The Power of Stopovers, Open Jaws, and Free One-Ways

Posted By Trav

multiple places around the world

The terms stopover and open-jaw get thrown around a lot in the frequent flyer world and with good reason:

They are two of the most important concepts to understand when you are looking to get the most value out of your miles.

People who understand how to use them and book them take “once in a lifetime trips” much more often than once in a lifetime.  Try “once in a year” or even “once every few months.”

You hear stories of people visiting London…

then Paris….

then Rome….all in one trip!

That doesn’t happen because those people are rich, or because they are better at EARNING frequent flyer miles.

It happens because they are better at REDEEMING their frequent flyer miles, and understand the concepts of stopovers and open-jaws.

If you’ve been using your frequent flyer miles to go to one destination for free, great!

You’ve taken the first step, and you are traveling for free!

But if you’d like to get the most out of your miles, and see even more places for the same price, it’s time to learn more about the “advanced” techniques, like stopovers and open-jaws.

To illustrate why understanding these concepts is so valuable, I’ll give you two examples.

An Asian Adventure

Before leaving Japan last summer, my wife and I wanted to go to India.  For a roundtrip ticket from Japan to India in economy, it was going to cost 40k USAirway miles a person.

Cool, we had 80k saved up just for this.

But why go just to India?

Instead of flying to India direct, we first flew to Singapore to visit a friend.  Since it was under 24 hours, it was considered a connection.

We got to hang out in an awesome city from 3 pm one day to 2 pm the next day, plenty of time to take in the sights.

Then, from Singapore we went to my wife’s favorite spot on Earth, Bali.

We spent 6 lovely days getting cheap massages, eating cheap food, wandering through the rice terraces, and swimming in the ocean.

Since USAirways allows 1 stopover, we were allowed to stay in Bali for up to a year, if we had wanted.

And although we certainly wanted to, we had to press on to India.

7 days after we first left Japan, we flew to India.

After spending 3 weeks in India, we then flew back to Japan.

The total cost to go to Singapore, Bali, and India?  

40k USAirways miles per person.  

The EXACT same price as if we had gone to India directly.

3 vacations for the price of 1?  I’ll take that any day!

Turning 5 Vacations in to 3 Tickets and Saving TONS of Miles

Stopovers and Open Jaws

While my example above is a pretty “normal” example of using stopovers and open jaws, you can get pretty crazy by tying together multiple trips and taking advantage of free one-ways.

Reader Rick just sent me a perfect itinerary of how to do just such a thing.

He wants to take his family of 3 on five separate vacations (talk about a nice dad!).

Vacation #1:  October 2013 to Peru

Vacation #2:  January 2014 to Hawaii

Vacation #3:  January 2014 from Hawaii to Australia

Vacation #4:  April 2014 to Boston

Vacation #5:  April 2014 from Boston to Europe

That’s a ton of miles, right?  Well…

If he did it without taking advantage of stopovers, open jaws, and free one-ways, it would be.

Not Using Stopovers, Open Jaws, and Free One-Ways

Rick would be buying a ticket for each vacation separately, which would mean purchasing 5 different itineraries.

To spare you the brain cramp, I did the math for you.

Without using stopovers and open jaws, Rick would be paying 235,000 United miles per person to do this trip.

Times that by 3 people, and his total cost would be 705,000 United miles.

Using Stopovers, Open Jaws, and Free One-Ways

However, if he takes advantage of United’s generous rules that allow 1 stopover and 2 open jaws on every roundtrip flight, he’d be doing something like this:

Ticket #1:  San Francisco (his home)-Lima-SFO (stopover)-Honolulu for 45k per person.

Ticket #2:  Honolulu-Sydney-SFO (stopover)-BOS for 70k per person.

Ticket #3:  BOS-City #1 in Europe-City #2 in Europe-SFO for 60k per person

Using stopovers and open jaws, his total cost would be only 175k United miles per person AND he’d get to stop an extra place in Europe!

Times that by 3 people, and his total cost would be 525,000 United miles.

By using stopovers, open jaws, and free one-ways, Rick saved himself 180,000 United miles…

And he was able to stop an extra place in Europe!

And that, my friends, is the real value of stopovers, open jaws, and one-ways.

