All-New Ultimate Guide to United Airlines Miles: Part 6 – Make the Most of the Excursionist Perk (Free One-Way!)

Signing up for credit cards through partner links earns us a commission. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. Here’s our full advertising policy: How we make money.

Update: One or more card offers in this post are no longer available. Check our Hot Deals for the latest offers.

United Airlines Excursionist Perk

  • Add a free one-way flight to round-trip or multi-city award flights that include destinations outside the continental US, Canada, and Alaska
  • The price of your award won’t be any higher than if you didn’t book the free one-way
  • You can book Excursionist Perk flights online

United Airlines allows you to see multiple destinations on an award ticket through the Excursionist Perk.  For no extra miles, you can add a free one-way flight to certain round-trip or multi-city itineraries!

This is a terrific way to see additional countries and stretch your miles for the most flights!

United Airlines Excursionist Perk
Get a FREE One-Way Flight Using the Excursionist Perk!

I’ll review the rules for the Excursionist Perk and show some examples of how to make the most of this awesome benefit!

Don’t forget to sign-up for our newsletter to get more cool award booking tricks like this delivered straight to your inbox!

All-New Ultimate Guide to United Airlines Miles Series Index

What Is the United Airlines Excursionist Perk?

Link:   United Airlines Excursionist Perk

Link:   Our Mini-Series on the United Airlines Excursionist Perk

United Airlines updated their miles program to include the Excursionist Perk in October 2016.  Essentially, the Excursionist Perk is a tool to add one-way flights without additional points on an award ticket.  Before the Excursionist Perk, United Airlines used to allow stopovers on certain award tickets.  That’s no longer possible.

There are very specific rules for when you can use the Excursionist Perk:

1.   You Must Book 2 One-Way Flights or 1 Round-Trip on a Single Booking

To qualify for the Excursionist Perk, you must book an award ticket, NOT a cash ticket.  Further, your journey must have at least 2 one-way trips or be a round-trip to qualify.  One-way trips do NOT qualify for the Excursionist Perk.

2.   The Excursionist Perk Does NOT Apply for Flights Wholly Within the Continental US, Alaska, or Canada (but It Does Apply to Hawaii)

Your booking must include a second award region outside the continental US, Alaska, or Canada.  Hawaii qualifies as a second region.  For example, a round-trip from New York to Los Angeles would not qualify for the Excursionist Perk, but a trip from New York to Mexico City would qualify, because the trip is between 2 award regions.

United Airlines Excursionist Perk
A Trip Wholly Within the Continental US Does NOT Qualify for the Excursionist Perk

3.   The “Free Flight” Must Occur in a Single Award Region

United Airlines divides the world into 17 award regions:

  • Australia & New Zealand
  • Caribbean
  • Central & Southern Africa
  • Central America
  • Central Asia
  • Europe
  • Hawaii
  • Japan
  • Mainland US, Alaska, and Canada
  • Mexico
  • Middle East
  • North Asia
  • Northern Africa
  • Northern South America
  • Oceania
  • South Asia
  • Southern South America

The free flight from the Excursionist Perk must be completely within 1 region.  For example, the free flight could not be from Frankfurt to Morocco, since that would be between Europe and Northern Africa.  However, the free flight could be from Frankfurt to Istanbul, because both Germany and Turkey fall within the European region.

For the complete listing of countries in each region, visit United Airlines’ list of countries and regions.

4.   The “Free Flight” Can NOT be in a Higher Cabin Than the Rest of the Ticket

The free flight must be in the same or lower cabin as the rest of your ticket.  If you book a coach ticket, the free flight must be in coach.  If you book a Business Class ticket, the free flight can be in coach or Business Class.

Further, United Airlines prices award seats based on whether you are booking Saver seats, which are the cheapest seats and are released in limited quantity, or Everyday seats, which cost more than double the cost of Saver seats but are far more available.  If your trip is a Saver booking, the free flight must be available in Saver class.  If you’re booking an Everyday seat, the free flight can either be a Saver or Everyday award seat.  Note that Everyday award seats are only available on United Airlines, so you won’t likely see Everyday seats when using the Excursionist Perk , unless you’re flying to the United States from abroad.

