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It isn’t uncommon to book a trip with more than one destination. This is especially popular for travel to Europe. Who doesn’t want to visit Rome and Paris on the same trip? How about Madrid and Santorini? 

In order to do this, your travel plans will be multidimensional and not just round-trip so you’ll need to plan accordingly. Trains might be convenient in Europe, but what if you’re looking to get around a bigger area like Australia? Or do Australia and New Zealand together? You’ll have no choice but to fly and either shell out more points or spend some cash.

Although United has gotten some criticism for some of their choices in regards to the United MileagePlus program, one of their unique perks still stands out: the United Excursionist Perk.

Let’s take a look at how the United Excursionist Perk fills that gap when you’re looking to travel to more than one destination on your next trip.

What Is The United Excursionist Perk?

Simply put, the United Excursionist Perk gives a free extra flight segment to travelers who book a round-trip award ticket. Another way to think about the United Excursionist Perk is that if you book three one-way tickets, the one in the middle is free (with some restrictions).

This helps fill the gaps for those trips where you’re looking to visit multiple destinations. Thailand and Bali? Madagascar and South Africa? Whatever you have in mind for your next multi-destination trip, the Excursionist Perk helps make it happen without needing to spend more money or miles. 

For example, let’s say you wanted to fly into London and out of Frankfurt. If you booked a round-trip award ticket with United, you could add on the flight from London to Frankfurt for no additional miles.

Before you go jump to book your Excursionist Perk ticket, there’s a few rules you need to know. Plus, you want to be sure you’re booking it correctly to fully take advantage of the Excursionist Perk.

United Excursionist Perk Rules

There’s a few basic rules to the Excursionist Perk that are important to understand before you jump into it.

Keep United’s Region Definitions Handy

The first thing you need to understand is United’s award regions. This was much easier when United published an award chart, but you can still find all of the defined countries by region.

It is important to reference the regions to be sure you’re eligible for the United Excursionist Perk.

Rule #1: The Excursionist Perk Cannot Be In The Same Region Where Travel Originates

The first rule is that the United Excursionist Perk cannot be in the same region where travel originates. This means that you can’t get your free flight from your point of origin.

For most of you, the region you start from will be United’s “Mainland U.S., Alaska & Canada” region. This means your Excursionist Perk cannot be a flight in this same region.

Let’s look at an example of what isn’t allowed. You’re not eligible for the Excursionist Perk if you wanted to go from Houston to Frankfurt, then London back to Newark, and then Newark to Houston. In this case, the Excursionist leg would be London to Newark, but this is not a permissible routing under the rules of the Excursionist Perk.

Another way to think about it is this: you’ll only be able to use the Excursionist Perk for a flight that is outside of the region you start in.

Rule #2: Travel Must End In The Same Region You Started From

The second rule of the United Excursionist Perk is that your trip must end in the same region you started at. Basically, your trip must be a round-trip. 

This means you can’t be sneaky and use the Excursionist Perk to book an around the world trip

What violates this rule? If you tried to book San Francisco to Istanbul as your first flight, Istanbul to Hong Kong as your second, and Hong Kong to Japan as your third. Since your trip started in the mainland U.S. but finished in Japan, this is not a viable booking.

Rule #3: The Excursionist Flight Must Start and End in the Same Region

Remember when I said it was important to keep United’s region chart handy? Time to pull it out and reference again because your Excursionist flight must start and end in the same region.

In practice, this looks something like this. You fly from Denver to Ethiopia, Ethiopia to South Africa, and from South Africa to Newark. The flight from Ethiopia to South Africa is in the same region, and is your Excursionist leg so it won’t cost you any additional miles.

This rule would be violated in the following scenario. You fly from Denver to Morocco, Morocco to South Africa, and South Africa back to Denver. Although geographically Morocco and South Africa are both in Africa, the catch is United’s region list.

Morocco falls under the region of Northern Africa while South Africa falls into the Central & Southern Africa Region. Since these are different regions, this would not be a valid use of the United Excursionist Perk.

Rule #4: The Class of Travel For The Excursionist Flight Must Be The Same Or Lower As The Other Flights

This one is fairly self explanatory. You couldn’t book your flights from the U.S. in economy, then book your Excursionist flight in business class. 

It is permissible to book your Excursionist flight in a lower class of service than the other flights. This is especially helpful if you’re flying business class to Europe, as you may have better luck with intra-Europe award inventory in economy class. 

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How To Book With The United Excursionist Perk

Now that you know what the United Excursionist Perk is, you have to know how to actually book a trip with it. Thankfully, United makes many of their bookings easy to do online and the Excursionist Perk is no exception.

Let’s take a look at the step-by-step way to book your award ticket with the United Excursionist Perk online.

