How to Book Free Stopovers Online: United Airlines

Yesterday, I talked about how to book a stopover on an American Airlines award online. Booking an award with a stopover online saves time and money, so today I want to explain how to book a stopover on a United award online.

The main limitation when trying to book an award with a stopover online is that you can only book awards online when the airline whose miles you’re using loads the availability of the partner whose planes you want to fly. Here United is great, since united.com has most of United’s partners searchable and bookable for awards.

The first thing to do is go to united.com and click on the Multiple Destinations link at the top of the flight search box. I’ve highlighted it in this image.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Clicking Multiple Destinations will bring you to a lengthy form like this one:

 

Everything I’ll discuss on the form is highlighted with a red box. First make sure Multiple Destinations is selected. Now you’ll have to type in the destinations and stopover. United allows one stopover and two open jaws, but only on roundtrips. On oneways, you can’t have any stopovers.

When you have a stopover, there will be three city pairs to type in. Only two places for city pairs appear on the form, so click the Add Another Flight to Your Trip link.

Now if your stopover is on the outbound, type in Origin to Stopover, Stopover to Destination, Destination to Origin in the three city pair fields.

If the stopover is on the return, type in Origin to Destination, Destination to Stopover, Stopover to Origin in the three city pair fields.

Do not type in segment by segment. I’ll use an example that I just booked for a client. He wanted to fly Honolulu to Los Angeles and have a stopover for a few days. He wanted to continue Los Angeles to Quito. Then he wanted to return Lima to Honolulu. He used both his free stopover and an open jaw, and I typed in HNL-LAX, LAX-UIO, and LIM-HNL into the three city pair fields.

Put in the dates, the number of passengers, and finally near the bottom, select Award Travel. Next click Search. You will be brought to a screen like this one:

Our first city pair was HNL-LAX, so we’ve got a screen to select our Honolulu to Los Angeles itinerary. At the top are two calendars, showing the availability for two months along this route. To the left of the calendars is the key for the calendars. And below them is where we select itineraries.

Astute United award bookers will notice something is missing from the itineraries: their prices in miles and dollars. When choosing a multi-city itinerary, the prices don’t display until all legs are selected. But if you select Saver Award spaces for every segment, it will price correctly at the Saver Award level.

One thing to note is that on the day I have selected, there is no saver business space. The calendar shows I could choose a different date with saver business space, but if I really want to go this day, I can only choose save coach space.

That means I should also choose saver coach space on the next screen for Los Angeles to Quito. But on the way back from Lima to Honolulu, I can choose business, and United will price it correctly as one way in coach, one way in business. But for this post, I’ve selected an all coach itinerary

After selecting itineraries for all three portions of your itinerary, a confirmation screen comes up that look like this:

I’ve highlighted the dates to show that this Honolulu to South America award has a free stopover in Los Angeles for one week. This itinerary also includes an open jaw since we’re flying into Quito, but leaving from Lima. (Bonus tip: To get around within South America, we will definitely want to fly LAN, paying with BA Avios. Because Avios is a distance based chart, most of our flights will only be 4,500 or 7,500 Avios plus taxes and no surcharge.)

The price is 45,000 United miles and $58. United has a different award chart for to/from Hawaii and to/from continental US. If this itinerary had been just Los Angeles to South America with a free stopover in Houston, say, it would only have cost 30,000 miles roundtrip.

Now you should understand the steps necessary to book a free stopover online using United miles, avoiding the $25 phone fee and the hassles and delays of calling up. Where will you stopover?

If you want to earn a quick 40,000 United miles, apply for the Chase Sapphire Preferred card, which has a 40,000 Ultimate Rewards sign up bonus after spending $3k in three month.

Ultimate Rewards transfer freely at a 1:1 ratio to United, Southwest, British Airways, Korean, Virgin Atlantic, Hyatt, Amtrak, and more. Or you can use them for $500 in paid flights or gift cards.

