The best starting point is Ed Hasbrouck's Airline Ticket Consolidators and Bucket Shops. If you read it before June 1998, look again, as he has added much more info to the FAQ. There are also excerpts online, from his book:
"Round-the-world tickets are the epitome of the bucket shop agent's art. Do not be fooled by published round-the-world fares. They restrict you to the extremely limited routes of just one or two airlines. Only rarely are they the best deal; to put it another way, only the rare itinerary can be shoe-horned into such a fare without mangling it. Most round-the-world itineraries can be best and most cheaply ticketed as a series of one-way tickets from point to point. Constructing a round-the-world fare requires both deciding at what points to break the circle into segments, and getting the best price for each segment (where each ticket may actually, with stopovers, cover several legs of the journey). On top of that, most people are not sure, when they start planning a round-the-world trip, exactly which stops they want, or in what order. Good round-the-world agents are rare, even in bucket shops -- but your average travel agent does not even know where to begin." <Edward Hasbrouck>
Consolidators use a large variety of carriers and usually require that all reservations be made when booking the ticket. Some of the carriers allow changes in dates for free, some charge a $25 fee, and some will make no changes for any reason, not even for death. This can lock you into a fairly strict schedule, which is not always desirable in long-term travel. The ticket will be considerably cheaper, but be careful of cancellation penalties. Trip cancellation insurance is recommended.
"Some portions of your RTW ticket may be open and unrestricted. Mine between Nairobi and Bangkok, for example, was good on any Y-class flight on any airline. If you have such a ticket, be careful not to have it re-written for a particular airline and flight until you are sure that is what you want. And check the latest schedule before the ticket is re-written." <Larry Cotter>
"Quite a few travellers used London as their base and did multiple trips out and back. The final price was generally the same as RTW fares if you followed the travel season. A second benefit for British Commonwealth citizens is that they could work in the UK in-between hops to either gain more cash, or to wait for the next bargain travel season." <Alan Nelson>
"Published-fare RTW prices vary greatly in price and even rules, depending on the country in which travel originates. The same set of airlines may offer one price for an RTW ticket originating in country A on a route A-B-C-D-A, and a *non-equivalent* price in the currency of country B for a ticket B-C-D-A-B! They sometimes adjust these to take account of currency fluctuations, but sometimes currencies shift too quickly for airlines to keep pace. For a long time, published-fares were cheapest from Pakistan (for northern hemisphere routings) and Australia (for routings including the southern hemisphere). Then for a month in early 1998, as the Thai baht collapsed, a Star Alliance business-class RTW originating in Bangkok was the equivalent of less than US$2000. At the moment the cheapest published RTW's are from Malaysia, although next month it could be somewhere else." <Edward Hasbrouck>
"People who regularly (at least once within each year) travel the same circuit can take advantage of this by buying their tickets in whichever point along the circuit is likely, over the long term, to be cheapest. If you go from the USA to South Asia twice a year, for example, and want to travel in business class, the cheapest way will probably be to start with a one-way ticket, and then use a series of published-fare RTW tickets originating each time in South Asia." <Edward Hasbrouck>
"Many businesses abroad, and in the US, charge several percent more to use a credit card. It's cheaper than equivalent insurance for the same protection, and supposedly, if you have them itemize the additional charge on your charge slip, your credit card company will reimburse you." <Scott Soper>
The New Vicarage, Vicarage Close
Shillington, Hitchin, Hertfordshire SG5 3LS, UK
Tel: +44-(0) 1462-711 240, Mobile +44-(0) 7990-898 494, fax +44-(0)1462-713268 ICQ 2045009
eBookers / FlightBookers
45-47 Chalk Farm Road, London, NW1 8AJ; and Gatwick, South Terminal
Tel: 0870 814 0000. Overseas +44 20 7810 6059. Fax 44 (0) 20 7489 2200
Just the Ticket
Level 2, 28 Margaret Street, Oxford Circus, London W1N 7LB
Tel: +44 (0)20 7291 8111 Fax: +44 (0)20 7291 8129
Round the World Flights / Global Village Travel Centre Ltd
57 Leather Lane, London. EC1N 7TJ
STA Travel UK
Trailfinders Travel Center
42-48 Earls Court Road, London, W8 6EJ
Transatlantic & European: Tel: 0171 937 5400, fax 0171 937 0555
Long Haul: Tel: 0171 938 3939, 0171 938 3366, fax 0171 937 9294
Mon-Sat 9:00am-6:00pm, Sun 10:00am-6:00pm
Birmingham: Tel: 0121 236 1234 fax 0121 236 3456
Bristol: Tel: 0117 929 9000, fax 0117 929 9029
Glasgow: Tel: 0141 353 2224, fax 0141 353 2002
Manchester: Tel: 0161 839 6969, fax 0161 839 7227
The Courtyard, 61 Western Road, Hove, East Sussex, BN3 1JD
Tel: 0845 3444 225, Fax: 0845 344 4226
Overseas 00 44 1273 718 025, Fax 00 44 1273 732 791
Airtreks High Adventure Travel
301 Howard St, Fourth Floor, San Francisco, California 94105
800-350-0612, 800-350-0638, 415-977-7100, 415-912-5600, phone/fax 415-824-0214, fax 415-912-5606.
Feel free to leave voice-mail after hours.
E-Mail: email@example.com Telex: 9102408313 Highadv UD
Office hours: M-F 8am to 6pm PST, Sat 9am-1pm PST. Visits by appointment only, please.
Accept checks. Accept VISA, Mastercard, and AmEx with 3% surcharge.
717 Market St, Suite 514, San Francisco, CA 94103, USA
800-950-2842, 415-536-4155, fax 415-536-4158
Specializes in Asia, but also does RTW's.
400 Roy Street, Seattle WA 98109
800-766-3601, 877-327-3638, 800-310-9813, 866-676-7338, 866-204-2112,
No credit card fees, no last minute fees, no delivery fees.
Student Travel Australasia. Offices worldwide
800-777-0112 in US.
UniGlobe Democracy Travel
4818 MacArthur Blvd NW, Washington DC 20007
800-536-8728, 202-965-7200, fax 202-342-0471
In business since 1981. Member of ASTA, UNIGLOBE, IATAN, ASFA (Assn. of Special Fare Agents), licensed and bonded by ARC, with a resident CTC (Certified Travel Counselor), a D.S.(Destination Specialist), and an international tariff specialist with 25 years of experience, including Round-the-World, Circle-Pacific, Circle-Atlantic fares, and general "creative" ticketing.
World Travellers' Club
545 Sutter St, Suite 202, San Francisco, CA 94102
800-693-0411, 415-296-9626, fax 208-730-9304
[I receive plenty of requests for information about consolidators, but very little feedback. I would appreciate stories about real consolidators who took the time to discuss what you wanted, tailored your trip, and advised you on cost-saving changes, instead of trying to shoehorn you into one of their special packages. Anyone can sell you a set of tickets, especially at low prices, but service is what counts when there is a problem. I would also appreciate information about agencies specializing in RTW travel.]
Association of Special Fares Agents (ASFA)