Final Word(s)

If you’re interested in truly maximizing your frequent flyer miles and want to be shown, step by step, how to book stopovers, open jaws, and free one-ways just like the examples above, I’m offering a very exclusive course called Frequent Flyer Bootcamp.

During FF Bootcamp, I’ll be asking you what specific trips YOU want to take and then walking you through how to maximize and put together that specific trip, just like Rick’s above.

If you do want in, make sure to sign up now because spots are limited to the first 30 people and registration closes on Thursday, August 1st at 10 pm.  

Start getting 3 vacations for the price of 1 by understanding the “secret” weapons of frequent flyer experts:  stopovers, open jaws, and free one-ways!

(photo courtesy of lifestyletea)


  1. Wes says:

    Does this work on Domestic United tickets? I thought it didn’t..Only Delta allowed open jaws

    1. Trav says:

      @Wes- No, it doesn’t work on domestic tickets for United. You are correct, only Delta allows stopovers on domestic tickets.

  2. Grant says:

    Great write up Trav. Yesterday I stumbled onto your YouTube video of you waiting for your BB card to arrive. Pretty funny.

    1. Trav says:

      @Grant- Thanks. Trying to put out some more videos when I have time, glad you liked it!

  3. Ozaer N. says:

    Another great post Travis…..mind if I post a link to this post for my blog readers? This is really useful!!

    1. Trav says:

      @Ozaer N.- Not at all, share away my friend! The more who know about stopovers and open jaws, the merrier!

  4. Joe Q says:

    I am confused. For ticket #2, is Honolulu – Sydney only less than 24 hr layover; otherwise it’s a stopover. With the following SFO stopover, that would be two stopovers on this ticket.

    1. Trav says:

      @Joe Q- For each ticket, you are allowed a stopover and a destination. For ticket #2, Sydney is the destination, whereas San Fran is the stopover.

      Each ticket has an origin, destination, stopover, and then a return to a final place. For ticket #2, Honolulu is origin, Sydney destination, San Fran is stopover, and then Boston is final place.

      Does this help clarify it?

      1. Cindy says:

        I also had the same question, haha. I thought stopover should be in the middle of origin and destination? Can stopover come after a destination?

        Also, for Ticket #1: San Francisco (his home)-Lima-SFO (stopover)-Honolulu for 45k per person. Why is SFO here a stopover? If we only look at the first part of this itinerary, SFO-LIM-SFO will be a complete trip?

        Thanks for your help :)

        1. Trav says:

          @Cindy- A stopover can come before you get to your destination or after you leave your destination. It doesn’t matter which side of the trip it is on.

          By stopping in SFO for ticket #1, he is giving himself a free one-way to Hawaii, by setting that as his final stopping place.

          He could book SFO-LIM-SFO as an itinerary, but then he’d have to book SFO-HNL as a separate ticket. By doing it this way, he combines them all in to one, and saves himself some miles. That’s the beauty of stacking on a free one-way, it saves you tons of miles.

          1. Cindy says:

            Thank you Trav. So about the stopover, does this only apply to the rule of UA? Or this is the general concept about how to use stopover wisely?

            About Ticket #1, “By stopping in SFO for ticket #1, he is giving himself a free one-way to Hawaii”. Could you explain more coz I read it many times but still can’t get it. Why is he given a “free” one-way to Hawaii?

            About Ticket #2: Honolulu-Sydney-SFO (stopover)-BOS for 70k per person. Does this itinerary include one open jaw?

            Final questions, would it be a totally different story if the airline program that you’re planning to use is a distance-based one? Because in this case, we then have to calculate all the segments.

            Thank you so much!

          2. Trav says:

            @Cindy- United is the most generous with stopovers and open jaws because they allow 1 stopover and 2 open jaws. Each airline has different regulations, but you can use the same concept of free one-ways with each, you just implement them differently.

            He is given a free one-way to Hawaii because that is his final destination, not SFO. So instead of paying to get there from SFO, he’s given it for free.

            The open jaw part is BOS. He flies out of HNL and flies in to SFO, which is an open jaw since an open jaw is any time you fly out of one place to start your trip (HNL) and in to another place to end your trip (BOS).

            Yes, it’s different with distance based ones. Some, you calculate the segments separately (BA), some you calculate the segments, add up the totals, and that determines your price (ANA). If it’s BA, it doesn’t matter since you pay each segment separately, so no, you aren’t able to take advantage of stopovers and open jaws.

