The Maximize Your Miles series will teach you how to squeeze the most possible value out of your frequent flyer miles by getting free one-ways and taking 3 vacations for the price of 1!

Other posts in the series include:

United is a great program to earn and redeem frequent flyer miles in for a variety of reasons:

Additionally, United’s rules when dealing with stopovers and open jaws are (fairly) simple and straightforward. If you’ve read parts 2 and 3 of Maximize Your Miles you know how convoluted the rules can be on American Airlines and USAirways, so luckily, United makes life a little easier.

Let’s take a look at their main rules, build an incredible sample itinerary using a stopover and open jaw and then talk about an awesome “trick” you can use to score a free one-way ticket to anywhere in North America (including the Caribbean).

Rule #1: United does not allow stopovers or open jaws on domestic tickets

This is standard procedure for all airlines, with the lone exception being Delta. Therefore, everything we will be talking about from here on out will deal with international itineraries.

Rule #2: United does not allow stopovers or open jaws on one-way tickets

The fact that United allows you to book one-way tickets with your frequent flyer miles is a good thing (remember, USAirways doesn’t allow one-way tickets).

The major downside is that you can’t take advantage of the perks of stopovers or open jaws if you book a one-way ticket.

Another difference between United and USAirways is that United representatives are not near as lenient as their Star Alliance counterparts over at USAirways. You can try to bend the rules at United (after all, it never hurts to try) but the odds are that you won’t get a rep that will let you break this rule.

If you want a stopover or open jaw, you’re going to have to book roundtrip.

Rule #3: United allows 1 stopover and 2 open jaws on roundtrip international tickets

This is where United has AA beat hands down.  Let’s first look at the stopover, build a simple routing, and then add in the open jaws and get a little crazier!

The stopover

The stopover can occur in any city that is within your route, meaning you don’t have to worry about having your stopover happen at a “North American gateway city” like AA.

If you are flying to somewhere in Europe, you can have your stopover in another European city before continuing on to your destination, which basically means the possibilities are endless.

For example, a basic itinerary could look like this:

Going: New York to London (stopover) to Paris (destination)

Return: Paris to New York

On AA, you couldn’t stop in London because its not in North America, but with United, it doesn’t matter. You can stop in any city that United or its partners on Star Alliance flies to that is on a somewhat reasonable route to your final destination.

Since this is ALOT, the world is your oyster!

Adding in the first open jaw

You may think you’d be content with getting to visit two cities on one award ticket, but remember, we are all about MAXIMIZATION!

Why visit two when you can visit three?

Let’s keep the original plan of flying New York-London (stopover)- Paris (destination).  But now, instead of simply flying Paris-New York on the return leg, we want to add in an open jaw. This means that we will arrive in Paris but we will leave out of another city for our return leg.

Rome sound enticing to anyone? Now, our itinerary would look like this:

New York-London (stopover)-Paris (destination)

Return flight:  Rome-New York

Of course, you’d be responsible for making your own way to Rome, but this is easily done, especially in Europe, where you can fly budget airlines between cities for less than $100 or simply take a train.

If you found that it would cost more to make your own way between Paris and Rome than it would be make your own way between London and Rome (which could be the case since Ryanair offers some amazing deals out of London), you could always flip flop your stopover and open jaw and book this itinerary:

New York-London (destination) then open jaw

Return flight: Rome-Paris (stopover)- New York

Either way, you’d have to pay your own way to get between the open jaw cities, but this is easily done, especially in Europe, and it allows you add in a completely other city for a fraction of the cost.

Trick:  How to get a free one-way ticket to anywhere in North America

Ok, so you’re happy with your itinerary, but you know that you still have another open jaw, and you have really taken the “maximize, maximize, maximize” mantra to heart, so you don’t want to waste the second open jaw.

First, I’ll start with the bad news: If you want to be able to use your second open jaw, you are going to have to give up your stopover in Europe so that you can “save” it for later.

But, there’s plenty of good news: The reward is free one-way ticket to anywhere in the North American region, which includes the US (minus Hawaii) and Canada (or a super discounted ticket elsewhere).

Here’s what you can do:

You can still use your first open jaw in Europe, as you originally planned, so let’s continue with our original itinerary. We’d now book something like this for the European part of our journey:

New York-London (destination) then open jaw

Return: Paris-New York

Since we still have a stopover and an open jaw left, we can call New York our stopover city (and stay there for up to a year) and then add on an extra leg to anywhere in the North America region, which includes the continental US, Alaska, and Canada. You’ve always dreamed of seeing Alaska, right?

Our full itinerary would look like this:

New York-London (destination) then open jaw

Return:  Paris-New York (stopover for up to a year)- Anchorage (final destination)

You are now using your one open jaw in between London and Paris, your stopover in New York, and your second open jaw to have Anchorage as your ultimate ending point even though you originally flew out of New York.

All you’d have to do is get yourself a ticket home from Anchorage (which will cost 12.5k miles one way) and you not only a European vacation visiting 2 amazing cities but also an Alaskan adventure.

