Yesterday I went over all the United stopover tricks I’ve ever written about, but there’s one more discovery I’ve yet to share. And since the United stopover devaluation __ is coming soon, might as well reveal it all.
If you haven’t read my last post, All The United Stopover Tricks To Date, you should! That post will catch you up on all the tricks that predate this.
However, the big concept you need to know is that United currently allows 1 stopover and 2 open-jaws on a roundtrip.
This means you fly to Europe and stop in two cities. And adding an open-jaw on the return means that you could fly to Europe stopover in two cities, and instead of flying back home, you could fly to the Caribbean… or Hawaii…
Or perhaps… anywhere?
The Big Reveal
A stopover requires a roundtrip. However…
Key 1: The only thing that makes a ticket a “roundtrip” is if you change regions.
The only thing that makes a ticket a roundtrip is if you change regions from your destination.
A stopover can’t be added on a ticket that visits one region. And you have to come back from your destination region anyways…
And we already know you don’t have to come back to the same region you started in.
For example, you know you can start in the US and return to the Caribbean. And I just said you can return to Hawaii instead of the US, and how to price it…
But why not try “returning” to other less obvious regions?
Key 2: From any destination you can open-jaw to any region.
Literally any region.
Any two regions can be combined on a oneway, they just might not allow you to route through other regions. But once you have a stopover, and once you have a destination, where you go from there is calculated totally anew.
A – B, B – [X].
“X” = anywhere.
“A – B” includes a stopover.
US to Tokyo, with a stopover in Europe. That “A – B” would price out at 35k, but it has to be a roundtrip to get the stopover in Europe for free.
To be a roundtrip you have to leave “B”, this case Japan, but it doesn’t have to return to the US. You could go to Guam. X would be Oceania.
US to Japan (with a stopover in Europe) is 35,000 miles… and now from Japan, instead of returning to the US, you “return” / end in Guam. Japan to Guam would be another 12,500 miles.
The red part is 35,000 miles, and the blue part 12,500 miles.
One week in Vienna, one week in Japan, and then to Guam… the entire trip would price out at 47,500 miles in economy.
If you wanted to do the red part – US to Vienna, to Tokyo – in Business Class, that would be 65,000 miles. Then you could still do the blue part – Tokyo to Guam – in economy, for 12,500 miles. That would be 77,500 miles.
The concept once you understand it is simple. You can go from your destination to anywhere, and it just prices to the destination as one ticket, and from the destination as another ticket.
Yes, it helps if you understand how things are going to price, routing rules, and which is the destination (the entire point of the first post)… but a lot more will work than you might expect. It just helps to know why.
And again, we already know we could return to the Caribbean or another region other than our starting region of the US. So why didn’t we assume it applies to more than the Caribbean?
Another example. A – B, B – X.
US to Oceania (stopover in Australia) – 35,000 miles. Then Oceania to North Asia – 15,000 miles. Total = 50,000 miles.
Truthfully, you couldn’t book the ticket as easily as shown above. I’m not sure how you’d route even if it would let you. But the point here is to teach the concept.
The concept is that you don’t have to go back to the starting region!
You’ve just got to know that it prices two oneways. [Starting point] to the [destination], and then [destination] to [end point]. Together it makes a roundtrip. Everything else I say will be variations of that.
I mean any region
Here’s a great example of a route that should not work.
The reason this normally isn’t bookable is because Australia and Europe are two regions that can’t be combined on a route.
However, what I’ve yet to explain regarding the region restrictions above, is that it’s per direction.
Back to the A – B, C – A.
You can’t stopover in Europe on the way to Sydney. The “A – B”.
But let’s say you open-jaw so instead of returning from Sydney, you continue your flight from China. China to the US can have a stopover in Europe. The “C – A”.
Again, because you can open-jaw on the destination, you can often essentially have two tickets.____________
The Longest way to Sydney.
US to Kenya, to Japan = 35,000 miles. Japan to Sydney = 22,500 miles. Total 57,500 miles.
However long you want in Kenya, Japan, and Sydney for 57.5k. A oneway to Sydney is 40k. And for basically 17.5k more, you can visit the entire world.
The end result when you know what to look for, is combining cheap regions and getting multiple stops on a single ticket. The ticket above stops in Europe, it stops in Asia, and then it ends in Sydney. That alone is pretty cool.
But it also is cool because it allows us to combine multiple regions that can not be combined otherwise.
And when we know the stopover tricks to lower the price, the next thing we need to know is the cheapest set of regions you can tack on.
I’ll return to that thought in a minute.
Latin Hopper & Mega Open-Jaw
We’ve been to many islands over the years – Bora Bora, Tahiti and Moorea, Guam, Fiji, Rarotonga, Sri Lanka, Bali, Koh Samui, Langkawi, Aruba, etc…
But! I’ve been dying to go to the Galapagos. And United availability is looking pretty good. I nearly booked this ticket earlier this year, but couldn’t schedule it.
