peru, we used a little trick that may or may not work. It really depends on a variety of factors. We basically just went to a site like Expedia, searched for a one-way flight out of Peru, navigated as though we were going to buy it, then copied and pasted the itinerary (with flight numbers, our names, etc. but before we actually purchased them) into a word doc, and voila, an onward ticket.

      Now you have to hope in this situation that the agent at the desk when you are checking in doesn’t actually check that flight to make sure you are scheduled to be on it. I honestly have no idea if they ever do that.

      The other instance, when flying from the US to New Zealand, we were required to show proof of onward travel, and luckily we had already booked a flight leaving the country, so we were fine there. We knew we were going to SE Asia afterwards, had found a great deal a couple weeks prior, so we bought it. If we hadn’t, we probably would have employed the same tactic as above.

      This is just one way of getting around this situation, and it honestly just depends on the airline and the countries you’re flying in and out of. Sometimes they’ll ask; sometimes they won’t. But there are plenty of people taking RTW trips right now using only one-ways.

  3. says:

    I made my own RTW itinerary on my year-long adventure. In my opinion DIY is the only way to go. You have complete flexibility on timing and destinations. When I left on my trip I only had a one-way ticket from Los Angeles to Bangkok. From there the world was open to me and I ended up going to many destinations I hadn’t considered (or had never even heard of!) before I left home. In the end I spent a little over $3k on 12 flights and saw four continents.

    Overall 5 star rating Price 5 star rating Date Flexibility 5 star rating
    Route Flexibility 5 star rating Search Options 5 star rating
    • says:

      Would you mind sharing your RWT itinerary. it sounds like you had a great trip at a reasonable price.

      Thank you. Sarah

  4. says:

    On your next RTW trip, I am sure you’ll use again the DIY, it’s much cheaper in reality and once you get past Kayak and use good search engines available in other countries, it really gets much cheaper. On our trip we fly a lot and I only bought the first 25 legs on our trip. So far it is for less then $4000. Airtreks quoted me a double price for much less mileage. so if you have the guts to use a credit card online and the price matters, there is no real competition.

    Overall 5 star rating Price 5 star rating Date Flexibility 5 star rating
    Route Flexibility 5 star rating Search Options 5 star rating
  5. says:

    We used DIY for your RTW trip, and while it was cheaper than expected (this was during 2008-2009 when airfare was plummeting), we still largely stuck to the same itinerary that we had mapped out before we left. We did add in New Zealand, which was not a definite before taking off, so that was nice to have the flexibility. But since we were on such a tight budget, we were constantly on the lookout for the best deals, which meant we spent A LOT of time searching for airfare while we were traveling. On our next RTW trip, we will definitely look more seriously into a RTW ticket. We may still go with the same DIY option, but it would be nice not to have to spend so much time searching for airfare.

    Overall 4 star rating Price 4 star rating Date Flexibility 5 star rating
    Route Flexibility 5 star rating Search Options 4 star rating

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