And all for the price of one award ticket!

Other options for your free one-way ticket

The above example shows how to get a free one-way ticket to Alaska (or anywhere else in the North American region) but what if you want to go somewhere else? That’s also possible.

For wherever you’d like to go, simply sub out Anchorage in the above example and add in the place you desire.

Instead of charging you for separate tickets (North America-Europe roundtrip plus North America-2nd region one-way), United will simply charge you the difference between the two regions, which is alot less.

Caribbean

For example, if you’d rather your free one-way get you to the Caribbean, you’d simply book your return leg to go there.  An example would be:

New York- London (destination) then open jaw

Return: Paris-New York (stopover)- Grand Cayman (final destination)  

Since United’s award chart actually charges you less to fly from the Caribbean to Europe than North America to Europe, you’ll actually only pay 57,500 miles for this ticket as opposed to the 60,000 you’d pay if you ended your trip in North America (like the above example to Anchorage).

If you were to book these tickets separately, you’d pay 60k for your roundtrip ticket from North American to Europe and then 17.5k for a one-way ticket from North America to the Caribbean.

Instead, you are saving 20k miles by making New York a stopover and Grand Cayman your final destination.

Hawaii

Same rules apply.  You’d book:

New York-London (destination) then open jaw

Return:  Paris-New York (stopover)-Honolulu

Your total cost in miles would run 62,500.

You’d be getting charged an additional 2,500 miles because Europe to Hawaii prices out at 32,500 as opposed to 30,000 for Europe to North America region, but you are still saving a ton. If you were to book this as two separate awards, you’d pay 80k (60k for Europe to NA roundtrip and 20k for NA to Hawaii one-way).

South America

You can do the same thing with South America.  An example would be:

New York-London (destination) then open jaw

Paris-New York (stopover)- Buenos Aires (final destination)

The final price for this itinerary would be 77,500 miles.

If you were to book these seperately, you’d spend 90k total (60k from New York to Europe and then an additional 30k for a one-way from New York to Buenos Aires). By using the stopover trick, you’re saving 12,500 miles!

Free one-way vs. stopover in Europe: Which should you choose?

Determining whether you should book a free one-way ticket or keep your extra stopover in Europe is a good problem to have, and in the end, it comes down to preference. If your one-way falls in the North American region, both awards will price out the same, at 60k miles apiece.

With the stopover in Europe, we were able to build an itinerary that looked like this:

New York-London (stopover)-Paris then open jaw

Rome-New York

With the free one-way, we would have an intinerary like this:

New York-London then open jaw

Paris-New York (stopover)-Anchorage

Each is a great trip, so just decide whether you’d enjoy visiting an extra city in Europe or getting a free trip out to somewhere in North America later on. Either way, you’re making out like a bandit and taking a trip that you could probably have only dreamed about before.

How To Book Stopovers and Open Jaws on United

The second best thing about booking stopovers and open jaws with United (behind being allowed to stopover at basically any city) is that you can do it all online.

Unlike American Airlines and USAirways, whose computer systems are stuck in the era of Zubaz pants and Fraggle Rock, United has decided to join the rest of us in the new millenium and has a system that is not only highly functional but also user-friendly.

You’ll quickly get the hang of it once you do it once, but for those people who are new to booking with United, especially when using stopovers and open jaws, I’ve created a short video tutorial:

Still Confused? Have Questions?

If you’ve read through and are thinking:

Stopovers and open jaws are awesome, I want to use them…but I’m still confused as heck about how to actually do it!

Don’t worry, you’re not alone!

I’ll walk you through, step by step, every single thing you need to do to learn about and book stopovers, open-jaws, and free one-ways. I’ve spent hundred of hours creating the #1 place for people who want to become EXPERTS at booking awards and maximizing their miles and want to do it fast!

4 weeks, and you’ll be an EXPERT, guaranteed!  And you’ll be saving yourself $1,000’s of dollars!

Interested? Check out the Frequent Flyer Bootcamp page for more information. I look forward to whipping your butt in class!

[post src=”http://www.extrapackofpeanuts.com/bootcamp/”]

Final Word(s)

Stopovers and open jaws can be an incredibly powerful tool to help you put together a vacation of a lifetime, and on no airline is this more apparent than United, which allows a ton of freedom in which choosing which city to stopover in. Add in the fact that you are able to add a free one-way for a later date and really, the possibilities are endless!

I would highly recommend that everyone consider using these to your advantage if you are booking a roundtrip ticket with your United frequent flyer miles.

The fact that you don’t even have to call in and book the tickets but instead can play around on United’s system till your heart’s content to figure out what works for you means that you really have no excuse.

So, what are you waiting for?  Remember:  MAXIMIZE, MAXIMIZE, MAXIMIZE!

Questions, comments, and unabashed bragging of the awesome trips you’ve booked is all welcome below.  Fire away folks!

If you haven’t already, check out the other awesome Maximize Your Mile posts:

Big thanks to Scott at Milevalue for his great post explaining the ins and outs of the free one-way trick.

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