This is an ambitious undertaking. With right tools one can circumnavigate the globe for the price of two international air tickets to Southeast Asia from USA.
Planning the trip is the most difficult part, partly the difficulty lies in this: Places to pick, time to travel.
There are so many places to pick – beaten path or something more adventurous, cities with all that they have to offer or nature/wildlife areas, villages or town where you can get out of the crowd and see the real country (away from the hype and glamor of the cities).
Of all the reasons are more – traveling to the major city in each stop over is a must – since it will save you a lot of money just by traveling on land, or boat or a separate local carrier once you are in the country.
Next comes the time commitment – RTW travel is best done at leisure; for that matter any travel to international destinations. I personally would love spending time and going about absorbing the culture, themes, and food without rushing/thinking about tomorrow’s destination.
The advantages of RTW tickets are many, one being – Changing travel dates/carriers/flights leading to re-booking/re-validation of any sector is free of charge.
So if you have time an itinerary for 2400 USD would take your through southeast Asia in about 50 days.
Starting and ending from locations in southeast Asia can save you hundreds of dollars. The same fare now starting from USA is 3300 usd.
Avoid Singapore airlines (if travelling first class through points or otherwise) : exorbitant surcharges.
Traveling to Hong Kong, Macau and Singapore is best done with the local carriers from neighboring countries.
Star alliance has a tool for you to plan your trip (free of charge and no login required) – it will give you the price too http://www.staralliance.com/en/fares/round-the-world-fare/#
It is the most extensive – in terms of partners, and locations, and routes, of all.
For example Shenzhen airlines (close to Hong Kong) – http://global.shenzhenair.com
If you play around, say Feb 5th – 14th round trip to Osaka, Japan (1500 Miles) is around 253 dollars excluding tax (with one free checked baggage).
The same trip from Thailand Chiang Mai, Thailand to Osaka Japan costs you 1049 USD including taxes
So having time to play around and stay is a premium worth in gold.
For united airlines round the world – 180,000 Points are required for a saver award.
http://www.airtreks.com/ – offers help and booking the itinerary and flights. They have many specials. AVOID the high season of December and January when booking from USA.
So what is the best course of action?
- Start saving on your points (get a good travel credit card),
- join an alliance partner (especially in your own HUB zone airline – say for example United has an hubzone in IAD (This allows united or any hub zone airline to maximize the loads, and aircrafts on their routes. As every route ends at a hub, they now have many aircraftsavailable to be used on any other route that originates at that hub. This allows airlines to have multiple flights between hub cities and can use larger aircraft…)).
- Plan and Play around
- Contact as many times as possible your airline – talk to them often…this will give you inside information on day to day, month to month changes and make you more confident when speaking with booking agents when you are ready to jump and purchase.
- Nothing beats having more time at hand– if is available for you (teachers during summer vacations for example, or independent non-location based business owners, or translators) will give you an unfair advantage both in terms of price and local experience.