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United MileagePlus® lets you include a single free stopover on any roundtrip award that covers more than one region (which is most international trips). That lets you spend as much time as you’d like in two separate cities for one price. So for example, you could fly Chicago to Rome, stay there for 5 days, then on to Paris, stay there for 8 days, and then fly back to Chicago. All for the price of a regular roundtrip award to Chicago.
Until recently, it was a real pain to build stopover trips online. But now, United calls stopovers the ‘Excursionist Perk,’ and it’s made looking for trips with stopovers much easier than before.
Now, you can see the price and itinerary you’re building as you go along, and the process doesn’t choke up at random moments as much as it used to.
Excursionist Perk rules
- The Excursionist Perk cannot be in the MileagePlus defined region where your travel originates. For example, if your travel begins in New York City (North America), your Excursionist Perk is not valid in the North America region.
- Travel must end in the same MileagePlus defined region where travel originates.
- The origin and destination of the Excursionist Perk is within a single MileagePlus defined zone.
- The cabin of service and award type of the free one-way award is the same or lower than the one-way award preceding it.
- If two or more one-way awards qualify for this benefit, only the first occurrence will be free.
To illustrate the rules in action we’ll show you how we constructed two trips, one that stops in two places in Asia for the same price as just one destination.
- Chicago – Bangkok (stay)
- Bangkok – Hong Kong (stay)
- Hong Kong – Chicago
Another that visits four European cities for 60,000 miles, the same as a plain round trip to Europe:
- Chicago – Rome (stay, travel overland or via another flight to Milan)
- Milan – Brussels (stay, travel overland or via another flight to Paris)
- Paris – Chicago
Finally, we will go over a flight option that was possibly an unintended consequence of the new excursionist perk rules.
Booking the Excursionist Perk
To get started, click ‘Multi-city’ at the top of the search box to bring up the full search page.
From the full search page, make sure to choose ‘Yes’ in the ‘Do you want to book a MileagePlus award ticket?’ section.
Then scroll down and start entering the cities and dates you want to cover and try to pick your cities and dates with the new Excursionist Perk guidelines in mind.
Now we will take a look at the example from Chicago to Bangkok and Hong Kong.
You can click the ‘Add another destination’ link at the bottom of the ‘location and dates’ section of the form to add more cities to your trip.
Don’t worry about exact dates – once you submit the form, you’ll be able to adjust dates as you search for individual flight segments in the calendar view:
As you build the trip, each segment’s mileage price will display individually, but the taxes you see are for your entire trip. You can click ‘Revise flight’ to adjust any of the flights as you firm things up.
Here you can see a few different options that are available for your first leg to Bangkok. In economy at the Saver level, all awards cost 40,000 miles. If you choose the first option, you are looking at $16 in total taxes for the trip while if you choose the last the taxes are a bit higher at $21.40.
It all prices out for 80,000 miles plus $100 in airport taxes – the same price as it would cost to fly to Bangkok or Hong Kong alone.
It would also be possible to add a long layover in London (or a handful of other cities) on your way to Bangkok. Depending on if you plan to have extra stops and where they are, you may see a slight increase in the cost of your airport taxes.
If you want to book a similar trip in cash it will set you back over $1,000!
Europe is a great place to hop around with less flying, and for 60,000 miles you can book this jaunt directly on United.com, taking you to Rome, Milan, Brussels, Paris, and everywhere in between!
The following technique of using openjaws is applicable to any region, not just Europe.
By the time you add it all up, the taxes are about $130 and you’ll spend 60,000 miles to fly in economy. You would be responsible for all of your transportation between Rome and Milan and Brussels and Paris but this gives you a bunch more of Europe to experience on your trip!
As we mentioned at the beginning of this article, there are some things that the rules currently allow you to do that were perhaps unintended by United. The potential gains from them are not large, and will probably require too much planning and flexibility to be useful to most, but nevertheless you should know about them!
For 45,000 miles and $120, you can fly the following:
Paris – New York (30,000 miles)
Miami – Los Angeles (excursionist perk – no additional miles – savings of 12,500 miles)
Munich – Frankfurt (15,000 miles)
This wouldn’t save you miles unless you actually needed to fly all three segments, but still could be useful!
For 25,000 miles and $50, you can fly the following.
Newark – Los Angeles (12,500 miles)
Rome – Stockholm (excursionist perk – no additional miles – savings of 15,000 miles)
Newark – Phoenix (12,500 miles)
This case actually presents you with a savings of 2,500 miles if you need to fly the first two options but don’t have a use for the third. Even better if you need all three flights!
For 12,000 miles and $11.20, you can fly the following:
Honolulu – Kahului (6,000 miles)
San Francisco – Washington D.C. (excursionist perk – no additional miles – savings of 12,500 miles)
Kahului – Honolulu (6,000 miles)
Here, the total cost of the ticket is less than it would cost you to fly from San Francisco to Washington D.C. when purchasing it on it’s own! Keep in mind that you will be required to fly the first segment of your itinerary or the rest of the itinerary will be cancelled. It would be possible to not fly the last segment, however.
Here are some awards that used to be valid for stopovers but no longer are without paying additional miles.
The biggest hit is that stopovers used to be able to be almost anywhere. Now, they need to be completely within one region, and can’t be in the same region as departure. This means that you can’t stop over in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on your way to Bangkok from Washington D.C. without paying more miles. Now, you’ll pay 40,000 miles for the flight from Washington D.C. to Addis Ababa, 50,000 miles to fly from Addis Ababa to Bangkok, and another 40,000 miles to fly from Bangkok back to Washington D.C.
Another negative change is that United’s multi-city search is not quite as helpful as it was before – especially when it comes to wanting a specific routing.
Previously, it was possible to search for flight segments individually, but now that will cause an increase in the mileage cost of the ticket. The only options that will be available to book at the low-level price are those that show up when searching for the entire itinerary. For example, if you wanted to travel from Detroit, Michigan to Bangkok, Thailand, it used to be possible to do a multi-city search for DTW – Chicago, Chicago – Frankfurt, and Frankfurt – BKK and have that price at the same level as DTW – BKK. Now, if you try to complete that search, it will price each segment individually.
While United has somewhat limited the flexibility of stopovers, it’s still possible to have some fun with them! Additionally, United and Alaska are still the only U.S. mileage programs that have any ability for stopovers since Delta and American stopped allowing them in the past few years.
Even though it is slightly less so now, this flexibility and the massive network of Star Alliance destinations are why United MileagePlus® miles are our favorite for big international trips.
Also check out our other United MileagePlus® resources: