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How to use the new for stopover awards that stretch your miles

by on Wed November 25, 2015 • 32 Comments


United MileagePlus lets you include a single free stopover on any international roundtrip award. That lets you spend as much time as you’d like in two separate cities. So for example, you could fly Chicago to Rome, stay there for 5 days, then on to Paris, stay there for 8 days, and then fly back to Chicago.

And if you plan right, you can get more than two cities in, by adding stops of one day, which don’t count as full stopovers.

Until recently, it was a real pain to build stopover trips online. But now there’s a new, and it’s made looking for trips with stopovers much easier than before. Now, you can see the price and itinerary you’re building as you go along, and the process doesn’t choke up at random moments as much as it used to.

Instead it’s a step by step process that shows you exactly what you’re building along the way.

We’ll show you how we constructed two trips, one that touches Australia and hops up Asia for 80,000 miles, the same as a roundtrip to Australia.

  • Chicago – Sydney (stay)
  • Sydney – Bangkok (stay)
  • Bangkok – Hong Kong (one day)
  • Hong Kong – Tokyo (one day)
  • Tokyo – Chicago

Another that gets four European cities for 60,000 miles, the same as a plain roundtrip to Europe:

  • Chicago – Rome (stay)
  • Rome – Paris (stay)
  • Paris – Copenhagen (one day)
  • Copenhagen – London (one day)
  • London – Chicago

To get started, click the ‘Search for award travel’ box on the home page, then do a search (it doesn’t matter what you fill in, you’ll change it on the next screen).

On this screen, choose ‘Multi-city’ from the Book an Award section


Then scroll down and start entering the cities and dates you want to cover and try to pick your cities and dates with these guidelines in mind.

  • You can stay in two cities for more than one day.
  • Any other city you want to add needs to depart the day after you arrive. So if you arrive on the 22nd, you need your flight onward to depart on the 23rd.
  • Generally, you shouldn’t go backwards, for example, flying Tokyo to Bangkok, staying, then back to Beijing to stay for a day, then on to Sydney for your full destination. Instead keep moving along, like Tokyo to Beijing, stay for a day, on to Bangkok, stay for several days, on to Sydney.

The price you pay will be the award price of the most expensive destination on  your trip. So if you include both Australia and Japan in a trip, you’ll pay the price of a roundtrip to Australia, as that’s a higher mileage price than a trip to Japan.


You can click the ‘Add another destination’ link to add more cities to your trip


Don’t worry about exact dates – once you submit the form, you’ll be able to adjust dates as you search for individual flight segments in the calendar view:


As you build the trip, each segment’s mileage price will display individually, but the taxes you see are for your entire trip. You can click ‘Revise flight’ to adjust any of the flights as you firm things up.

Here we’ve already got a week in Sydney, and a week in Bangkok.


And adding a day in Hong Kong is easy…departing at 1:15pm on June 30th after arriving on June 29th at 2:30pm.


So is an extra day in Tokyo before completing the trip back home to Chicago.


It all prices out for 80,000 miles (the price of a regular roundtrip to Australia) plus $170 in airport taxes thanks to $20 or so each time you stop in a city.



If you want to book a similar trip in cash it will set you back over $4,000!


And you don’t have to fly to Asia to take advantage of these stopover deals.

Europe is a great place to hop around with less flying, and for 60,000 miles you can book this jaunt directly on, taking you to Rome, Paris, Copenhagen, and London:


By the time you add it all up, the taxes are about $214 (versus about $100 if you didn’t do all the stops), but you get an incredible experience along the way.


Delta and American don’t let you do creative stopover options like this. Only United and Alaska miles among the major U.S. mileage programs still let you do it. This flexibility and the massive network of Star Alliance destinations are why United MileagePlus miles are our favorite for big international trips.

Also check out our other United MileagePlus resources:

> Guide to using your United miles: where to find awards, fees, rules, and more

> How to upgrade with United MileagePlus: from miles to GPUs to waitlists

> Using United fare codes via Expert Mode




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32 thoughts on How to use the new for stopover awards that stretch your miles

  1. Olivia Liew

    I’d like to book the following flights and enjoy a free stopover:
    1. Sydney – Los Angeles
    2. Los Angeles – New York (free stopover)
    3. Austin – Sydney

    Is it possible to enjoy free Stopover if I do not have any points? I have searched by Award Travel but all results shows points + cash

    Appreciate your advice. Thank you.