Link: Chase Sapphire Preferred

107 Responses to How to Book Free Stopovers Online: United Airlines

  1. Pingback: Free Oneways on United Awards | milevalue.com Free Oneways on United Awards | Rationally Exploiting Frequent Flier Programs

  2. Thanks for the infomrative post and screenshots. I bookmarked your blog so I can read future articles.
    Is “Los Angeles to South America with a free stopover in Houston” really 30,000 miles roundtrip? I see it as 40,000 miles on the UA award chart.

  3. Are the free stopovers only on international flights?

  4. Does this work for Asia?

  5. Pingback: United R/T Award + free one way - FlyerTalk Forums

  6. Curious. I thought I’d take advantage of this for a trip from Denver to Smithers BC (nephew’s wedding).

    DEN->YYD saver award is 25000 miles. You get an overnight in YVR.

    I wanted a day in YVR so I tried

    day 1
    DEN->YVR

    day 3
    YVR->YYD

    day 6
    YYD->DEN

    And while the same flights (with the 1-day layover in YVR instead of just overnight) are available, they come up for 35000 miles rather than 25000..

    Perhaps USA & Canada are not considered “international”?

    • That’s exactly the issue that awards within the US and Canada don’t allow stopovers at all. That means you only get up to four hour layovers at each airport because anything above that is a stopover. The one exception is that you can fly in on the last flight of the day, and out on the first flight in the morning without it being a stopover even if the layover exceeds 4 hours. So since you can’t have a stopover there, United is pricing each as a separated oneway, DEN-YVR and YYD-DEN are each 12.5k, YVR-YYD is 10k because it’s so short. That adds to 35k

      • While mildly annoying, I’ll take it. That extra 10K miles is easy to replace, and it’s hard to argue about 35K miles for a trip that would cost $1300 if one used money!

        • Sounds like you’re getting great value!

          • Indeed. I often find that it’s the mildly weird, unusually expensive destinations that cost the minimum of FF miles. No idea why. Perhaps they’re not so popular and always have available seats.

          • Fortunately, I recalled before booking that I had a bucket of USAirways miles. Booking the same Itinerary (with stopover) only cost 25K USAir miles.

            • Over the phone I imagine. It violates their routing rules too, but their agents aren’t very well versed in their own rules. Nice work!

          • I read somewhere that USAir allows a stopover for award flights, and so wasn’t surprised when their computer spat out 25K for the reward. But then the agent was curious about why it allowed me to arrive at 10am on day 1 and fly at 7:40 the next day, as well as the stopover on the way back (fly to YVR day 4, fly to DEN day 6)…

            She went and checked and said that it was an illegal routing (the first most of the day in YVR, not the intended stopver) but that since the computer booked it and the other airlines would honor it they’d just let it go.

            Even more curious, BTW, is that United claims on their website that they are going to give me award miles for the united portion of the trip. In which case it would end up being an odd way to convert 2000+ USAir miles to United miles, plus give me a trip to the boonies and a couple of days in Vancouver.

            If nothing else, planning the air travel has given me enough amusement to make attending my nephew’s wedding worthwhile.

            • Definitely keep us posted whether you earn miles on the trip. I’d be surprised. One stopover is allowed on a US Air award to an international region, but Canada is not considered one. As she said, it was illegal, bu they let through illegal routings all the time. Worked out for you!

  7. Love your site. Tried to book an extra United one way award ticket and an error page appeared after I hit search. What am I doing wrong? (I checked each segment before and there were 50,000 point business seats available.
    I booked multiple segments as followed:
    7/2/12 NYC – ATH
    7/25/12 ATH – NYC
    10/15/12 NYC HNL
    also tried
    7/2/12 NYC – ATH
    7/25/12 RHO – NYC
    10/15/12 NYC HNL
    Again Error message appeared after I hit search:
    “ERROR ! united.com could not find any available flights for award travel meeting your requirements. You may modify your search criteria or review the MileagePlus Travel Award Rules. If you need additional assistance, in the U.S. and Canada call 1-800-396-1751;”

  8. Do you know if you can book a stopover in Japan on a roundtrip that involves a North America –> South Asia segment?

    United’s routing rules permitted it as of March 2011 (you could make a stopover in a 3rd region as long as you didn’t exceed 25% over the MPM…and it seems that United considers Japan its own region). Just wondering if they’ve changed that…

  9. Do you know if there is a fee to change the stopover (same departure, same destination, just different stopover route)?

