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In a prior post I showed how easy it can be to book an award flight to Europe using United miles (specifically on Lufthansa, but also true on many of their Star Alliance partners). At that time I promised a future video on how to book a “free stopover” on an international round-trip flight using United miles and below is that guide.
A ‘free stopover’ is essentially an entirely free flight thrown into the middle of your award itinerary! While it doesn’t intuitively make sense that United gives you this free flight, those are the rules, so you should absolutely take advantage of them to see a second destination on an international trip. This will add zero points to your award booking, but you will be responsible for some nominal taxes and fees depending on the destination.
While this example focuses on Europe, it will give you the tools you need to book this ‘free stopover’ on any international round-trip flight using United miles.
Video: How to Book a Free Stopover using United Airlines Miles
Hi, this is Brad Barrett and in this video I wanted to follow up to a prior video where I talked about one of the easiest ways to get to Europe and that would be using United Airlines miles to fly on their Star Alliance partner, the German carrier Lufthansa. In that prior video, which I will link to here, I talked about trying to find the direct flights from different American cities that that airline lets you fly on.
Because most of those flights just go into either Frankfurt or Munich – and those are two great destinations, Munich is one of my favorite cities and in all of Europe and maybe even the world. But most people are going want to go somewhere else. So it’s all well and good to get to Frankfurt or Munich but you’re probably going to want to put together a more realistic itinerary.
So let’s talk about that now for a minute and let’s also kind of throw in what’s known as a free stopover. So I’m going to give you a couple of different examples. In the last one we talked about Boston being an option where there are Lufthansa flights. So basically what I did here is I just went to United.com and let’s try going Boston to Rome. So you just hit Round-trip. You would click ‘My Dates are Flexible’ and I guess October 2015th is as good as anything, and just leave it one (person) just to show and you would click this Award Travel button. That’s really important.
So the computer will just think for a moment here and again it’s going to show up with this calendar. So you’re always looking for yellows and greens and it looks like the 1st of October is the only date without yellows or greens. So yellow or green denotes the Saver Award Economy. So that’s where it’s going to cost you 60,000 miles to fly round-trip. So it would have been 60,000 to fly direct from Boston to Frankfurt and now let’s see if we can find one for a similar amount from Boston to Rome.
Okay, so we’re always looking in the left most column, this is Economy Saver Award tickets, so keep scrolling and hopefully we’ll find something decent. All right, so here’s one. It’s 30,000 miles and $24 dollars. This one’s 30,000 miles and $5, so let’s see what we’ve got here. This one has a six-hour layover in Munich, which is not ideal but not terrible, and this has an eight hour layover in Montreal, which is not great.
But, anyway that at least gives you some idea, and you probably would just click through a couple different days. Let’s just for argument’s sake, click this first one, which is the better of the two. So, so far we’re up to the 30,000 miles and $24 (for the one-way) and we’ll see what the way home is. So if you notice there were two different flights here. So again we’re looking, there are no direct flights from Boston but here we’ve got Rome direct to Montreal and then a four hour layover, Montreal to Boston. So that would be 30,000 miles and $60 about, so this would be $84 from the $24 on the way out, just $60 on the way back, so it would be as simple as that. So you get to see Rome.
So you’re certainly not just limited to Frankfurt or Munich there. Here’s another example. This flies Lufthansa both ways, so you can always check what airline you’re flying on if that matters to you. The one through Montreal is going to be on Air Canada here. This is on Turkish Airlines, so if you feel like flying from Rome to Istanbul, and then Istanbul direct to Boston.
So you definitely have some options. You even have options for business class here, which wouldn’t be terrible on a 10 hour flight back from Istanbul. So this is an instance where you have a lot options. Just as simple as that, you can get pretty much anywhere in Europe through either Frankfurt or Munich, certainly Frankfurt. It’s just an enormous airport, an enormous hub for Lufthansa. So that gives you some options, and now let’s play around with this even a little bit further.
I alluded to this at the end of that video – a “free stopover.” Now United’s award booking, their computer allows you to get what for normal people looks like just a free flight for no reason, but it’s very bizarre if you’re just looking at this the first time, but it is known as a free stopover. So we will actually play with this.
We’ll do My Dates are Flexible and Award Travel. Then we’ll do ‘Multiple Destinations’ here. Now this you can really play with, which is kind of cool. It basically allows you to stop in a certain location. So let’s say we want to stop in Rome, and then see Paris also. So we’ll do Rome. I think we saw that the 2nd was the day that there was availability, right? So we’ll do Rome to Paris, so we’ll type in Paris here and we’ll do about two weeks out, and then we’ll say we’ll stay in Paris for two weeks too.
So just type all our information in here and do exactly two weeks. So in this scenario, the way that the computer actually looks at this is you’re flying from Boston to Paris. So your destination is Paris. Now, they’re allowing you this free stopover in Rome, which a stopover is a stop of more than 24 hours and you can go as long as you want. Here we’re going 13 days, you could go for months if you wanted to. They give you what to us amounts to a free trip from Rome to Paris, which is pretty cool.
We’ll just scroll down, make sure that it’s clicked with Award Travel. We’ll click Search, and the computer thinks for a little bit, and this looks familiar. We have that full availability. If you notice, they do not give you the miles. So it doesn’t say 30,000 miles and X dollars. You might want to play around with this, if, in this instance this flight saved you $20 but you do lose a couple hours extra. So that’s probably not worth it.
Depending on where you fly through, it might impact the number (amount) of taxes and fees you have to pay. So we’ll just click Select here. Okay, so now that flight we knew, here – it’s funny, because this calendar, you look at it and you’re pretty scared because that doesn’t look great. But I found that when you do this, that doesn’t correlate exactly to what the availability is here. So you see there is pretty solid availability. We have Rome to Munich, quick stop in Munich and then on to Paris. There are a couple of options here, which is nice. Maybe you want to leave – this is 7 p.m., this is 6 a.m., so you have some options. That’s 8:45, that’s not bad. Arbitrarily we’ll pick this one. This will give us the third leg, which will be our return flight from Paris back to Boston. So we’ll see if there’s any availability.
Again, we’re always looking in that left most column. And here we go, so we’ve got Paris to Frankfurt, a very short stop and then Frankfurt on to Boston and that’s again the Lufthansa flight that we expected. In this case there are bunch of different Star Alliance options to Boston, actually. There’s Swiss Air, which, this wouldn’t be terrible either, pretty short flight in Switzerland, in Zurich, so you have a lot of options here but we’ll just keep with the Lufthansa options since that’s what we were talking about originally. And then when you do a free stop over, you have to actually log in, so I’ll just log myself in here. Then it’ll tell you how many points you need and what the cost is. One award (round-trip ticket) is 60,000 miles and $165, so the fees would be $165.
You’re going to a couple different countries, so that’s not unreasonable by any means, but we might be able to get it down (by choosing other flights), if that was something essential to you, or I guess you could always open up a Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard® and you can use that card to pay for those fees and you can actually get that down to zero. So you really could do this for zero dollars, see Rome, and Paris on one itinerary.
We just sat down here. We sat down in front of the computer and just kind of played around with it, 10 minute video, and we have it essentially booked. So this would have cost $2,400 in economy if you’re paying cash and you can get it for 60,000 miles and $165 and like I said you can the $165 for zero, if you’re so inclined.
So there are lots of ways to see Europe. I’m trying to put together this series here to just give you some options – not only, options, but to make it real, to show you that this is very doable. There are no tricks here. You just sit down in front of the computer, you play out some scenarios and you book it and it really would be that, we can book this right now. So I hope you enjoyed and thanks for watching.