      @Olivia – You should be able to search without miles in your account. They’ll all show miles plus taxes and fees as cash. What you describe sounds correct for a stopover though.


      @Philip D – You can spend as much time as you’d like in two cities of your choosing – the stopover point and your destination. You can add other cities if the stay will be less than 24 hours and there are flights with a logical routing to reach them.

      ZRH and GVA are decent ’24 hour’ stop candidates because they are Star Alliance hubs for Swiss.

      IAH-FCO (stay) – train to Milan and back -GVA (24 hours)-ZRH (destination) should work.

  2. Mirra

    Hi there! THanks so much for these useful tips. I’m trying to book from SFO-CMN (casablanca) -LHR-SFO, but I’m being charged 100,000 points, not having one of my legs comped. Do you know why this might be? Any insight would be greatly appreciated!

  3. Ed

    Thank you for the great insight on the new rules.

    I’d like to add that the system will allow an open jaw in the RT itinerary. Here is what I just booked for 60K +$111 tax:

    ORD-YYZ-VIE (extra day in Toronto) 3 days in Vienna
    – 3 days in Prague
    PRG-FRA-CPH (extra day in Frankfurt) – 3 days in Copenhagen
    CPH-WAW-ORD (extra day in Warsaw – and note this is going backwards, away from ORD) – back home to Chicago.

    I haven’t tried this but I guess the “extra day” will work with two extra days on a 2-stop flight (double connection). e.g., CPG-AMS-LHR-ORD

    Question: is there a way to specify the connecting city(ies)? I would have liked to stop in Madrid on the way back after WAW.

  4. Amy

    Can you only do an extended layover on a one way rewards flight or just a round trip? When I type things in on multi city it just adds miles and miles and more miles…. making the trip super expensive instead of keeping it at 30,000


      @Amy – It’s only on a roundtrip. So you need to at some point return to the region you started. For example…

      CDG-FCO (free)

      Would work.

      And so would…

      CDG-FCO (free)

      (you’re finishing up in Minneapolis, but that’s okay because it’s in the same award region as Chicago)

  5. Amin

    Thanks for the post, helps clarify some things.
    However, I’m having trouble booking a RT for the minimum amount of points.
    Even a basic itinerary like:
    Los Angeles to Bangkok (United charging 40k points)
    Bangkok to Singapore (United not charging any points)
    Singapore to Los Angeles (United charging another 40k points)

    I don’t get it, am I doing something wrong?


  6. Connie Lee

    OZ201 LAX ICN 12/4/2016 11:00AM 12/5/2016 5:30PM
    OZ741 ICN BKK 12/10/2016 6:20PM 12/10/2016 10:10PM
    OZ742 BKK ICN 12/18/2016 11:40PM 12/19/2016 6:50AM
    OZ204 ICN LAX 12/19/2016 8:20PM 12/19/2016 2:15PM


    I would like the flight above and before I would get the flight for 80,000 RT.. but now how come united is charging me 95,000 points? So confused…


      @connie lee – Unfortunately they changed their rules last week. Now your stopover needs to be in the same region as your destination. Seoul and Bangkok are in two different regions – North Asia and South Asia. You could take a stopover in another South Asia city like Singapore.

  7. Steve

    Hi, I’m trying to book an award ticket OW from SFO-NRT-ICN with a stopover for 4 or 5 days in NRT.

    Previously this would be 35k. Do the new rules change that? When I do a search on United using the multiple destination function, it always prices the two legs as two separate rewards (SFO-NRT at 35k) and then (NRT-ICN at 15k) for a total of 50k.

    Am I missing something or doing something wrong? Thanks for your help

    1. Steve

      Sorry, just realized you can’t have a stopover on a OW reward!

      HOWEVER, even when I change it to RT (SFO-NRT-ICN (with stop over in NRT) and then ICN-SFO direct, no stop over, it’s still trying to charge me that 15k in miles for the NRT-ICN portion, making the total ticket 85k miles when it should be 70k miles

      how come?


        @Steve – NRT and ICN are actually in different award regions (annoying, yes). You’d have to do your stopover somewhere in ‘North Asia’ (which is China, Korea) if ICN is your destination.

        1. Steve

          Thanks, I didn’t realize that until you prompted me to check the united region definitions. Did they separate Korea and Japan recently or is this only an issue now with the new changes to the award redemption? (I did the same itinerary last year –SFO–NRT (stopover for 5 days)–ICN (stayed for 1 week)–_SFO and that was 70k miles

          any tricks or ways to get that stopover? If not, I’m based in SFO and we go to HNL or Mexico a lot so if I can get a free OW out of that it would be great (SFO-ICN RT and then HNL–SFO?)