United Airlines Excursionist Perk
The Free Flight Must Be in the Same or Lower Cabin and Fare Type as the Rest of the Trip (Taxes Are Shown in Canadian Dollars in This Example)

5.   The Ticket Must Begin and End in the Same Award Region

Your trip must begin and end in the same award region to be eligible for the Excursionist Perk.  For example, a trip to London starting in New York and ending in Charlotte would be valid, since it begins and ends in the same award region.  However, a trip to London starting in New York and ending in Barbados would not be eligible since the return does not terminate in the same region as the departure.

How to Book the Excursionist Perk

Step 1.   Search for Your Award

You can book the Excursionist Perk online at United Airlines’ website.  On the front page, click on “Multi-city.”

United Airlines Excursionist Perk
You Need to Use the Multi-City Option to Book the Excursionist Perk

Next, complete the award search form:

  • Click “Yes” for “Do you want to book a MileagePlus® award ticket?
  • For “Trip type” click “Multi-city
United Airlines Excursionist Perk
Make Sure to Search for MileagePlus Award Tickets
  • Under “Location and dates,”  enter your origin city and the first city you want to visit, including the date of departure.  To add a destination, click “Add another destination
United Airlines Excursionist Perk
You Can Add Additional Destinations Online
  • Under “Travelers,” enter the number of passengers
  • Under “Fare preference,” enter whether you are looking for “Economy,” Business,” or “First” 
  • Finally, click “Search” 
United Airlines Excursionist Perk
You Can Book Up to 9 Passengers On 1 Ticket

Step 2.   Select Your Flights

You will see the United Airlines award search engine.  You can scroll through the flights to see what is available.  The mile amounts required are cumulative, which means the displayed amount is the cost for that particular flight or series of flights.

United Airlines Excursionist Perk
Prices Are Cumulative in Miles and Money (Taxes Shown in Canadian Dollars)

If your trip meets the Excursionist Perk rules, the free flight will show as costing 0 miles!

United Airlines Excursionist Perk
A Qualifying Flight for the Excursionist Perk Costs 0 Miles! But You’ll Still Have to Pay Taxes and Fees (Here Shown in Canadian Dollars)

Step 3.   Book Your Trip

Once you’ve selected your flights (including your free one-way), you can continue your booking like you would any other award flight.

In the example below, I’ve searched for the following multi-city itinerary:

  • New York (JFK) to Frankfurt (Singapore Airlines)
  • Frankfurt to Istanbul (Lufthansa)
  • Rome to Newark (United Airlines)

The Frankfurt to Istanbul flight shows a price of 0 miles plus taxes and fees.  This is the free one-way.

United Airlines Excursionist Perk
You Won’t Pay Extra Miles to Tack on This Flight to Your Itinerary

Once you get to the booking screen, you’ll see the entire award itinerary costs 60,000 United Airlines miles plus taxes and fees.  That’s the same price you’d pay for a regular round-trip flight (or 2 one-ways) between the US and Europe.

United Airlines Excursionist Perk
You’ll See the Same Number of Miles Required Even Without the Excursionist Flight

If everything looks good, complete your booking as described in this post.

Don’t forget to check out our post about 5 crazy ways to make the most of the Excursionist Perk!

Bottom Line

The Excursionist Perk is a fantastic way to get the most value out of your United Airlines miles.  You can see multiple destinations for the price of a round-trip ticket!

In certain situations, you can add a free one-way flight to a round-trip or multi-city itinerary.  And you won’t pay any extra miles (but you will pay taxes and fees on the “free” segment).

Remember, it’s easy to earn United Airlines miles from United Airlines credit cards, like the United MileagePlus® Explorer Card.  Or by transferring flexible points from Chase Ultimate Rewards cards, like the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card.  These are 2 of the best airline credit cards for travel!

Next, I’ll talk about how to transfer flexible points to United Airlines.  Stay tuned!

Avery is a contributor to Million Mile Secrets, he covers topics on points and miles, credit cards, airlines, hotels, and general travel.

Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

Join the Discussion!

1 Comment
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments