It sounds like a dream, doesn’t it? To hop across the globe from continent to continent, between cities and countrysides, from beaches to mountains, and anywhere else your compass takes you is a desire for many travelers. Well, around the world ticket is very much possible and is not necessarily out of reach.
What took great explorers like Marco Polo and Christopher Columbus years or decades is now accessible in denominations of months, weeks, or even days for those who have the desire!
Each continent is accessible and can be affordable with the right planning.
If you’re not even sure where to start in planning an around-the-world trip, you aren’t alone – it can be a complicated affair!
That’s why we’ve compiled this list of ways to do it and tips to make it efficient, affordable, and enjoyable. Let’s take a look at how you can best make your way around the earth by plane, boat, train, and car.
Around the World Plane Tickets
The fastest and most common way to travel around the world is by plane. The world is increasingly interconnected by air routes bridging continents and travelers to almost anywhere.
To book an around the world ticket by air, we have several options. Most of them involve taking advantage of airline alliances. The big three airline alliances are Star Alliance, SkyTeam, and Oneworld.
An airline alliance is a group of carriers that team up to offer a level of coordinated service.
That’s because United and Lufthansa are Star Alliance partners, and they collaborate to help better both their networks.
Now, imagine that rather than flying from just New York to Corfu, you wanted to continue to Moscow, then Tokyo, then Sydney, then Honolulu… or wherever your wanderlust leads you.
Thanks to alliance partners with routes all over the world, it is very possible for you to do just that; and find yourself 35,000 feet up and en route to just about anywhere.
1. Round the World Tickets with Star Alliance
The Star Alliance network currently consists of 26 member airlines and can connect travelers to each inhabited continent. As for North American airlines, you’ll notice United and Air Canada on the list.
They are well-connected to a vast network of partner airlines in Europe, Asia, Africa, and South America as well.
Star Alliance has a webpage dedicated to booking around the world tickets, which they refer to as Round the World. It can be accessed via a button on the alliance’s homepage, or here.
A Round the World ticket with this airline alliance opens the possibilities of over 1300 destinations in 190 countries, according to their website.
There are a few guidelines that must be followed: your trip must start and end in the same country (but not necessarily the same city), it must follow one global direction (for example, east to west), it must make at least two stops, and it must cross the Pacific once and the Atlantic once.
The duration of your world trip can be anywhere between three days and one year, and rebooking is free. One single ticket can be used for an entire month of travel, and be flexible as well!
It would be understandable if you are a bit lost about where to start (or where to go, or where to go next…).
Luckily, the Star Alliance Round the World site has a fantastic tool to help inspire some ideas. You can explore a ton of themed trip ideas with suggestions for destinations, time spent at each, attractions to see, and sample itineraries.
From relaxing on exotic beaches, to tasting the foods of the world, to a tour of iconic hotels, there should be a theme for everyone.
Using the website to book an around-the-world ticket is easy and intuitive. Clicking through each step will walk you straight through the process.
You’ll notice that rather than searching airport codes, your various destinations will be searched by city. An interactive map will shift as you choose more cities, and will also help you see where else you can go.
As you add stops, a counter will update to show how many you have selected so far and what the estimated total price will be. You might be surprised to find lower prices than you expected.
Don’t forget to add your frequent flier number to your reservation, for any of the member airlines’ programs. You’ll be earning miles on each segment, all around the world, towards that program. Imagine what that amount of miles will buy you when you get home!
Star Alliance’s Round the World booking site also has a great feature for trip planning. You can save your RTW itinerary and return to it later, making changes until you are ready to book.
This can be very helpful as a Round the World ticket involves a lot of coordination and potential shifts as you go, and you can avoid repeating the search for all your flights later.
2. Skyteam’s Round the World Ticket
The next airline alliance in terms of size is SkyTeam, with its 19 airline members. The big North American name that you’ll notice on their list is Delta, as well as AeroMexico. They are well-connected to Europe thanks to their partnership with Air France and KLM among others.
SkyTeam also has a dedicated webpage for tickets around the world, which they also refer to as Round the World Tickets. Its Round the World Planner advertises 1150 destinations in 175 countries.
Rules are very similar to what we have seen previously: travel must begin and end in the same country, it must include one transatlantic flight and one transpacific, and various rules about stops and fare types. The minimum trip duration is 10 days, and the maximum is one year.
You might find SkyTeam’s booking and information site a bit more difficult to navigate than that of Star Alliance. Their Round the World Planner page, where you’ll find the various rules and conditions, is written in language that some might consider best suited for professional travel agents.
There are several rules about stops based on “World Areas”, conditions based on your fare type, and more industry lingo that the average traveler doesn’t know.
Further, a good portion of the page lists entry codes for travel agents to input into booking systems; and you can more than likely just ignore that if you aren’t a professional.
One of the main differences you’ll find when searching tickets on SkyTeam is the fact that you will need to enter your requested trip itinerary manually, along with your contact information, and be contacted in one to three business days for a personalized quote.
I am not a huge fan of this process for several reasons, personally. For one, the point of searching for such a complicated itinerary like this on the internet in the first place is for simplicity, flexibility, and speed.
Waiting for someone to reach out to me in a few days defeats the purpose of that. Second, having to type out my destinations and dates manually, rather than choose as I type and select on a calendar, is just plain frustrating.
However, overcoming these challenges can still land you a lucrative around the world ticket. SkyTeam’s network reaches across the globe and the coordination on a single ticket will lower the price.
You will also earn miles on your airline of choice for the entire journey for use on free tickets or upgrades on your next trip. Finally, SkyTeam offers a good level of flexibility on changes for these tickets and includes at least one free bag.
See Related: Delta Airlines Review: Is This The Best Airline?
3. Fly Around the World on Oneworld
Last, but certainly not least, of the three major airline alliances is Oneworld. The smallest in terms of airline membership, Oneworld counts 14 airlines in their network.
Finishing off the “big three” airlines of the US, we find American Airlines in Oneworld’s network; as well as Alaska Airlines. Notably, Oneworld is the only airline alliance to include a member based in Australia (Qantas) but lacks a member based in the South American continent.
Regardless, Oneworld can get you there, and just about anywhere. They advertise up to 1000 destinations in more than 170 of the world’s countries. You’ll find a link to their Round the World ticket site directly on their homepage.
Oneworld has an interesting approach to Round the World ticketing, which is relatively easy to understand and can benefit the traveler in terms of cost and simplicity.
They offer three “types” of Round the World tickets: the Oneworld Explorer, for continent-based travel; the Global Explorer, for distance-based travel; and the Circle Pacific, for Pacific rim continent-based travel.
The Oneworld Explorer fare is the simplest, equivalent to a classic around the world ticket which gives access to all member airlines.
It must be booked in one continuous direction and stop in at least three continents, with a maximum of 16 flights and/or one-year duration.
The Global Explorer fare has the same rules but allows access to even more airlines that aren’t necessarily in the Oneworld alliance but have partnered with them.
This allows you to expand the reach of your journey to places remote or otherwise unreachable in the standard network. This fare type is broken down into a few tiers based on mileage, allowing you to benefit from incremental fare differences based on your total travel distance.
Finally, the Circle Pacific fare is an intuitive option for a traveler who has certain countries in mind.
Rather than traveling completely around the world, this ticket lets you explore the countries surrounding the Pacific in a circular route. This can add up to be an exceptionally diverse trip thanks to all the Pacific rim has to offer, not to mention the beautiful islands of the Polynesian region!
Booking a ticket around the world can be done directly on Oneworld’s website without the need for someone to contact you with a quote.
The system is smart and user-friendly and will identify routes that require different dates or destinations; saving you the trouble of experimenting. For each leg, you will be shown the three shortest flight options to choose from, with the option to see more if you’d like to.
Don’t forget to add the loyalty number of your preferred member airline because, as usual, you will be earning a ton of frequent flyer miles as you hop around the world.
Oneworld also offers the option to save your itinerary to return to later, as well as printing or saving it as a PDF and emailing it to yourself or others.
4. A Do-It-Yourself RTW Ticket
While airline alliances offer some great tools and networks to fly you around the world on one, easy ticket, it is not necessarily the only way to circle the globe by plane.
You could, of course, create a DIY itinerary on many separate tickets.
The pros of this method are mainly surrounding the access it opens to other airlines which are not a part of any alliance.
Specifically, this would include low-cost carriers and smaller ones in general.
Budget airlines can offer ridiculously cheap flights which may turn out to be far less expensive than any major airline in an alliance can offer.
Besides their low fares, these airlines also often reach less-traveled destination airports that a big carrier can’t get you to. This is great to get out of the major cities and see more.
On the other hand, there are several cons. Low-cost airlines will charge for each and every add-on that you need, which can include things that larger airlines don’t even consider an add-on.
You’ll need to pay for bags, seat assignments, food and beverages, and potentially even the printing of your boarding pass.
Besides that, the fact that you will be on multiple tickets can be a bit constraining.
Firstly, if you want to change a flight voluntarily, it has the potential to mess up your entire around-the-world voyage if later flights need to be changed as well.
If you experience a delay or a cancellation, leading to problems making your next flights, you will have no protection at all in terms of rebooking. Booking flights separately could be a very expensive problem.
If you do prefer to create a DIY round the world trip by plane, you should carefully understand what extras you will need to pay for on each individual ticket and factor those costs in.
You should also pad your schedule with plenty of extra time to be sure you won’t be gravely affected by a delay or cancellation. Finally, consider buying trip insurance to cover some unforeseen costs.
I enjoy using Google Flights to book one-way flights as their fare calendar will show the cheapest dates. Keep in mind that while a search there will include most airlines in the world, it doesn’t necessarily include all.
For example, Southwest doesn’t allow Google Flights to access its fares, and they often do have some of the cheapest flights (plus free bags).
See Related: Free Printable Travel Planner
Around the World by Boat
Besides flying, the only way to travel completely around the world via one form of transportation is by boat.
Sailing the seas may be a bit more time-consuming than a few hours of flying, but it certainly may be a more scenic journey.
We have some advice if you choose to boat your way around the world, and most of our tips involve cruising or ferries.
You could, of course, charter a yacht or sail your own; but if that’s the case for you then you probably don’t need to be reading ViaTravelers! Let’s see below some of the top ways to sail around the world.
1. Royal Caribbean’s Ultimate World Cruise
Royal Caribbean is probably a name you’ve heard before even if you’re not a cruiser. But you probably haven’t heard of their Ultimate World Cruise, because it’s something totally new that is taking reservations at the moment.
The Ultimate World Cruise will take place on the Serenade of the Seas and set sail on December 10, 2023, from Miami.
Possibly the world’s longest cruise, the entire voyage will take 274 nights to completely circle the globe and return to Florida. It will visit all seven continents (Antarctica included!), more than 150 destinations in 65 countries, and 11 great wonders of the world.
Royal Caribbean is also offering guests to join for portions of the journey, separating it into four expeditions.
You can hop on for the America’s and Antarctica, Asia and the Pacific, the Middle East and the Mediterranean, or the capitals of culture in Europe and even Greenland.
You may not be shocked to hear that this isn’t going to be a cheap round-the-world ticket. Prices aren’t even advertised on the website and you’ll need to call for a quote. But, reports say that tickets are selling for more than $60,000 per person at the cheapest.
Some lucky sailors are sure in for an amazing trip.
2. Princess Cruises – World Cruises
Similarly, Princess is a name that you may have heard if you are a cruiser.
One of the biggest cruise lines in the world, Princess is owned by its also well-known parent Carnival; but is positioned as a higher-end product.
Princess ships sail all over the world, but they also offer dedicated World Cruises. These voyages cross the earth, hitting up to six continents.
You’ll enjoy all the amenities of being on a cruise ship such as pool and leisure facilities, several restaurants and bars to choose from, entertainment offerings, and more.
This isn’t the cheapest way to cross the world, starting at well over $15,000 per person, but it sure would be nice, wouldn’t it?
3. Viking Ocean Cruises
Originally a river cruise line, Viking has expanded significantly in recent years and now operates a fleet of ocean liners as well. Cruisers enjoy the luxurious amenities of this line, and you can go much further than their base in Europe.
Viking Ocean Cruises offers World Cruises & Grand Voyages for those who want to spend a bit more time on their ships. You’ll find world cruises from anywhere between 36 and 138 days, crossing an ocean or crossing all the oceans.
Sticking with the theme, these cruises aren’t cheap and can be nearly $60,000 per person for the longest voyages. However, Viking advertises some free amenities such as business class flights before and after the expedition.
4. Silversea World Cruises
If you are going big, you may as well go really big. That’s why it is worth mentioning Silversea, an ultra-luxury cruise line that is owned by Royal Caribbean but worlds away in terms of experience.
With boats slightly smaller than the typically massive cruise liners, Silversea can offer a more intimate and personalized experience for guests, who appreciate all-inclusive offerings and exotic destinations.
One of their destinations is the entire world itself, as you can find on their World Cruises page.
They generally just sail one of these per year, so it really is an exclusive experience. Each year’s itinerary is around the 130-day mark and truly crosses the planet, with stops along the way that you’d probably never get to by plane.
Silversea also allows you to break up the journey and book individual portions, which they separate and brand themselves.
