Maximize Your Miles: Understanding Stopovers and Open Jaws

Posted By Trav

Bad case of wanderlust? Start maximizing your miles and see more places.

[bluebox]The Maximize Your Miles series is designed to teach you how to squeeze the most value out of your frequent flyer miles and really take trips of a lifetime.

After reading this first post, check out the airline-specific posts to learn the tricks to book free one-way flights and how to get 3 vacations for the price of 1!


You’ve racked up some big time miles through credit card signups, heeded my advice and started shopping online to earn even more miles, and maybe even went on a free trip or two using your miles.

You’ve done well for yourself.

You’re fat, happy, and content.

Life is good…but guess what…

Your travel life can get EVEN BETTER!

The amount of knowledge someone can acquire regarding frequent flyer miles is a deep, possibly unending pool.  This might sound like a bad thing until you consider that the more you know, the more you can maximize your miles.

And maximizing your miles means even more, and better, travel!

And that, my friends, is a very, very good thing!

Stopovers and open jaws are two of the best ways to really maximize the power of your miles, so if you aren’t familiar with them, it’s time to get acquainted.


I always knew GI Joe spoke only the truth!

What is a stopover?

For an international flight, a stopover is any time you spend more than 24 hours in a city between your origin (the place you left from) and your final destination (the place you are going to).

An example of stopover would look like this:  New York (origin)- London (stopover, spend 5 days in London)- Paris (destination).

Note that anytime you spend LESS than 24 hours in a city on an international flight it is called a connection.  This is sometimes also referred to as a layover or transfer.  So just remember:

Stopover > 24 hours

connection/layover/transfer < 24 hours.

How long can you stay at the stopover city for?

On most award tickets you have 1 whole year to make it from your origin to your final destination.  You read that right; 1 WHOLE YEAR!  This means that you could feasibly stay at your stopover city for 364 days!

What’s the importance of a stopover?

In case you didn’t already figure it out, a stopover is awesome because it allows you to visit two places for the price of one!

In the above example, you could easily go direct from New York to Paris and that’d be a dandy little trip.

However, if you have the time, why not stop off in London for a few days, a week, or even a month and then head to Paris?

The Eiffel Tower is cool, but so is the Tower of London!  With a stopover, you can see both!

What are the restrictions on a stopover?

Each airline’s frequent flyer program has their own set of rules, which I’ll be breaking down in detail in later posts, but most require the stopover city to make some sort of routing sense.

For example, New York to Paris with a stopover in London makes sense because a lot of flights going between New York and Paris will stop in London anyway.

However, New York to Paris with a stopover in Moscow probably wouldn’t work (I say probably because sometimes airlines will grant you some really creative routes if you know how to finagle the system).  

Moscow is much further east than Paris and a normal flight wouldn’t go through Moscow to get to Paris, so you would most likely be denied getting that  as a stopover.

If you’re unsure about whether a city can be a stopover, look at a map and use some common sense.  Most of the time, that’ll give you your answer!

Do you pay more to have a stopover?

If the airline’s program allows a stopover than no, it won’t cost you any more miles.

Flying New York to Paris direct and flying New York to Paris with a stopover in London will cost you the same amount of miles!

How do you book a stopover?

Each airline is different, but if you are flying on a partner airline (i.e. using AA miles but flying on Iberia), most of the time you won’t be able to book the ticket online.  You’ll have to call in.

United is the only major US airline which realizes it is the 21st century and the major exception to this, as they allow you to book almost all their partner’s flights on the website (thanks United).

If you are flying on an airline’s metal (using AA miles and flying on a AA flight) you oftentimes can book the ticket online using the “multi-city” tab.  More specific information for each airline will be coming in later sections of the Maximizing your Miles series.

Now that you’re dreaming of all the possibilities that a stopover presents for your next adventure, let me introduce its companion, the open jaw, which opens up a whole ‘nother world of possibilities!

Open Jaws

Don’t worry, open jaws are nothing to be scared of!

What is an open jaw?

An open jaw is when you arrive in one city but leave from another city.  An example of an open jaw itinerary would be:

Arriving flight:  New York-Paris

Departing flight:  Rome-New York

In this example, you arrived in Paris but you departed from Rome, a completely different city.

What’s the benefit of an open jaw?

An open jaw is great for people who want to see more than just one place on their vacation because you don’t have to return to your original starting point.

I call this “traveling in one direction.”

This is perfect for people who love renting cars and driving between cities or people who go on cruises that start at one place but end at another.

A great example of how an open jaw can be really beneficial is my trip to Australia.

I flew from Tokyo to Melbourne, all the way down in the south of Australia.

After a week in Melbourne, I trained up to Sydney, spent a week in Sydney, and then continued north to Cairns, all the way at the top of Australia.

I was then able to fly out of Cairns back to Tokyo.

If I wasn’t allowed an open jaw, I would have had to find a way to get from Cairns all the way back to Melbourne, a distance of 2,000 miles, the equivalent of going from Boston to San Antonio!

