As travel rebounds, many travel advisors are seeing renewed demand for that bucket list classic—a trip around the world. In the past year, as countries like China and Australia ended their long lockdowns, interest in longer trips that span multiple continents has surged.
“Travelers are seeking something different,” says Henry Harteveldt, founder and travel analyst at Atmosphere Research. “There’s definitely an element of bragging rights here.”
And while it took Jules Verne’s Phileas Fog 80 days to circumnavigate the globe, travelers today can circle the earth, in far more comfort, in less than four weeks. That is if they take the most luxurious and expensive route and travel via chartered jet.
Tour operator Abercrombie & Kent, for example, one of the pioneers of the private jet tour, is offering several round-the-world departures for 2024, including one led by company founder Geoffrey Kent. The 26-day trip departs on Oct. 13 and makes eight stops on five continents, including offbeat destinations like Ladakh, Malta, and Easter Island.
Another itinerary, focused on wildlife, departs Feb. 14 and over 25 days makes stops in Japan, Malaysia, India, Madagascar, Uganda, and Kenya. A third trip, new this year, departs Sept. 2 and takes in Fiji, Tasmania, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Mauritius, Zambia and Brazil. The idea is to offer clients a way to experience as many diverse ecosystems and species as possible in a three-and-a-half-week whirlwind tour, according to Ann Epting, A&K senior vice president, of private jet and special interest travel.
Some of the creatures that clients may glimpse include the famed Tasmanian devil, the Komodo dragon, and the Sri Lankan leopard, as well as the ever-popular “Big Five” of safari fame in Africa.
Flights are via Boeing 757 aircraft, with a layout of 48 fully lie-flat first class seats, and are operated under a longstanding arrangement with Icelandair, which provides flight crews, maintenance, and other services.
The price tag, of course, is not cheap: the A&K round-the-world jaunts range from $164,950 per person for the 25-day wildlife trip to $184,950 per person for the Geoffrey Kent-led 26-day tour. The cost is in line with other private jet offerings, including those operated by TCS World Travel, via its 52-seat Airbus A321. TCS is offering 10 RTW itineraries from this fall through December 2025.
Epting says that travel agencies book a majority of A&K’s private jet guests and that the company works closely with all major agency chains and consortia, including American Express, Ensemble, Signature, Travel Leaders, and Virtuoso.
And while clients could circle the globe for far less money on commercial airline flights, agents say they understand the appeal of the private jet angle.
“Part of what you are paying for is a fully buttoned-up itinerary and real end-to-end planning,” says Paul Tumpowsky, CEO of Skylark Travel, in New York. “After all, you’re going to multiple countries, getting multiple visas, and if you were booking this yourself, you’d be flying on multiple airlines.
Going private “means you always know where your bag is,” he quips. “You know you’ll be getting great customer service.”
Fun Fact: What counts as a true round-the-world trip? According to the New York-based Circumnavigators Club—which boasts 700-plus globe-girdling members—you must travel in one direction only (no backtracking allowed), cross every meridian, and return to the same country you departed from. (Some purists say you must also cross the equator and cover more distance than the circumference of the earth, or more than 24,901 miles.) That aside, any mode of travel counts, from small sailboats to hot-air balloons.