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…
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:
- Start in Guam
- Stopover in New Zealand
- Destination in Rarotonga
- 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:
- New Zealand
All in business class, and all for 40,000 miles each.
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.
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.
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.