          1. Steve

            or even SFO-EWR for that matter since that is in the same region. when I try it, I always seem to get charged in miles for that OW that should be “free”


            @Steve – It’s kind of convoluted now, but since you’re doing frequent trips, try this. Position yourself one way SFO-HNL with a one way. Then book a trip HNL-SFO (for example, December), SFO-EWR (January – or anywhere in between here – it’s your free one way), SFO-HNL (March, or anytime after that SFO-EWR flight). Since you go often, you could make that return flight part of your next trip so the SFO-EWR occurs whenever you’d like.

            Or, try this trick…

            Book a HNL-OGG (6k miles) in say December. Then add a SFO-EWR segment in say January (this is your free one way). Then add a OGG-HNL in say March. It will price at 12k miles total. A steal.

          3. Steve

            Is there a way to get the “free” excursionist perk at any part other than in the middle of a RT itinerary?

            for example. I plan to go to Asia next year 2018 (probably SFO-ICN and then ICN- SFO).

            In 2019 I plan to go somewhere in Europe, (not yet determined, but let’s say I fly into AMS and want to go to Warsaw, Poland for example)

            Can i get that AMS-WAW for free? Adding that AMS-WAW flight to my RT Asia flight doesn’t work, because it comes after I return. Is there any way to make this work so I can benefit from my excursionist perk free trip?

            We’re also doing SFO to SAN in 2018 so if there’s a way to add that on if the intra europe flight doesn’t work that would be great too.


            @Steve – The excursionist leg needs to be…

            – Before your return trip begins
            – Within one single region
            – Within a region that’s different than your starting region

            So AMS-WAW would work, but only if it happens before your ICN-SFO flight. A free SFO-SAN wouldn’t work because it’s in the same region you’re starting.

            If you were planning to go to ICN twice in the next year you could make it work, for example…

            Ticket 1
            SFO-ICN Jul
            AMS-WAW Sep
            ICN-SFO Jan

            Ticket 2
            ICN-SFO Aug
            SFO-ICN Dec

            Here are more examples:


  8. Amit Goel

    Hello, I wanted to book and award ticket San Francisco- Kona- Tokyo- San Francisco by exploiting the stopover rule (Stop over being Kona, Hawaii). The agent got back that I cannot do that and priced it as 3 seperate one ways? Is that right?

  9. Derek

    Thanks guys for this guide. Question about the Asia itinerary, did you specify each leg of the journey (i.e. each stopover and stop) in the multi-city search? I’m having trouble setting up EWR-CTS-TYO-HKG-EWR, where HKG will be the stop of less than 24 hours. EWR-CTS-TYO-EWR shows up fine, but I get an error message if I add the extra HKG leg.

    Lastly, is there a limit to stops of less than 24 hours that can be added to an itinerary?


      @Derek – Try seeing if it lets you setup a basic TYO-HKG-EWR on its own to help diagnose.

      As for limits, in theory no, but agents aren’t always willing to do a bunch of them as that’s not in the spirit of the fare.

  10. Umit

    I am trying to book an itenerary with united, but something is not going right.

    I would like to fly from ESB to IAD and stop over in IAD, continue on to SFO or SJC. I also would like to add a Hawaii trip (OGG or KOA) to a single united economy award ticket. Would you have any hints for me? My sincere thanks,


      @Umit – You only get one free stopover on your roundtrip flight. Stopping over in IAD and SFO/SJC to get to Hawaii would be 2 stopovers.

      1. EE Sop

        How do you get a free stopover? Each flight has a mileage on the multi-city search. My intention is EWR-SFO-TPE-EWR. The last leg from TPE to EWR has a connection in SFO. If I add a destination to make it a stopover, then I see a fourth mileage. I do t see the outbound to TPE gives me a free stopover in SFO neither. Please help!

  11. Christian

    This very helpful. Thanks. I’ve been gathering and burning Delta and American miles for a few years, but am still accumulating United miles. How do you handle it when the itinerary prices wrong? Will United waive the phone fee because the pricing is off? Do you just accept the miscalculation, or is there some workaround to use?


      @Christian – If the ‘rate desk’ needs to get involved on the phone you shouldn’t need to pay the fee. What itinerary is erroring out?


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