Prices aren’t advertised on the Silversea website, and you are instead asked to call for a quote. We can only imagine what the magic number may be…but maybe someday.
5. MSC World Cruises
The World Cruises that MSC offers are most certainly worth mentioning, based on the fact that all of their future voyages are currently sold out. You’d have to put yourself on a waiting list to join one, so they really must be good.
Another big-name cruise line, MSC offers large ships, wide-ranging onboard entertainment, all-inclusive packages, and an overall highly-acclaimed product by cruisers. Their around-the-world cruises count around four months of sailing in the true circumnavigation of the globe.
Prices for these journeys would be high, but that didn’t seem to stop those who were lucky enough to book rooms before they were gone. Those who will be aboard are sure to see some very exotic islands and continental coasts alike.
6. Repositioning Cruises and One-Way Cruises
We shouldn’t end our section on cruising around the world without mentioning a way to do it that the average traveler can afford. And while you’d need some really great alignment of sailing dates to make it completely around the globe on these cruises alone, they could at least be components used with other methods to get around the world.
Most cruise lines like Royal Caribbean, Princess, MSC, Norwegian, and others offer both one-way cruises as well as repositioning cruises. A one-way trip is exactly what it sounds like, where your boat departs from somewhere like Spain and arrives in Egypt, for example.
These are very common and operate like any other cruise, stopping for various destinations and activities. They can be reasonably priced considering all they include. On the other hand, a repositioning cruise is a bit different. This is when the boat needs to move to a new port, usually because of the end of one season and the start of another.
For example, ships commonly reposition from the Mediterranean at the end of the summer to the Caribbean, to keep guests where the weather is warm.
A repositioning cruise may not have exotic stops and may even have a limited level of onboard service. However, the prices are incredibly cheap when compared to a standard cruise.
For someone looking to cross the globe and do a portion of it by boat, this could be the cost-saving answer if your travels line up in the right season.
Most major cruise line websites have a dedicated page for repositioning cruises. Booking in advance will get you the best deal and make sure that cabins don’t sell out.
See Related: Norway Cruise Packing List
7. Around the World on Cargo Ships
If you are on the other end of the spectrum from the traveler who may prefer to take one of the above ultra-luxury cruises around the world and instead are willing to rough it a bit for the journey, you can actually book a spot on a cargo ship and save money.
Rather than going all around the world at once, you’ll either have to coordinate departures carefully or use these voyages as components combined with other methods to traverse the globe.
You can expect a very basic cabin, all of your meals, and very little entertainment onboard. Wifi may not even be an option, and it may not be the most comfortable accommodation. However, some very remote destinations can be found on cargo ships and they can be a form of affordable travel.
Around the World via Train
While you can’t get completely around the world via train, you can make a huge portion of the trip by rail and then use other methods to cross the oceans.
There is something nostalgic about traveling by rail that I have always loved, and it would be amazing to see so much out the window along the way.
1. Amtrak’s California Zephyr, Texas Eagle, or Sunset Limited
If you want to cross America by rail, the Amtrak network has two routes for you: The California Zephyr and the Texas Eagle.
The California Zephyr is the company’s second-longest route in total, but the longest which runs daily. Terminus points are the San Francisco Bay area (Emeryville and Chicago), which gets you nearly across the continent in just under 52 hours total.
A connecting train can get you to or from Chicago to points on the east coast to make it a true cross-country journey.
The Texas Eagle is their longest route by distance, running from Chicago all the way to Los Angeles. In fact, the Chicago train meets up with another long-distance route in San Antonio called the Sunset Limited.
This train originates in New Orleans, and the two combine to make the journey to Los Angeles together. The Sunset Limited could be another nearly trans-continental train option as well.
On these trains, you will surely want to spend a bit extra for a sleeper cabin, where you can get some true relaxation as you watch the Great Plains, Rocky Mountains, and the rest of the US go by out the window.
2. The European Rail Systems
A trip around Europe is synonymous with rail-based travel, especially for the young American eager to see the old continent. And while low-cost airlines can often be cheaper nowadays, traveling by rail is still a great experience in Europe.
Each country on the continent is extremely well-connected with tracks. Journeys can be regional, meaning relatively short distance journeys which always cost the same price.
Or long-distance, which offer superior comfort and service and price tickets more similarly to airlines, getting more expensive as the date gets closer.
You can absolutely do a DIY Europe rail trip, connecting various countries’ networks one by one. Or, you can invest in a rail pass like Eurail, which offers a one-ticket concept similar to what we saw with the airline alliances above.
