Published in: Credit Cards | Jan. 14, 2019

How to Use United's Excursionist Perk to Score a Free Extra Flight on Your Trip

By:  Lyle Daly

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Bring your next trip in under budget by tacking on an extra segment using the United Excursionist Perk.

head-on shot of airplane flying high above the clouds

Image source: Getty Images

A common conundrum when you're traveling, especially when you're visiting somewhere new, is how to see different cities without spending a ton of money. If you book your flight using United miles, you can use its Excursionist Perk to keep your costs down.

This perk lets you tack another segment onto your trip for no extra miles, provided your trip and the additional segment meet the requirements. Here's how you can take advantage and save some money on your next trip.

Why you can trust me

I try to save as much money as I can, but I also like to travel, so travel rewards were a natural fit for me. Through careful credit card selection, I’ve collected over 450,000 points in travel rewards. I used a portion of those points to book a practically free trip to Spain, covering my flights and lodging in full, save award ticket fees of under $200 total. While I didn’t use United for that trip, I’ve flown with the airline multiple times, and I’ve used the perk I’m about to show you.

The rules of United’s Excursionist Perk

You can take advantage of United’s Excursionist Perk when you’re flying to a different region of the world. If you want to book another flight within that region, the ticket won’t cost you any more miles. United divides destinations into 17 regions, and a list is available here.

Here are the full rules on this benefit:

  • You must book at least one round-trip or two one-way flights to add a free flight.
  • You must fly to a different region than your departure point.
  • Your free flight must start and end within the destination region.
  • Your trip must end in the same region as your departure point.
  • For the free flight, the cabin and award type must be equal or less than that of the ticket preceding it.

It can be tricky to grasp all that at first, but an example makes it much easier:

  1. Say I book a United Economy Saver award ticket from Los Angeles to Paris for 30,000 miles. This trip meets the requirement of travel to a different region (the continental United States to Europe).
  2. I can then book a United Economy Saver award ticket from Paris to Madrid for 0 miles, saving 15,000 miles. I can’t book an Economy Everyday award ticket or a business-class ticket, since those would be a higher award type and cabin, respectively.
  3. Finally, I book a United Economy Saver award ticket from Madrid to Los Angeles for 30,000 miles.

Keep in mind that you have quite a bit of flexibility if you stay within those rules. None of your flights need to start or end in a specific city, just in a specific region. If I wanted to see more cities on that itinerary above, I could do the following at the exact same cost:

  1. Fly from Los Angeles to Paris.
  2. Take a train from Paris to Berlin.
  3. Fly from Berlin to Madrid using the Excursionist perk for a free flight.
  4. Fly from Madrid (or Barcelona, or any city in Europe) to New York and end my trip there.

How to book your free flight

Before you can use this perk, you’ll need a United MileagePlus account and enough miles to cover your trip. Here’s the process for booking your flights:

1. Visit United.com and click “Multi-city.”

booking travel with "multi-city" option selected

Image source: Getty Images

2. For “Do you want to book a MileagePlus® award ticket?” select “Yes,” and for “Trip type,” select “Multi-city.”

3. Enter your desired trip details. Click “Add another destination” for as many additional destinations as you want.


entering destination details and clicking "Add another destination"

Image source: Getty Images

4. Perform a search and select flights for each leg of your trip.

The ticket that qualifies for the Excursionist Perk will automatically be priced at 0 miles.

Credit cards that earn United miles

Although you can earn United miles every time you fly with the airline, it’s much faster to use a travel card. If you usually fly with United, you may want to get one of its airline credit cards:

What if you usually fly with whichever airline is convenient? In that case, you should look at Chase’s Ultimate Rewards credit cards. Chase and United are partners, so you can transfer Ultimate Rewards points to United’s MileagePlus program, but there are also plenty of other ways to use your points so you’re not limited to only booking United flights.

The Ultimate Rewards program has the following personal credit cards:

When you’re on a vacation, you could feel like exploring more than one new place to make the most of your trip. United’s Excursionist Perk is the perfect way to do that without burning through any more miles.

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