  10. frequent churner

    It turns out you can book domestic stopovers on a roundtrip as well, sort of.

    I’ve been trying out the EWR – LAX (stop) – HNL (destination) – EWR for mid to end of february, and looks like all the segements have good availability, but when booking them as a multi-segment award, the website suddenly drops a lot of saver availability and gets really buggy. I

    was still able to book it for 45k miles RT, and the extra 5k miles came from having a forced Maui – HNL segment. It turns out to be a messy itinerary because of the missing good flight availabilty. Maybe calling United and feeding them one by one would work.

    • Yes, check my post about free oneways on United awards to Hawaii. United allows free stopovers on awards to Hawaii. I’ve also talked a lot about United.com getting super buggy on multicity awards. Ticket what you can, then call up to add what you couldn’t within 24 hours. This will save you $25 per ticket over just calling.

  11. Trying to book KOA-LAS LAS-LIB LIB-KOA and it’s pricing the stopover in Las Vegas as another 20k one way. 60k +$51.09, instead of a free stopover at 40k r/t.

    If I book without the stopover in Las Vegas it is 40k + $51.09 roundtrip. What am I doing wrong?

  12. Trying to book KOA-LAS LAS-LIR LIR-KOA and it’s pricing the stopover in Las Vegas as another 20k one way. 60k +$51.09, instead of a free stopover at 40k r/t.
    If I book without the stopover in Las Vegas it is 40k + $51.09 roundtrip. What am I doing wrong?

  13. If my stopover is not the most direct routing, can I book it at all? I’m trying to book Jakarta to Auckland with Melbourne as a stopover, but the tickets I see go through Singapore. Do I have to call this in? And would it even work?

  14. Can I book a stopover with united on both the way to my destination and then another on the way back? Essentially spending time in 4 cities

  15. I have already booked my oneway with saver award miles from SFO to BOM
    Now when I try to check the ticket again I do not see any open tickets for saver award miles henceI can not cancel the current booking
    So Can I add a round trip seg to have Paris CDG stopover on my return and book as one way ?

  16. Pingback: First (photo-only) trip report: SFO to CDG & HKG via UA F, TG F, LH 744 F & A380 F! - Page 4 - FlyerTalk Forums

  17. Pingback: Master Thread: Free Oneways on United Awards | milevalue.com

  18. Does Alaska have the same stopover privilege as Hawaii ? Thanks.

  19. Do you know how long the free stopover can be with United Awards? I want to book Shanghai-Los Angeles-Orlando-Shanghai but would like to spend 3 weeks in Los Angeles (the stopover) before heading to Orlando. Does 3 weeks qualify as a stopover? Thank you.

    • the stopover can be as long as you want subject to the rule that all award travel must be completed within one year of booking

  20. I am trying to use United free oneways, but having trouble.

    What I want:
    MSP>SJD (3/21)
    SJD>MSP (3/28)
    MSP>SEA (8/10)

    The United booking engine won’t allow it, and my phone call to United was not successful.

    Is there a problem in seeking to have the stayover in your home airport (in my case, MSP)?

    • No. I’ve booked a lot of awards like that. But United’s award computer is inconsistent and agents are loth to override it manually. Ask for a supervisor to manually price the award. If that fails, you have no recourse.

      • Thanks, MV. On a second call, I was also unsuccessful with the original Phone Agent. However, he referred me to an IT Support Person, who was able to override/navigate the system and book the flight.

        Honestly, I could not fully understand him and am not sure exactly what he did/why it worked, but work it did. Seattle in August: here I come.

        Thanks Scott/Tahsir/Bill!

  21. Hi, I am trying to book IAD – CDG (stopover and open jaw, 7 days) then ZRH – JNB (destination, 5 days), JNB-IAD. The CSR told me it is not allowed. I think it would be.
    any thoughts? Thanks

    • That’s not an open jaw. That’s an illegal hole in your itinerary. Open jaws happen at the end points. Like if you flew into JNB and out of CPT or back in to NYC at the end.