Pick The Region You Want To Travel To

The first step of utilizing the United Excursionist Perk is picking the region you want to travel to! While some regions, like Europe or South America, make a good logical sense, some regions are broken up further.

Remember, you can easily check countries by region online.

Pick Two Destinations Within The Same Region

Once you’ve identified the region you want to travel to, pick two destinations within the same region. This is to comply with rule #3 that the Excursionist Perk must begin and end in the same region.

Browsing through United’s region definitions, you’ll see that there are some regions that are broader than others. Japan is basically useless as a region, unless you’re looking to travel within Japan. If this is the case, note that flying is probably not going to be as efficient as taking Japan’s high speed rail. 

Other regions will offer a lot more opportunity to use the United Excursionist Perk. Central & Southern Africa, Europe and the Caribbean have a large number of countries that you can choose from for your Excursionist Perk.

Check Each Leg As A One-Way Flight For Award Availability

Before going to book the entire Excursionist Perk, I’d highly recommend that you search each leg individually for award space. You can do this on United by searching the route on the dates you want as a one-way flight.

This will help save you frustration when you go to book your ticket with the United Excursionist Perk. Write down the dates of the availability you found, and then you’ll plug it all to finally book. Otherwise, you may try booking your Excursionist Perk only to find no award availability.

Search Online As a Multi-City Itinerary

Once you’ve found award availability for each leg of your trip, you’ll simply search on United as a multi-city itinerary.

When you go to United’s website, you may be surprised to see that there’s no option for a multi-city itinerary. That’s the initial reaction, but you’ll want to select “Advanced Search” where you’ll get the option to book a multi-city.

Booking a flight

The United Excursionist Perk in Action

Let’s take a look at putting this all together, and run through an example. We’re going to use the United Excursionist Perk to book a trip exploring southeast Asia. Both Indonesia and Thailand are part of the “South Asia” region for United, so we’re going to plan a trip to visit Bangkok and Indonesia all in one trip!

We’re going to start and end in the United States in order to comply with rules #1 and #2. Remember, rule #1 is that the Excursionist Perk can’t be in the same region where travel originates from, and rule #2 states that travel must start and end in the same region. We are compliant because our Excursionist Perk is in the south Asia region, but our travel originates and ends in the region of mainland U.S., Canada, and Alaska.

We will also be working through this example in economy, so to comply with rule #4 all flights will have to be available in economy.

Since we’ve picked our two destinations in the same region, and we’re compliant with all of the rules, we would check availability on each leg to confirm availability. After doing that, we plug it in as a multi-city to book the Excursionist Perk.

After plugging in your destinations and dates, be sure that you’ve selected to book a ticket with miles, and you’ll then get to pick each flight one-by-one.

The first flight in our example is from San Francisco to Bangkok. The lowest price in our example is 44,000 miles. 

List of Flight from San Francisco to Bangkok

Select the flight that you desire, and you’ll move on to the next flight. The flight you’re booking as your Excursionist ticket is where the magic happens. After selecting your first flight, the Excursionist Perk flight will show 0 miles needed.

Flight booking

You will still be responsible for the taxes and fees on the Excursionist ticket, so be sure to compare flight schedules with the cost in taxes and fees. In our case, it is only $24.

After selecting your Excursionist Perk flight, you’ll be prompted to select your return flight.

Flight booking

After selecting your return flight, you’ll be prompted to check out and you’ll see the final total price of only 88,000 miles required for your entire multi-city trip to southeast Asia.

A Multi-city trip

You can then proceed to checkout to book your Excursionist Perk multi-city trip.

Always Compare to Other Programs First

Before jumping in to booking every award trip with the Excursionist Perk, you should always be sure to compare your trip to other programs first. Just because the middle flight is complimentary doesn’t mean that you’re actually saving miles.

Additionally, cash prices on flights within a region can often be fairly low. Using a cash ticket can provide more flexibility on award programs to use for booking your outbound and return flights.

Since only Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer to United, you could also book cash prices through the Chase Travel Portal. A cash flight for the same trip above would only cost $1,384. If you booked through the Chase Travel Portal you’d redeem about 93,000 Ultimate Rewards. Although this is more than using the Excursionist Perk, this would include the taxes and fees as well. 

Final Thoughts

There’s no denying that you can use the United Excursionist Perk to get some great value in your next award ticket. The ability to add an additional flight at no extra cost can help make your next multi-city trip possible.

Follow the rules and you’ll be rewarded, and thankfully United makes the rules fairly easy to follow and understand. Just be sure you compare your booking to other award programs to be sure you’re actually using the fewest amount of miles before jumping to book the Excursionist Perk.

Wherever you choose to go, the Excursionist Perk is a great tool to keep in your award travel knowledge bank.

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