          3. Cindy says:

            Hi Trav, (waving my hands for help :D)

          4. Trav says:

            @Cindy- Sorry, for some reason my website wasn’t showing comments for the last few days and I missed it. I just answered the questions, so hopefully that helps!

  5. Mark says:

    Personally, I take offense to one referring to the first family example as “five separate vacations.” That kind of nonsense is a turn off.

    1. Trav says:

      @Mark- I’m not sure what you mean. If Rick booked the ticket “regularly” to go to five different places, it would be five vacations. Even booking with free one-ways, he is still getting to go to five different places (Lima, Hawaii, Australia, Boston, Europe).

  6. Jeff says:

    I thought that you are only allowed to do stopovers on United awards if you are booking a round-trip ticket?

    1. Trav says:

      @Jeff- Yep, that is correct. You can only do stopovers on United if you go roundtrip. Each one of the above examples is a roundtrip itinerary, just with different ending points from where they started (the open jaw part).

  7. Amber says:

    I tried to book a stopover using AA miles on One World airlines and was told they don’t allow for stopovers outside of the US. Maybe a 24 connection would be possible, but I was a little surprised because we’ve done it loads of times before on United. Instead, they told us to book 2 flights. A single flight cost 35K miles and the two flights combined cost 42.5K, it is not a HUGE amount of difference, but enough to annoy me. Thoughts on getting around this? Trying to fly Royal Jordanian from LHR to Amman, stay for 7-10 days and then continue to BKK, HKG, or KUL. I wonder if it is possible only on AA, and not on partner travel.

    1. Trav says:

      @Amber- When you use American Airlines miles, you can only have a stopover in a “gateway” city in North America, so the representative was right. For example, if your flight was Philly-New York-London-Istanbul you could stopover in New York but not in London. It has to be the last place you leave North America or the first place you touch down in on the way back.

      United is different and lets you stop anywhere on the route, which is why I like flying United a touch better.

  8. Lauren says:

    Finally ready to book our trips for next year, and of course the United tool isn’t working. I am trying to go from WAS-AMM and back in March, stopover is WAS until August, then head to HNL. When I price out one ways, there is business class availability on days that I want to travel, but when I use the multi-city option online, there is only economy for two of the legs. Guess I am going to have to call United tonight. Any ideas why it’s like that? I am a little nervous to call. Even though I know these are United’s own rules it just seems unbelievable to be able to add the HNL segment on!

    1. Trav says:

      @Lauren- No real reason that it’s like that other than the United tool has issues at times when you do multi-city. You’ll just have to call in. You did the right thing though in finding the flights you want segment by segment, seeing that they were there, and then trying to build it online. That’s exactly how to do it.

      Sometimes, though, the system just won’t work and you’ll have to call in. Don’t be nervous, you’re following their rules! Good luck, and let us know how it goes!

  9. Lauren says:

    It worked! The IAD-AMM business class award would have been 240K miles total in business (60K each way). We added the HNL leg for nada — still 240K miles! And we are flying Luftansa business for part of each leg to/from Amman, and a direct IAD to HNL in business on United.

    Now I just need to ramp up my AA miles accumulation. I think we will fly from HNL to HKG using Avios, and maybe Cathay back to DC from Hong Kong with AA miles. If I can accumulate enough in time!

    Thanks so much for your great blog!

    1. Trav says:

      @Lauren- Congrats…that’ll be an awesome trip!

  10. Bryan says:

    I’m trying to book a flight from DC to Munich and then Barcelona back to DC with miles that i have accumulated. Every time i play with the search criteria on united, it says i need about 160K miles

    I couldnt help but notice that you were able to find better deals for only about 40 – 60K miles! Is my destination in to high of a demand to find a deal that good?

    1. Trav says:

      @Bryan- If you are getting 160k for a roundtrip, that means you’re only finding the “regular” awards. To get the 120k roundtrip awards, you need to see if they have “saver” awards. You can see that online, it’ll be listed under the “saver” column, or you can call up and ask them if they have saver award availability.

      Sometimes, saver isn’t available if it’s already been snapped up. When are you trying to go? Summer is notoriously hard for Europe.

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