  22. Great post, looking to leverage this fully. Question… i’m booking a roundtrip to Maldives from LAX / SAN area. I’d also like to add a Dubai stopover and a Singapore stopover on the way back. So far, I’ve gotten the system to work by doing a LAX – DUB, DUB-MLE, MLE-SAN for 80k miles. Already very happy with this.

    However, even though the MLE – SAN stops in SIN, it shows up as an error when I try to break it up and actually stay in SIN for a few nights. Additionally, one-ways don’t work either.

    Any advice? Will they be able to do it over the phone?

  23. Your award will not be possible as one United award. United roundtip awards get one stopover and two open jaws in addition to the destination.

    So LAX-DBX-MLE-SIN-LAX with stops at each airport listed is a problem because it has two stopovers (DBX, SIN) and one destination (MLE).

    Since all United awards can be done as oneways though, you can stop as many places as you’d like by making several oneway awards. This will cost more miles.

  24. Hi..I am so glad I found this blog! I am new to the miles program and getting free stopovers. I only have enough miles for 2 flights but I would like to book for 7 people. My travel plans are from NYC to TPE to ICN and back to NYC. Do I book roundtrip from NYC to ICN with stopover in TPE? Could I book flights for miles and credit card at the same time? Does the stopover work for this itinerary? Thanks so much!

    • It sounds like you are a novice. I’m not sure where exactly to begin with the advice–probably at my beginners’ series under the Start Here tab. For this trip, you would probably benefit from my Award Booking Service –> milevalue.com/award-booking-service

      To answer your question: with United miles, you can book NYC-ICN-TPE-NYC no problem as one award.

  25. Pingback: Rules for Open Jaw & Stopover Award Flights (Consolidated) - Page 33 - FlyerTalk Forums

  26. Hi MileValue, Great post, it’s inspired me to maximize my miles! I’m not sure if it’s a glitch on United’s site, but I can’t seem to get this booking to get accepted. I swear that I tried it out a few months ago and got it to work. I’m trying to go from LAX-PRG (stopover), the PRG-FCO (destination), then open jaw from FLR-LAX. Everytime I try this booking or even try changing a city to test it out, it won’t get accepted. Any suggestions?

    • That should work. My suggestion is to call in and ticket it that way. Avoid the phone fee by googling “milevalue how to avoid phone fee”

  27. Question: Do round trip flights to Canada qualify for the free one way add on?
    For example can I go SFO-YVR round trip and get a YVR-LGA free?
    I can’t seem to get the united site to do this, I get an error when searching for it.
    Similarly, can you get a free stopover on round trips to Canada?
    For example, could I do YVR-SFO, stopover in SFO, SFO-LGA, LGA-YVR. When I priced this on the united site it gave me 35k, which seems odd. I would expect it to be either 25k (if the stopover were free) or 37.5k if it ticketed it as a round trip and a oneway. Any idea what’s going on?

    • No free oneways on flights within continental USA/Canada, which is all one region to United. The reason for the 35k is pricing is that United flights in the region under 700 miles actually only cost 10k oneway.

  28. Must you have an award to get a free stopover?
    I am a broke college student who needs to get to Moscow from LA at the end of May (wedding is 5/31) and I would live to stop in either Berlin with Air Berlin or London with British Airways (or any other flight to those cities) before I must return to work on 6/16. I was just wondering how can I get an award or a cheap stopover if I can’t afford to keep flying.
    Thank you for the help!

  29. Hey I am looking at a free oneway possibility of PDX-NAS NAS-PDX and PDX-Chicago (any). When I get to the 2nd flight NAS-PDX there are much fewer flights (4) than when I look at NAS-PDX on it’s own for the same day. Am I missing something here?

    Thanks!

  30. Hello, thanks for this amazing site. To confirm: I want to book a one-way from Amsterdam to Seattle on United. I CANNOT have a multi-day stopover in NYC, correct? tx.

  31. Hi MileValue,

    Thanks for posting the great insights on booking on united with award miles. I was trying to book USM–>BKK–>SIN arrivng on 7/14 at 3:55pm, then SIN–>HKG on 7/15 leaving at 3:05pm. technically it should work as a sub-24-hrs layover, right? when I used the mulitple destinations trick united.com priced in as two segments. instead of 17,500 miles for business, they priced it at 35,000 miles. any way to work around? Thanks.

  32. Thanks, MV. They straightened that out with just one call.

  33. Your post was more helpful than a call to an agent! I’m trying to book a United roundtip award with one stopover and one open jaw: SFO-ADD (stopover, 4 days)-NBO then openjaw from CPT-SFO. But I keep getting the error message, am I routing incorrectly? Also, in an earlier comment you mentioned ” two open jaws in addition to the destination”? Would that be like SFO-NBO, CBT-LAX? Thanks!

  34. Pingback: Can you get a free one-way on your next award ticket? | weeks + miles

  35. Aloha,

    I am 1K and just booked a business award ticket for 95K UA miles and $77 fees.
    HNL-IAD 4/17 IAD-FRA 4/18 FRA-AMS 4/19
    TPE-ICN 5/7 ICN-HNL 5/7

    Would I be able to add on HNL-SMF or SMF-HNL as a free stopover on this ticket? I tried to duplicate this on UA.bomb but came up errors.

    Mahalo!

    • If you’ve already booked, then call 800-UNITED-1 to make the desired change. I’m not sure if they will allow the change because their rules vary a bit. But I think you have a good chance. You would have to add HNL-SMF between May 7 and next February. And it would cost a little extra since TPE-SMF is more than TPE-HNL.

  36. I am having problems getting the United site to give me a total miles used for EWR to Sofia, then IST to EWR, then EWR to HNL later, utilizing the free One Way. Is the problem because it returns from IST? Will I need to call, in your opinion? Thanks so much!

  37. Excellent ! Thanks so much!

  38. This was awesome! I was looking for a stopover on my trip back from Panama/Costa Rica. I ran into financial difficulties at home (was originally going to do the whole trip *A without miles starting on United to use miles accelerator for another trip I need the miles for). I ended up buying a one way LAX-IAH-PTY that I used a voucher towards and then miles to do SJO-GUA (23 hour layover)-LAX. Spent 17,500 miles and $146 for the entire trip, with schedule I wanted, and can at least earn some miles, perfecto! Thanks!!

  39. Pingback: How I booked a ticket to Panama, Costa Rica, and Guatemala for under $150 | The World Wide Webster - offbeat budget travel

  40. I never understand what two open jaws mean until now. Maybe.
    I am trying to book a trip to Brazil in March,2014. TPA-RIO-MAO, AEP-TPA. So far, I have one stop over and one open jaw, right? I am thinking that I have to pay for MAO-IGU-AEP on LAN. 1) Is there any paying portion can be added to the United round trip? 2)How early do you usually book a flight? LAN only open an award seats to United one month ahead. The award seats on United will be long gone if I book one month before the trip. 3)AA for Brazil portion? Thanks.

    • Nothing can be added to the United portion. (You could return to a different airport than TPA, but you don’t want to.) I book as far out as I know my plans. Since you know your plans, you can start looking next month and be ready if/when space opens.

  41. Thanks for this article — I’m trying to use this strategy to book a open jaw flight to Europe with a stopover. Basically SFO-Paris, Prague-Frankfurt, Frankfurt-SFO (or the same in reverse). If I just do an open jaw, many of the available award flights from SFO to Paris and Prague to SFO have stops in Frankfurt, so I figured I wouldn’t have a problem. However, when I go through the process above, it doesn’t show any saver award seats on Frankfurt to SFO (even though there are saver award seats on a Prague to SFO flight that stops in Frankfurt). Any idea why that might be?

  42. I posted this (below) on “master thread of free one way on united” and didn’t quite get correct answer. Perhaps I should have posted her, since its more to do with stop over and openjaw.
    Hi,
    Is it possible to have a open jaw and stopover in USA from international flight originating from outside USA?
    eg: SIN>SFO (open jaw) SJC>NYC (stop), NYC>SIN.
    I get error after choosing 1st segment. If I change SJC to DEN , I get error after two segments.
    Thanks again for the very informative thread.

  43. Hello. Need help to plan below.
    How will this itinerary will be priced?
    3 one-ways (62.5k) or better?
    Can it be considered as 1 stopover and 2 open jaws?
    SJC>CUZ–20k miles
    LIM>HNL-22.5k
    HNL>NYC-20k
    Cant get it done online, but if I replace HNL by SJO as stopover it prices as return trip 40k .
    Thanks for any help.

  44. Would you happen to know if you can change an existing booking/ticket to add a stopover on United?

  45. Any advice on the following situation?

    Flying round trip HNL ->NYC in november

    HNL->NYC->SYD->HNL in december…

    anything i can do here? I have a bunch of AA and united miles.

    • I think this will be three awards HNL-NYC r/t, HNL-NYC o/w, NYC-SYD r/t. I don’t see a way to trick that. You may be interested in my award booking service –> milevalue.com/award-booking-service

  46. shonuffharlem

    I don’t get what you mean by: Do not type in segment by segment.

    • A segment is a plane taking off and landing once. Don’t type in every segment, just every city you want to stop and explore. For example if you live in LAX and the destination is London and you want to stop in New York first, type:

      LAX-NYC
      NYC-LHR

      Don’t type LAX-SFO, SFO-NYC, NYC-LHR even if the award space routes you through a connection in SFO if you don’t want to stop there and explore the city.

  47. How could I make it work to do something like: ANC-GRU(destination)-ANC(stopover)-SAL(open-jaw)? What am I doing wrong? I want to structure a UA ticket in a a way that I can combine one RT UA ticket and one OW AA ticket to take two trips to Brazil from ANC. If I could just get the above itin to work for UA all I would have to do is get a one-way back from SAL-ANC on AA and I’d have four one-ways for the price of three.

  48. oops…Salvador is SSA, not SAL.

  49. I’ve been putzing around with it more and it seems it will let me do some other combinations like ANC-GRU(DEST) GRU-ANC(stopover) ANC-HKT(open-jaw). But I just can’t figure out why it won’t let me go back to Brazil for my second trip. My objective is just to plan out two separate trips to Brazil a couple months apart to get away during the winter — to two destinations in Brazil will work. But for the last leg, it doesn’t seem to allow me to go back to South America, or Europe, or Africa, but it will let me go to Asia. Any thoughts?

  50. *any two destinations in Brazil will work

  51. I have enough united miles for 2 roundtrip tickets with free stopover to asia. EWR to HKG
    Stopover might be Bangkok, Tokyo or Ho Chi Minh. This all works great on united.com.
    Question is: can I use miles with any star alliance partner to replicate these trips with the free stopover. I need 2 more tickets (for my kids) and have enough miles from AMEX or SPG. But of course these can not be transferred to United. Well, SPG can, but only at the ridiculous 2:1 (which of course I am not doing) vs. 1:1 for other partners. Are there specific alliance partners I can do this with or can I do it with any.

    • You can transfer the MR to ANA, Singapore, or Aeroplan and get on the same flights BUT all of those airlines charge fuel surcharges on partners other than United and US Airways.

  52. A 39 minutes stopover at Houston!?? Did you make it?

  53. Heh Here’s a question:
    I was trying to take a look at the cost for some extra miles on united but the website is 404′ing for the link. Is something ominous going on with United?

  54. Have been following for a while and finally trying to implement my new knowledge. I tried this on United’s site to go from SFO (home) to IAD to Bogota to Buenos Aires to SFO. It didn’t let me do it. Also tried straight from IAD since I could use my VA miles to get there from SFO. Any suggestions? Thanks!!

  55. Hello,
    I was wondering if someone could help me understand why I cannot book itinerary:
    Houston > Rome (stoppover) > barcelona from here open jaw Madrid > Prague > houston
    If I am correct there is one stoppover and one open jaw, however online it will not show me flights.
    Any help will be appreciated!

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