Not only would this have cost me a good deal of money but I also would have wasted at least a day or two of my vacation just getting back to Melbourne.

By open-jawing, I was able to see three different cities and travel in one direction, as opposed to having to double back, saving me both money and time!  Score!

Are there restrictions on an open-jaw ticket?

Generally no.  The only real common restriction is that the two open-jaw cities must usually fall in the same region.

This means that you if you fly from New York to Paris then you’d have to fly from a European city back to New York.

You wouldn’t be able to fly New York to Paris and then Tokyo to New York since Paris and Tokyo aren’t in the same region.

Does an open-jaw ticket cost more?

Nope.  An open jaw ticket will cost you the same amount of miles as a standard ticket that arrives and leaves from the same airport.

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!

In fact, I created Frequent Flyer Bootcamp EXACTLY for you.

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.

Video tutorials.

Private Facebook group.

Live Q&A’s with me, one on one.

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!

Final Word(s)

You’ve earned the miles so you might as well maximize them to their full potential.  Using stopovers and open jaws are some of the best ways of doing this, as you can easily turn 1 ticket in to 2 or 3 separate vacations!

See more of the world than you ever thought possible…and see it for free!

Got questions about stopovers or open jaws?  Want to add your two cents about how worthwhile and beneficial they are?  Fire away below.

[bluebox]Now that you’re finished, put your knowledge to work and check out the other Maximize Your Miles posts:



  1. Deb says:

    Great post. Thanks..

  2. Trav says:

    @Deb- Thanks. There is more coming, including specifics about stopovers and open jaws on specific airlines, so be on the look out!

  3. Larry Westfall says:

    Thanks, Travis!
    Clean, concise, easy to understand…these rules also apply to flights within the States…not just overseas? PHL-SFO..stopover..SFO-HNL(?)….HNL-PHL

    1. Trav says:

      @Larry Westfall- Depends on the carrier, but most don’t let you have a stopover on trips within North America. You can, however, add a leg on when flying internationally to get you a free trip out to HNL. For example, if you are flying from Paris, you can go Paris-New York (stopover)-HNL. You have up to a year to have the stopover in New York, so if that is your home airport and you plan on going to Hawaii sometime within a year, instead of just going Paris-New York, you might as well say your final destination is Honolulu and get that free flight from New York to Honolulu!

      I’ll be breaking each airline’s rules down in the coming weeks, but the “adding an extra leg” trick is definitely one that should be taken advantage of whenever possible!

  4. Margo Roberts says:

    Many thanks for the info, cant wait for more!!

    1. Trav says:

      @Margo Roberts- No problem. More to come shortly!

  5. Steve says:

    Hi, for US Airways partner redemptions.
    Can you have an open jaw and a destination? As I read the rules allow for an stopover+destination or an openjaw+destination?

    Eg: Sydney > Zurich (openjaw) -(own way)- Paris > London (destination) > Sydney
    So flying into Zurich, then making my own way to Paris, and resuming the ticket from Paris onto London and then home to Sydney.

    thanks – considering seeing the Swiss Alps, Tour de France and the Olympics.

    1. Trav says:

      @Steve- Technically, USAirways only allows 1 open jaw OR 1 stopover. An open jaw usually has to occur at your destination, so legally, your above itinerary wouldn’t work. However, USAirways is VERY lenient with what they actually allow. I would say that it would be very easy for you to get this itinerary even though it isn’t technically allowed.

      Here would my advice on how to go about it. Sydney-Zurich (destination). Make your own way to Paris, and then book the return leg Paris-London (stopover)-Sydney.

      You would technically have 1 stopover (in London) and 1 open jaw (going in to Zurich and out of Paris) but I highly doubt the representatives will catch on to this. I just booked a ticket with 2 stopovers and 1 open jaw and didn’t catch any flak for it.

      Here is the post I just wrote on stopovers and open jaws specifically on USAirways. Check it out and let me know if you have any other questions:


  6. Elise Cain says:

    Jeez Trav,
    I feel like I know you. I’ve been listening to your podcast archive for months now and haven’t even reached 2016. I’m doing many things that you have recommended. I use Airbnb all the time. I’m amassing lots of points with Saphire, Venture (2) and Southwest. You mentioned using your miles and you name US Air, American Airlines and United. I don’t have those Airline credit cards. (yet) How do I use my points with the cards that I do have to do the chain of three vacations using Open Jaw Etc?
    BTW, my husband and I are building an Airbnb in Mount Hood, OR. We’re 45 minutes from Portland, nestled between Mount Hood and the Columbia River. Another way to travel for free is to have a podcast… so people like me offer a free stay at their Airbnb. I’ll write again when we’re done.
    Thanks to you, Heather and all of your wonderful guests., Elise Cain

    1. Trav says:

      @Elise Cain – Thanks for the kind words, and we LOVE the Mount Hood area. We’d gladly take you up on that AirBnB – shoot us an email when it’s done. Right now, the only one of those airlines that allows you to use your points for stopover and open jaws is United, so that is what I’d focus getting points in. That can be done by opening Chase cards, so I’d definitely do that.

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