Redeeming an award for a flight between points A and B is not all that difficult, especially when you’re a little bit flexible. But there is one terrific quality that makes travel on miles so much more than just saving you a few bucks: and that’s getting more travel bang for your miles. Frequent flyer programs allow you to pimp your ride like there is no tomorrow.
Take my friend Linda for example. We’ve already organized her flight to Africa later this year, but she also has an inclination to travel to Costa Rica between now and then. Of course, she could just book a simple Award flight for 35,000 United miles (she does have more than enough Ultimate Rewards points to transfer to United) but that would be–right, b-o-o-o-o-ring! Why go to one place when you can go to two without even touching your wallet?
So here is what we do. We’ll fly her to Costa Rica and add a trip to Panama City on the way back. Panama is just one possibility. Linda could go to Honduras, Nikaragua, or San Salvador for that matter, or anywhere Untied and their partners fly (there are limitations, of course; you can’t route the flight from the US to Central America via Europe). But as long as you’re not trying to get super “cute”, a lot of things are possible.
The reason why this is possible is because United allows you a free stopover on the way to or from your destination on its own planes or any of its partners. United website is really good for searching multiple destinations, although it’s not perfect (nothing is). Below is an example of what we have been able to do with 35,000 United Mileage Plus miles.
1st leg: Minneapolis to San Jose via Houston on United.
2nd leg: San Jose to Panama City on Copa Airlines.
3rd leg: Panama City to Minneapolis via Washington, DC on Copa and United (click twice to enlarge).
If we tried to price each segment individually, it would’ve cost us 42,500 miles (17,500 for each leg from MSP to SJO and 7,500 miles between SJO and PTY). But because of United generous stopover rules, we managed to get two vacations for one award. Easy, huh?
Well, to be honest, it’s not always easy. United website can be quirky, sometimes, so if things don’t work for you with a multiple destination search, then check each leg separately with one-way search. Write down the flight number and the departure date for each flight and then call United for assistance. They are usually pretty good, but if you’re having a trouble with an agent do the HUACA trick (yes, that’s “Hang Up and Call Again”). Works like a charm!
Any questions? Seriously, I love questions.
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