I previously wrote about adding free one-way trips within the mainland U.S. when using United Airlines miles to book international trips and trips across different regions. The method here is to combine an international trip with a domestic trip up to a year before or after and get half the domestic trip for free paying no extra miles. Today, I will expand on this concept and show how we can save tons of miles by combining international trips.
If you’re planning an international round trip, you can further stretch your miles by adding another international one-way trip and combining everything into one itinerary. I saved 30,000 miles by combining a trip back from South America with a round trip to Europe. To put it another way, I booked my Business class flight back from Rio de Janeiro for only an additional 20,000 miles simply by putting it in the same itinerary as a trip to Europe. Without this trick, a one-way business class flight back from South America would cost 50,000 United Airlines miles.
I recommend reading the previous post for a detailed introduction and how to book these awards, but let’s quickly give an overview of the rules we are using.
- On round trip awards between different regions, United Airlines allows a stopover and two open jaws.
- It’s possible to combine a round-trip from your home city with another one-way trip by using a stopover in your home city and an open-jaw at the origin.
- You can spend as long as you want at your stopover or destination as long as award travel completes within one year of ticket issue.
If you book a simple round-trip from New York to Milan, for example, this does not use any stopovers or open jaws. So instead book a round-trip starting in New York, going to Milan and, on the way back, stop in New York en route to, say, Honolulu. Then you have a round-trip with a stopover and an open jaw at your origin.
It actually turns out that you don’t even need to end your trip in the region you started and can add heavily discounted one-way trips all over the place. While you cannot go back and forth between Europe, for example, you can combine trips where your home city is conveniently on the way. A few examples:
- Rio de Janeiro — NYC (stopover) NYC-London, London — NYC
- Rio de Janeiro — NYC (stopover) NYC-Milan, Zurich-NYC
- LAX — Tokyo, Tokyo — LAX (stopover) LAX — Hawaii
- SFO — Tokyo, Bangkok — SFO (stopover) SFO — Buenos Aires
Planning Ahead With a Trip To Europe
Last year, when I booked my ticket to Rio de Janeiro for a trip in December, I wanted to fly business class back from Rio to New York. I had already booked the ticket there using American Airlines miles by combining with a ticket back from Grand Cayman to New York to save miles there (adding free one-ways on American Airlines is a completely different story!) As a result, I only needed a flight back. Booked as a one-way, the Business Class ticket back from Rio de Janeiro to New York would cost me 50,000 miles.
By now, everyone knows by now I don’t like booking simple one-way flight or simple round-trip flights when United allows a stopover and two open-jaws. So I looked ahead at my plans for the following year and decided it would be more prudent to combine that ticket with a trip to Europe.
Combining a Trip Back from South America with a Round Trip to Europe to Save 30,000 Miles
The important point here is that, when booking a round-trip, I am allowed an open-jaw at my origin. That is, I can leave from one city and return to another. Moreover, the city I return to doesn’t even have to be in the same region where I started. It’s no problem if my trip starts in South America, takes me to Europe, then returns from Europe to North America. That’s still a round-trip.
Another advantage is that I can have a stopover along the way. North America is perfectly on the way from South America to Europe so I can just schedule a stopover in my home city New York.
And as extra icing, I am actually allowed two open jaws. I already included an open-jaw at my origin, but I can also include an open-jaw at my destination. That is, I can fly into one city as my destination and return from another. In my case, I decided to fly to Milan and return to New York from Zurich. That would allow me to take a train through the Swiss Alps and visit Lake Como along the way.
When just booked as one-ways or simple round-trips, flights between South America and mainland U.S. cost 30,000 each way in economy or 50,000 miles in business class. Flights between North American and Europe cost the same. My business class flight from Rio de Janeiro to New York would cost 50,000 miles and a round-trip from New York to Milan in business class would cost 100,000 miles. That should be 150,000 miles total if I did not take advantage of the stopover and open-jaw rules and booked separately.
Figuring Out How Much The Multi-City Trip Costs
Notice this trip has three separate legs:
- Rio de Janeiro to New York.
- New York to Milan.
- Milan to New York.
However, it can also be viewed as one round trip with a stopover and two open-jaws. One open-jaw is between Rio de Janeiro and New York as I am returning to a different city than from which I depart. The second open-jaw is between Milan and Zurich as my outbound destination differs from my inbound one. Finally, my (very long) stopover is in New York. That’s a stopover and two open-jaws so it counts as a single round trip.
When we book the multi-city itinerary, United views it as a round-trip and that means it breaks down into two legs. My home city New York will appear on a stopover connecting two segments into a single leg.
- Outbound leg: Rio de Janeiro to Milan with a stopover in New York from January to August
- Inbound leg: Zurich to New York.
The first leg flies from South America to Europe and the second leg flies from Europe to mainland U.S. Each leg will then price individually to combine into a single round trip.
To find out the cost, we look on the United Airlines interactive award chart.
The cost of flying from Southern South America to Europe is 70,000 miles in Business Class. The cost of flying from Europe to North America is 50,000 miles in business class.
Knowing that the individual segments would cost a total of 150,000 miles, let’s see how much the trip would cost booked this way:
- The cost of South America to Europe is 70,000 miles in business class.
- The cost of Europe to North America is 50,000 miles in business class.
- Booked this way, the trip costs 120,000 miles total for all segments in business class. That’s a savings of 30,000 miles!
Another way to think of it is that the round-trip to Europe would cost me 100,000 miles in business class. By booking that as the main round trip and adding the flight back from Rio de Janeiro to it, I get the business class flight from Rio de Janeiro for only 20,000 more miles.… and that is what we call a cheap one-way!
How to Book The Tickets
The method for booking is exactly the same that I describe in my post on adding free one-ways within North America with United MileagePlus miles. First, split your trip into the individual legs and find award availability for the legs one by one by using the United Airlines website. The website does display most Star Alliance partner availability, but is not very good at searching for multi-city trip itineraries.
Once you find your flights, write them down. Try searching through the multi-city search too book the full itinerary. If you don’t find your flights, call customer service and give them the flight numbers. And when you’re calling customer service, don’t assume they price it correctly. Always, always, always figure out the number of miles the award should cost beforehand and make sure you are being charged correctly. 90% of the time, the customer service agent tries to price it as three one-way trips, costing you a ton more miles. You need to make sure this does not happen and it’s priced as a single round-trip.
Again, I go over the step by step process for searching for award availability and booking awards in my post: How to Add Free One-Way Trips On United Airlines Awards.
- United Airlines allows a stopover and two open-jaws on international round-trips and round-trips between different regions.
- We can add one-way trips onto international round-trips by creating a stopover in our home city and pricing the entire award as a single round-trip.
- This allows us to save miles by combining multiple international trips together across different continents. I saved 30,000 miles by combining my flight back from Rio de Janeiro and a round trip to Europe into a single itinerary.
- While I used this to combine trips to South America and Europe, this trick extends to trips to Asia and other destinations!
For some more great examples of how we’ve used United miles to save by combining multiple trips, check out these posts:
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