The 3 Awesome United Miles “Hopper” Flights


Once upon a time, I flew from Guam…

Somehow geeking out of extremely complicated but incredibly cheap routes became a thing of mine. Originally I flew the Pacific Hopper for 40,000 United miles in business class. (Now that flight would be more like 50,000 United miles). The next I flew was 17,500 miles to go from Virginia to Aruba, to Panama, to Puerto Rico. Not a logical “on the way” routing, but it was awesome.


How did I come up with it?

Simple. I wanted to fly to Puerto Rico and was going to pay the 17,500 miles anyways. So the question became, “how could I see more?” And that’s the concept- seeing more for the same price.

But then anytime I saw an absurdly low priced route, my first thought became “How far can I push the routing limits and get the most stops?” So let’s go back and show the examples of this and how it happened. I’ll start with the most complicated, but the most rewarding. On to the routes…


Pacific Hopper

The Pacific Hopper was noticed simply because the price on United’s Award Chart was 12,500 miles oneway within the Pacific. But the Pacific Ocean is huge and there’s no real way to get from “micronesian” islands (the section of islands below Japan) and “Polynesian” which is basically everything out in the middle of the Pacific. The only way to route this was via Asia and Australia/New Zealand.

So first I’ll tell you what I did, then tell you what you can do now.

Economy was 25,000 miles roundtrip, Guam to Rarotonga, and it was 40,000 miles in Business. Given that it was a freaking ton of flying (as I’ll show in a second), we opted for the lie-flat beds.

One thing to know is that I started out in Guam. The goal was to do Guam to Rarotonga (the Cooke Islands) and back. Since it was a roundtrip we got a stopover which we used in Auckland, New Zealand. So a few basic stops:

  1. Start in Guam
  2. Stopover in New Zealand
  3. Destination in Rarotonga
  4. Return to end in Guam

Except I threw a twist on it. But before I get to the twist, I need to explain the routing.

Guam – Seoul – Singapore – Melbourne – Auckland – Rarotonga – Sydney – Bangkok – Tokyo – Guam

That’s the route I booked. And I had very long layovers in both Singapore and Sydney that allowed us to see the cities. Plus, we enjoyed a massage at the Thai Airways business class lounge in Bangkok.

The catch here is that we got off the plane in Japan. Effectively, we saw:

  • Guam
  • Singapore
  • Sydney
  • New Zealand
  • Rarotonga
  • Tokyo

All in business class, and all for 40,000 miles each.

Booking Nowadays

No the only way I can get this to work is if I return to a different region.

Particularly you could do North Asia to Oceania and back. Or you could do Japan to Oceania and back. Sometimes a combination with start/returning to Oceania may work in conjunction with starting/returning to North Asia or Japan. But it’s confusing as Oceania to Oceania will now make Australia/New Zealand the more powerful zone.

Roundtrip North Asia to Oceania is 30k/50k miles.

Roundtrip Japan to Oceania is 25k/50k miles.

SE Asia would be 45k/70k.

Read: 4 Amazing Variations of the Pacific Hopper


Caribbean Hopper

The Caribbean Hopper is a great trip for anyone looking to maximize a trip to the Caribbean.

Here’s the basic concept for a roundtrip. Being that it’s a roundtrip, you get a stopover that can be as long as you want. But let’s say you want to “destination” in Puerto Rico and book a stopover “on the way” in St. Maarten. Well, there aren’t any Star Alliance routes from St. Maarten to Puerto Rico, so you have to route through Panama City.

Mind you, all this is for the same price. You get a stopover in St. Maarten, a layover in Panama City, and another stop in Puerto Rico. An awesome way to spend 35,000 miles.

For reasons that shalt not be explained, I had two accounts with 20,000 miles that I needed to burn. What can you do with 20,000 United miles? Well, you can book a oneway to Puerto Rico but you can’t get a stopover.

Oh well. I managed to get 23.5 hours in Aruba (and our flight was really early into Aruba!), and then a 17.5 hour layover in Panama City, all on the way to Puerto Rico. Final price? The same as a regular oneway, 17,500 United miles. We used Southwest points to fly home, as that route was new at the time and super cheap.

Read: The Complete Guide to the Caribbean Hopper with United Miles


Latin Hopper

One of cheapest redemptions on the United award chart is 10,000 miles between different parts of Latin America. Puerto Rico to Peru for 10,000 miles. But let’s tweak it.

San Juan, Puerto Rico to Lima, Peru for 10,000 miles.

Tweak 1: Make Puerto Rico to Lima a roundtrip for 20,000 miles.

Tweak 2: Now you can add a stopover, in say, Quito, Equador.

San Juan to Quito to Lima to San Juan.

Tweak 3: Instead of returning to Puerto Rico, open-jaw so you return to Cancun, Mexico.

San Juan to Quito, to Lima, to Cancun.

Step 4: Now position yourself with Southwest points. Our flight yesterday to Cancun from Atlanta was 5,300 Southwest points. And since we have the Southwest Companion Pass, it was 5,300 Southwest points for the two of us! But when we did this hopper route awhile ago, we did the route from San Juan, Puerto Rico to Baltimore for 8,000 Southwest points.

Just rounding the numbers, that’s 20,000 United miles (each) + 13,000 Southwest points (for two if you have the Companion Pass). For two people that would be 53,000 points.

What you get is Cancun, Peru, Quito, and Puerto Rico. Well worth it.

Read: The Latin Hopper With United Miles



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  1. Man Drew, I’d love to write some segments on “artistic” award redemption with you. You seek the absurd and make it a reality :)

    • I’ve got nothing better to do. :-p
      Thanks Eric,

  2. Hi Drew,

    I’m seriously thinking about utilizing the latin hopper some time next year (so thanks basically!). I noticed on the original post for that, you mention on “Option 1, stopover in South America” the possibility of stopping off in Rio as part of it. Is it definitely possible to get United to let you stopover in southern South America on these awards too? (that would be INCREDIBLE!).

    • Well first, thank you for reading!

      Second, it’s a bit complicated. So I try to lay it out in one of the posts as three regions.
      Region 1 is Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean.
      Region 2 is the zone “Northern South America”
      Region 3 is the zone “Southern South America”

      Okay, so to go from one zone to a neighboring zone is 10,000 miles. To skip from zone 1 to 3 is 20,000 miles.

      So there are a ton of options, you could start in Lima stopover somewhere like Cali, then destination in Rio, then return back to Quito or something. Or you can do the same thing but start in Mexico and open-jaw so you return to Quito (or anywhere in “northern South America”), then it will be 30,000 miles instead of 20,000. Obviously then a bigger positioning.

      But in short if you stop in Rio from my region 1 area, it will up the price.

      Hope this helps.

    • Ah I see now – many thanks for the detailed explanation. Very interesting indeed!

  3. @drew
    good stuff man.
    please do share if you come up with more info on the indonesia hopper. west papua is my dream trip

    • Thanks Gene.
      Trust me I’m working on it for my own dream trip. :-)

  4. Drew, you think outside the box. That’s what I like best about you. :-)

    • Thanks, good to hear it’s a pro. :-)

  5. Love the Latin Hopper! I’m American but having been living in South America the last 2 years. Have now done 3 trips to the Caribbean due to the great deal for 20k miles round trip!

    • That’s awesome. It’s truly a great deal. Cheaper than a domestic ticket from me to go from Virginia to NYC! lol

  6. now we just need a Europe Hopper

    • I think about that a bit. My hesitation is that the flights out of some airports are $100 in taxes. So your hopping around racking up $50 – $100 at a time. Thus, I would rather just pay discount airliners $30 a pop from the RyanAir airports. IDK, I’ll see.

  7. I dont think you can do Japan to South Pacific island for 12.5k anymore.

    • Um, there are issues that may because of a more powerful region being New Zealand or a routing rule issues, IDK yet really. But I know Dizzy got a manual override via a manager to book it. She basically had them recognize what the price should be and then they did it. So it’s kind of still alive.

    • What is dizzy?

  8. What would be the best/cheapest way to get to Panama City when my origin is FL and which airline program? Can’t seem to figure anything under 30k.
    Would you suggest starting somewhere in the Caribbean (using BA Avios) ?

  9. Love your site! I’m impressed by the amount of work you put into your research.

    I’m just confused about one thing. Under the Guam Pacific Hopper, you wrote “No the only way I can get this to work is if I return to a different region.” Do you mean that it’s no longer available?

    I hope it’s still possible. I live in Guam, and would love to be able to book my own Pacific Hopper. Thanks!

  10. Just stumbled onto this post and looked around on the site. Love what I’ve read so far! Awesome job Drew!

    Btw I do have a question about validating such routings. When you come up with such a routing, how do you make sure that it’s allowed and costs the expected number of miles? Do you just call up United and ask them to price it out? I imagine this might have led to some awkward conversations 😉


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