Quick Points: See two cities for the price of one with stopovers

Dec 10, 2021

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Although we cover loyalty programs and credit cards in-depth on TPG every day, sometimes you just want a snippet of useful information that you can put into action on the fly. That’s why we launched the series Quick Points. Every week, we’ll highlight a new or easily forgotten tip that can help you travel more for less.

There are some great airline award chart sweet spots out there, but one of the best ways to get maximum value on your redemptions is by adding stopovers to your award tickets.

Plain and simple, stopovers allow you to schedule extended layovers en route to your final destination. They can often be added either for free or at very low rates, essentially allowing you to see two (or sometimes more) cities for the price of one.

Here’s the kicker: There’s usually no limit to the amount of time you can spend on your stopover. So, if you’re strategic about your bookings, you won’t necessarily have to visit both cities on the same trip.

That said, not all airline loyalty programs offer free stopovers. So in today’s Quick Points, we’ll look at what programs offer stopovers on award tickets and how you can take advantage of this often-overlooked perk.

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Programs that offer stopovers on award tickets

The main frequent flyer programs that allow stopovers are:

While not explicitly a stopover, United MileagePlus also allows you to add a stopover to eligible round-trip awards through its Excursionist Perk.

Many of these programs partner with popular transferable points currencies so you may already be familiar with them. For example, American Express Membership Rewards points transfer to Aeroplan, Mileage Club, Asia Miles and KrisFlyer.

However, each program has different rules on how the benefit works. For example, you must be traveling internationally or between two different regions in order to be eligible for a stopover with most programs.

Further, only some programs, like Alaska Mileage Plan and Air Canada Aeroplan, allow stopovers on one-way awards. Most stopovers can usually be as long as you want, but with Air Canada Aeroplan, they’re capped at 30 days.

Travel more for fewer miles with stopovers (Image courtesy of Great Circle Mapper)

Many of the programs allow you to add stopovers for a nominal number of miles or a small fee. For instance, Air Canada Aeroplan charges 5,000 points per stopover, while Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer charges a flat $100. That said, there are several programs, like Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan and ANA Mileage Club, that allow you to add a stopover for free on international flights.

For a more in-depth look at how stopovers work with each of the programs, see our complete guide to maximizing stopovers and open jaws on award tickets.

Related: How to potentially save miles by … flying first class

Booking stopovers

While some airlines require you to call in to book stopovers, many allow you to book them online. Oftentimes, it’s as simple as performing a multicity search. Most notably, ANA Mileage Club, Alaska Mileage Plan and Singapore KrisFlyer let you add stopovers online.

The purpose of stopovers is to give travelers the opportunity to explore their connecting city en route to their final destination. However, you can get really creative with the routings. For instance, rather than flying over the Pacific to get to Asia, you might choose to route over Europe and add a stopover there. This would be a great way to maximize your time in the air if you’re splurging on a premium cabin award.

But remember how I said you don’t actually need to visit multiple places on the same trip? The secret here is to have your stopover be in your home airport and the endpoint be the start of a new trip. In other words, you’re booking half of two separate trips on one award ticket.

To put this into practice, let’s say we live in New York and want to visit Paris over New Year’s and San Francisco in the summer using Alaska miles. We’d book a one-way award from Paris (CDG) to San Francisco (SFO) with a 7 1/2-month “stopover” in New York-JFK.

stopover example
(Screenshot courtesy of alaskaair.com)

When booking this itinerary through Alaska Airlines, our “one-way” award would come out to just 22,500 miles altogether in economy. That “free” New York-to-San Francisco flight would cost 12,500 miles when booked on its own, so we’re getting some serious savings. Of course, the savings would be even greater if we were booking a business-class award ticket.

Alaska award flight
(Screenshot courtesy of alaskaair.com)

Just note that each airline loyalty program has its own rules about where you can stop over. Alaska Mileage Plan only lets you stop over in Alaska or partner hubs, while Aeroplan lets you stop over anywhere so long as your routing isn’t more than double the physical mileage of a direct flight.

Related: 8 tips for strategically booking your first stopover

Bottom line

Only a few airlines allow free stopovers on revenue tickets, and when they do, they generally have a lot of restrictions. However, there are a number of programs that offer generous stopover policies on award tickets. This perk allows you to visit multiple cities for the price of one. And if you’re strategic with your bookings, you can leverage stopovers to book completely separate trips.

Featured photo by Yongyuan Dai/Getty Images.

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