The Latin Hopper with United Miles

One new route I’m considering (which does not suffer from the devaluation) is the “Latin Hopper”. It’s not as glorious as the Pacific Hopper, but it’s more practical, easy to set up, and still has an incredible value.

It’s actually one of the cheapest routes you can do with 20k. Any roundtrip between anywhere in Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean and Northern South America would be 20,000 United miles.

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This is a killer deal once you add in a stopover. I mean, you can use this like the Caribbean Hopper and see islands. But the idea here, is to stretch as far as we can and see the Amazon… or Andes, or something.

The Concept

So last time I had a stray 17.5k united miles in an account to burn and I decided to do the Caribbean Hopper. US to Puerto Rico with long layovers in Aruba and Panama. Totally Rapid Travel Chai style… I think. It was fast, but totally relaxing and not a ton of flying (unlike the Pacific Hopper).

This trip is me having 20k which opens a lot more doors. Plus, I have a mistake fare booked in Lima, St. Lucia, and two in Mexico. I could hit them all. Plus, I have a stray ticket to Mexico to start the trip off.

Basically my thinking is this, use Avios or something to get to Mexico, and Avios to get home from the Caribbean. Then use 20k roundtrip to Peru.

In the end I’ll see the start and end point in Mexico and the Caribbean and Peru, and a stopover somewhere. Basically 4 stops. For those living in Miami or Dallas, this could actually save miles.

It’s 35k to Peru from US and again, 20k from Mexico.

Here are some options:

But first understand you basically can do whatever you want. You stop where you want, and basically get two stops. You can also return to wherever you want. These are just options I’m considering.

Option 1, stopover in South America

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  • Start in Belize
  • Stopover in Guayaquil, Ecuador or Rio De Janeiro
  • Destination Lima, Peru.
  • Return to San Juan, Puerto Rico

Option 2, stopover in Mexico

Screen shot 2013-11-13 at 10.44.35 PM

  • Start in Belize
  • Destination Lima, Peru
  • Stopover in Mexico
  • Return to St. Lucia

One problem: Now’s as good a time as any to explain the award chart above. You may notice that it says Mexico “10/20″ for economy. Well, the second price is if you route through the US. The first price is if you don’t route through the US.

So if there is nothing available on Copa (through Panama City) to go from Mexico to St. Lucia, it may try to route through a United Hub… in the US for the higher price. So be aware.

Option 3, stopover in some beautiful island

Screen shot 2013-11-13 at 10.46.07 PM

  • Start in Belize
  • Destination is Lima, Peru
  • Stopover is San Juan
  • End point is St. Lucia

Another Problem: United has seemingly added some routing restrictions for certain flights or something. So your options may be limited to a 3 connections.

However, I’ve found many examples for which this isn’t true, including on a route similar to this – I got 4 connections to come up from Peru to the return destination. I’ve noticed this being possible when stopovers are in different regions (I’m not saying that is the trick), and thus I don’t know if: A) it’s not really the rule, B) It’s the rule and can be tricked, or C) the rule is 3 connections per route between stops. Maybe that should have been a post of it’s own.

The point is, I predict routing problems, and largely due to availability or routings through the US.

I mean the options are endless. Start in, stopover in, destination in and end in the Caribbean. Or whatever. Make the destination Northern South America. Or Mexico. Or just return to Mexico. You see?

However, a trip to Peru or Ecuador just seems like a great value. Cash tickets can be way more expensive than a Mexico ticket, so I would use this launching point to see some of South America.

Thus, I’m very tempted to make my stopover and destination in South America. Then have my starting point and end point be easy to reach places from the US – like Mexico or Puerto Rico.

Cheap ways to start out


Since Southwest will be taking over the rest of AirTran’s route [hopefully] soon, there are a number of options.

Nassau, Bahamas; Punta Cana, Domincan Republic; San Juan, Puerto Rico; Montego Bay, Jamaica; Cancun, Mexico; and Mexico City, Mexico. These are all [soon to be] Southwest options that also connect to Panama City via Copa Airlines. Thus, they don’t need to back track to the US and increase the price.