On the Eurail website, you will simply add your starting city, the places you want to stop until your final city, and the number of nights you want to spend in each.
The system will propose various types of tickets, often allowing you unlimited train travel for a set number of days. That’s great for both flexibility and simplicity when you get there, and their network of partners is vast.
If you want to do it yourself, I recommend the site Omio to search train schedules and even purchase tickets.
Keep in mind that many train companies do not sell tickets or release schedules more than three months in advance, so keep an eye on the calendar to book on time and get the best deal.
3. The Trans-Siberian Railway
The longest continuous rail route in the world can be found in the largest country in the world, Russia. This rail service is also the only one that can take you across multiple continents.
While the continuous trains technically begin in Moscow, you could begin your journey just about anywhere in Russia or even Europe with a connection.
The classic Trans-Siberian journey runs straight through the tundra of Siberia, terminating in Vladivostok on Russia’s far east coast.
But, travelers enjoy branching off of the line to places like Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, and Beijing. Twice a month, the trans-Siberian train from Moscow even runs all the way to Pyongyang in North Korea, but don’t plan on simply booking a ticket for that one online!
This journey can take several weeks, and you therefore will want to spend a bit extra on a cabin. You should also pack plenty of food and drinks in case onboard offerings don’t suit your taste.
Finally, you should consider breaking this journey up into several overnight stops along the way.
The Trans-Siberian is a great journey, but you won’t want to miss the towns the train calls at along the way. While you probably won’t get off at them all, village residents are known to come out and meet this train with local products and food to sell.
Booking a Trans-Siberian journey can be challenging.
Technically, it can be done on the Russian Railways website, but it is not user-friendly and seems to return a lot of errors when using the English version. Consider using a specialty travel agent such as TransSiberian Express.
If we put together all the trains we’ve covered here, you can use railways to travel completely across the northern hemisphere when combined with flights or boats across the oceans!
See Related: Best Websites for Cheap Flights and Hotels
A World Trip by Road
While we could probably come up with many more creative ways to get around the world (biking, swimming, hot air ballooning…), it’s probably best to finish off with a favorite of many travelers: a road trip.
It would be long, it would require a lot of fuel, and you may get tired of sitting in the same seat, but you could drive across the continental landmasses in the same way you’d take the train.
You’d have to book flights or boats across the ocean, of course, but you might be surprised how much of your round-the-world trip can be done on the road.
1. Rent an RV
Camper vans are an especially common sight in the USA, where we have miles and miles of road just waiting to be discovered.
Sites like Cruise America can help you find a rental to pick up all over the US and Canada. A normal driving license is sufficient for RVs up to a certain size, but you may need to upgrade to a commercial license to drive a big bus.
A clear favorite for RV trips is seeing the national parks across the country and enjoying the beauty that nature has to offer. Don’t forget to research where you are allowed to stop, where you might have to pay to park, and where you can replenish your water supply and dump waste.
See Related: Outdoorsy vs RVShare: What is Better?
2. Outfit a 4×4
These might be a bit more difficult to find in terms of renting, and while they are out there, you may need to consider buying and building your off-road vehicle for an extreme road trip.
Most of the world is connected by paved roads, but certain destinations require you can roll on the dirt.
From the western deserts and mountains of North America to the Alaskan frontier, to the Amazon jungles, and even to the Russian tundra, a 4×4 can unlock sights that only a tiny portion of humans can ever say they’ve seen.
You could also drive from the southwestern tip of Portugal on the Atlantic to Vladivostok in the Pacific; where pre-Covid (and hopefully post-Covid) car ferries could extend your drive to South Korea and Japan. That’s a journey of nearly 9,000 miles, so you may want to bring a driving partner!
See Related: Best Places to Visit in Alaska | Top Attractions
3. RTW Trip by Personal or Rental Car
Finally, you could take routes similar to those above in your own car or a rental. However, be careful not to push the limits of a car that can’t handle off-roading, and make sure that you are legally allowed to cross borders with a rental!
If driving a normal car across great distances, it should be checked thoroughly by a competent mechanic before departing to be sure that it is up for the journey.
Getting stuck with a large repair bill or needing a tow from the middle of nowhere would not be an enjoyable portion of your world trip by car.
Plan out what you need to pack very carefully, and consider carrying spare parts, emergency food and water, and first aid and medication.
It is also possible to ship cars between the US and Europe for temporary personal use. It would be a pretty cool photo op if you could get your American license plates to the Gobi Desert or on the streets of Tokyo.