See, as I’ve written about in the Latin Hopper, it’s 10,000 miles to go from any of the following regions to another: Mexico, Central America, Caribbean, Northern South America.
These are all different regions. Hint hint.
Here’s what I was looking to do…
First, get a oneway ticket to Peru or Ecuador. I’ve seen them out of Austin for $200 to Quito, but you could use AA miles. (Go to SkyScanner.com, and search oneways to “everywhere”). Then the fun begins.
Starting in Peru, we stopover in the Galapagos.
Then we destination in Roatan, Honduras. (Or Belize – I haven’t been to either so I looked at both).
Then we need to leave that region, and you have a few options.
From Roatan, Honduras:
- Back to Northern South America = 10,000 miles
- Mega open-jaw and “return” to Mexico or the Caribbean = 10,000 miles
- Mega open-jaw and “return” to the US = 17,500 miles.
For this example I picked the Caribbean – Puerto Rico.
That’s Peru, to the Galapagos, to Roatan, to Puerto Rico for 20,000 miles. Spending as much time as you want in each.
Of course you have to get to Peru, and get back from Puerto Rico, but it’s a heck of a lot of travel for 20,000 miles.
And what this doesn’t show is the long layovers you can book. Rapid Travel style.
When I priced this out I got options for long layovers (over 12 hours) in Bogota, Guayaquil, Panama City, San Salvador, and a few others.
The above picture only shows the route with stopovers listed. If you’d include layovers, it would at least look like this:
I still think it’s the best 20,000 miles you’d ever spend.
But if you did want to spend the whopping 27,500 miles, you could just return home. Like this:
Peru to Galapagos to Roatan = 10,000 miles. And Roatan to the US = 17,500 miles. Total = 27,500 miles.
Of course you need to get to Lima, or wherever you would want to start.
(Note that under the new rules, you’ll still be able to start and end in Central America, but you won’t be able to return to a different region than you started… So I’m putting my Galapagos trip on hold, and will still do it with United miles).
A – B, C – D
So far we’ve only used our open-jaw that allows us to return to a different city other than the one we started in. We still have the option to open-jaw on our destination as well.
Lets go back to the example of [Europe], Japan, and Australia.
Japan to Australia is 22,500 miles. But there are cheaper region combinations, for example South Asia to Australia is 17,5000 miles.
Let’s go to Japan as our destination (which means we get a free stopover on the way. Europe, Middle East, Africa – it’s all 35k). But then instead of continuing our trip to Sydney, let’s continue from Bangkok.
The red part is 35,000 miles – US to Japan. And the blue part is 17,500 miles, South Asia to Australia. Total = 52,500 miles.
Now we’re getting cheaper and adding more destinations.
Still, you have to get from Japan to Bangkok, but that’s just an example. You could pick places closer together you can do land transit, or to find a cheap AirAsia flight, or use miles to connect the open-jaw. Again, it’s just an example.
The point is that we’re adding a heck of a lot of travel, and still lowering the price.
As you can imagine, this could go on forever.
Any destination that you would normally have a stopover on for a roundtrip, you can go from that destination to anywhere.
Consider that you could stopover in Europe on the way to your destination being:
- Somewhere else in Europe = 30k
- Northern Africa = 40k
- Southern Africa = 40k
- Middle East = 42.5k
- Central Asia = 42.5k
- South Asia = 40k
- North Asia = 35k
- Japan = 35k
That is just North America to Europe as a stopover, and looking for a destination, and thats already 8 opens. Then consider that you could be starting somewhere other than North America.
Then consider that from any one of these destinations you can go anywhere else. From there you would just tack on the price on the award chart that is from the destination to your end point.
- US – Europe (stopover) – Northern Africa (destination) = 40k miles
- Northern Africa – Southern Africa = 17.5k miles
And you’d have unlimited amount of time at each stop.
The entire trip could be 57,500 United miles.
There are tons and tons of options… and that’s just with Europe as the “stopover”.
You could take my list above and price out Europe to ____ = xx,xxx. You’ll start to see tons of options.
Cheap Region Changes
The way I think about it is in two parts.
First get a good deal to a destination. I feel like US to Middle East or Africa, and then to Japan as the destination, is a great deal for 35,000 miles.
Then, what’s the cheapest region from Japan. You can look at the United award chart for that.
But combining the two – a cheap destination from the US, and a cheap end point from the destination, is the best option.
Here are some examples for the second half.
- Northern Africa – Southern Africa = 17.5k
- North Asia – Japan = 15k
- Oceania – Japan = 12.5k
- North Asia – Oceania = 15k
- South Asia – Australia = 17.5k
- Latin America = 10k
Different Starting Points
The rules change a bit when you start from somewhere else. The most powerful zones are different, and the region combinations not allowed are different. All the rules I’ve given are very tailored to starting in the US.
But you could just as easily start from somewhere else. Now find the cheapest destinations from your new starting point.
Starting in Hawaii
One example that stands out to me is starting in Hawaii.
I’m surprised just how cheap First Class is to the following four destinations when starting in Hawaii.
- Oceania & Japan = 25k/40k/62.5k
- South Asia & Australia = 35k/50k/60k
The interesting thing is that Hawaii to South Asia and Australia are cheaper than closer options like Japan and Oceania. I don’t quite get this, but it seems like a great deal for anyone looking for premium. 40k for Hawaii to Oceania in Biz.
Then combine it with the cheap regions I mentioned above.
Hawaii to Oceania in Biz for 40k, and then tack on an economy ticket to Japan for 12.5k. Now you’re ending in Japan but you have a destination in Oceania, and you have a stopover to spare somewhere!
You’re picking two regions that can be combined – a stopover on the way to a compatible destination. And then you’re open-jawing, so instead of returning back to the US you can return to anywhere.
And since the computer sees two times you’ve changed regions, A-B and B-C, it thinks it’s a roundtrip and therefore will allow a stopover.
Now I think people get confused because I’ve previously explained what regions can and can not be combined. For example, when starting in the US, you can’t stopover in Europe on the way to Oceania, or vice versa. United.com just won’t allow it.
But the region rules are per oneway.
Europe can’t be combined with Oceania as the “A-B” part. But you could then very well add Oceania as your “C” in “B-C”.
Europe and Oceania aren’t allowed to be combined when also combining the US.
But now we could have US to Europe to Japan (A-B), and then Japan to Oceania (B-C). It prices out each part, and checks each part separately for the rules.
And it prices out as 47.5k miles (35k + 12.5k). You could spend one week in Vienna, one week in Tokyo, one week in Palau… and then you’d need another ticket home. But what we have so far is only 47.5k miles in economy.
To do the red part (ORD-VIE-NRT) in Business Class would cost you 65,000 miles, and then you could tack on the Oceania part in economy for 12,500 miles. That would be 77,500 miles.
The “Destination” Open-Jaw
We’ve gone this far without ever mentioning the open-jaw on the destination.
Basically where I draw the maps and the color changes from Red to Blue, that’s where you can have an open-jaw.
Maybe you did a stopover somewhere in the world on the way to Japan, for 35k. Instead of continuing from Japan, you could continue your trip from North Asia and continue to Guam.
This is an open-jaw, so United isn’t responsible for getting you from Tokyo to Shanghai (for example). Then you can still use your second open-jaw to not return to the US.
Mega open-jaws on the Mega open-jaws
You can do this for everything. Pick the cheapest destination, and then pick the cheapest region combination to tack on, regardless of whether or not it’s connected to your destination.
This could be as big as you want.
There are basically no rules to prevent anything.
On a random note, its often cheaper to tack on a region change than it is to book two oneways where you thought you couldn’t have a stopover.
I had a friend who booked a ticket from Bangkok to Europe to travel there. Then used United miles to book a ticket to Europe to the US.
South Asia to Europe was 55,000 miles! Then Europe to the US was 30,000 miles. That’s 85,000 miles for South Asia to Europe to the US.
But it’s only 40,000 miles for South Asia to US with a stopover in Europe, if you change regions. You could tack on US to Puerto Rico for 17,500 miles. Now we’re up to 57,500 miles, and the savings could get you the ticket back.
But if you were just interested in the first part, the cheapest region change would be Central America to Mexico, Caribbean, or the Northern South America. It’s only 10,000 miles to do Panama City (PTY) to Aruba, Bogota, or Cancun. South Asia to Europe to US = 40k, then PTY – BOG = 10k. That’s 50k instead of 85k.
And again, the different oneways can be in different classes, and they are priced separately.
Stopovers the other direction
One last thing, and this is really the advanced stuff. If you’re confused right now, don’t read this section.
I’ve spent some time trying to figure out the rules here but there’s too many possibilities, and oddly enough it seems incredibly inconsistent.
So far we’ve talked US to stopover to destination. Then we tack on a region change. That is the formula.
However, there’s a less consistent version that places the stopover on the “B – C” segment. I.e. US to destination. Then destination to stopover, to end point.
For example US to Japan, with no stopover. Then Japan to Singapore with a stopover on the way in Beijing. It’s the exact same concept A – B, and B – C… but this time the stopover is on the second side.
Since I don’t have thorough rules around this aspect, and this post is already long, I’ll end there.
This post is pretty much the culmination of years of playing with United. I’m glad to share it without worry about it dying… since it already has a death date (Oct 6).
The point here is that a roundtrip, according to United, is when you change regions from the destination.
Starting point to stopover to destination, and then tack on destination to another region.
Again, the ticket combinations knowing these tricks are nearly unlimited.
If you read this far (and if you read both posts!) I’d love to hear your feedback! Are people still into these tricks and stopovers?
Hopefully my Miles to the Pacific series will include some similar tricks, if you’re into them.
But did people understand this? Did people read it? Did people enjoy it?
If yes to any of them, thanks! I’m glad to share my work around the subject.
Book before Oct 6!