Southwest is price based, so a sale could lead to a good deal on points. And if you have the Companion Pass by the time these suckers are done merging, this could be huge!

We flew from Puerto Rico to Baltimore for 8,000 Southwest Points. I thought it was a steal.


How good of deal this is completely depends on where you live, but hopefully it’s the south. Or hopefully it’s Miami or Dallas. :-p

Many of these routes are only 4,500 Avios each direct. Even if you do have to connect, 9,000 Avios is still a great deal for a oneway.

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AA Free Oneways

If you’re using free oneways with AA, you could have half the set up taken care of.


This is something that will be an option here for a while, and still it’s a great option. It seems that more people have free oneways or options to Central America/Caribbean than one would think. So this could be a really great option.

And consider this; you can always book an open-jaw in such a way that you return home. It will cost a little more… but it will get you home.

For 10,000 miles, I can’t imagine beating this price. Or for 20,000 going from Mexico to Peru with stopovers and all… It’s a surprisingly good deal. And since I have 20k sitting in some random accounts, this will likely be done.

I hope this was helpful. I plan on doing even more United burning posts soon. Might as well get it all out on the table before Feb 1!

Related Posts:


  1. Love these “hopper” posts! Keep ’em coming

  2. You can’t get from PTY to UVF on Copa…

    • … Yea… so… that’s a really good point.

  3. Nice work, as I’ve seen little mention elsewhere of the significant decrease in cost flying on UA or partners between Mexico, Caribbean, Central America and South America. I travel to the Caribbean often (usually via Avios), but have a bunch of UA miles but little experience flying them. You mention the upcharge for routings that connect through the US, but that appears to be only on the Star Alliance partners chart, not the United one. Does this have any practical benefit, since UA seems to have few routes between the regions?

    Is Copa the key partner, and does Cape Air offer any possibilities? Do most of these kind of itineraries require a phone call?

    • Good observation that it’s only on the partner chart. But it seems to have no virtually no effect.
      Although, it’s interesting because Copa is seen the same as United in terms of Mileage Plus redemptions. But again, it really ends up meaning nothing. I’ve tried to test a few things regarding this with no fruit.

      I’ve been able to book online, but YMMV.

  4. wow- I SOO freakin’ love this website!! thank you thank you thank you for alerting me to this wonderful ‘stopover deal’.

    I’m about to book my own ‘Latin Hopper’- starting in Mexico City going to Lima (9 hour daytime layover in Panama City), Lima to Cuzco, Cuzco to San Juan (8 hour daytime layover in Bogota). This will cost me -in all- 20,000 miles. Note: It also costs 20,000 miles *each way* to fly between San Francisco to Lima and I’d still have to pay for the roundtrip CUZ flight.

    Flying to/from Mexico city and San Juan on Southwest is roughly $220-250/ea way- @$500 + 20,000 miles- I’m still in shock. I’m am now a huge fan of yours and I thank you again! All the best in your travels!

  5. This is truly great info! I have a newbie question…how long are stopovers and do you have control over them? Are we talking about always having to get off the plane and explore the stopover place in less than a day and get back on the plane? Or are we talking about having a stopover with some time to drink martinis at the beach for a day or two (or more)?

    Regardless, this is brilliant and thanks for posting!

  6. Drew, are you saying that BZE-Rio(stopover)-Lima(Stopover)-SJU only costs 20k miles? I did the search on united and it costs 40k miles.

  7. What does “Destination” refer to? I’m confused about United stop over. Shouldn’t you have a stopover between Belize and Lima? And isn’t United only allowing stopover on a round trip ticket?

    Start in Belize
    Destination Lima, Peru
    Stopover in Mexico
    Return to St. Lucia

  8. I love your info and enjoy going back for reference. Question? We live in BWI area and want to go to Machu Picchu and the Galapagos utilizing the Latin Hopper. How would you advise us? Big thanks!!!


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