How to Maximize the United Excursionist Perk

Use the United Excursionist Perk to get three award flights for the price of two.
The Excursionist Perk: A unique advance tactic for United bookings

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Some hotel loyalty programs offer a fourth-night or fifth-night free discount if you book with points, but there’s not really an equivalent among airlines. The closest is probably the United Airlines’ Excursionist Perk, which is basically a free one-way flight on a multi-city award ticket.

Booking this award isn’t as complicated as it seems, and we break it all down so you can use the United Excursionist Perk to your advantage.

What is the United Excursionist Perk?

The Excursionist Perk lets United travelers take a one-way award flight for free if it’s part of a multi-city trip that includes a one-way award trip within the same “region.”

How does the Excursionist Perk work?

To figure out how the Excursionist Perk works, you need to be familiar with United’s three routing rules:

  1. The flight itinerary must begin and end in the same region (e.g., if your travel starts in mainland U.S., it must end in mainland U.S.). See qualifying regions below.

  2. The Excursionist Perk must be used in a different region than where travel began (e.g., if your travel starts in mainland U.S., the Excursionist Perk must be used in a region outside mainland U.S.).

  3. The Excursionist Perk must start and end in the same region (e.g., if you take your free one-way award in Europe, you cannot use it to fly outside of Europe).

Your flights can originate in different cities as long as they remain within the same region. Because some destinations within a region can be far apart, you could be really creative in your travels.

United Excursionist Perk regions

Each United destination falls into one of 17 regions. Here's the full list.

  • Mainland U.S., Alaska & Canada.

  • Hawaii.

  • Mexico.

  • Caribbean: Antigua, Aruba, Bahamas, Barbados, Barbuda, Bermuda, Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba, Cayman Islands (Grand Cayman), Cuba, Curacao, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guadeloupe, Haiti, Jamaica, Martinique, Puerto Rico, St. Kitts-Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Maarten, Trinidad and Tobago, Turks and Caicos Islands, Virgin Islands (British and U.S.).

  • Central America: Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama.

  • Northern South America: Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Peru, Suriname and Venezuela.

  • Southern South America: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay.

  • Europe: Albania, Armenia, Austria, Belgium, Belarus, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Greenland, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Malta, Moldova, Montenegro, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom.

  • Middle East: Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, United Arab Emirates, Yemen.

  • Northern Africa: Algeria, Canary Islands, Libya, Morocco, Tunisia.

  • Central & Southern Africa: Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Congo, Cote D'lvoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Reunion Island, Rwanda, South Africa, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe.

  • North Asia: China (Mainland), South Korea, Mongolia, Taiwan.

  • Central Asia: Afghanistan, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan.

  • South Asia: Bangladesh, Bhutan, Brunei, Cambodia, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Laos, Macau, Malaysia, Myanmar (Burma), Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam.

  • Japan.

  • Oceania: American Samoa, Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, French Polynesia, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, Marshall Islands, New Caledonia, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Tonga, Vanuatu, Samoa.

  • Australia & New Zealand: Australia, New Zealand, Norfolk Island.

Using this perk, you can plan a long trip with many destinations, and take a different means of transportation (car, bus, train, boat, etc.) to get to your next flight.

Example of a United Excursionist Perk trip

U.S. to Europe for 60,000 miles + $83 in taxes

To illustrate this example, we planned a two-week trip from the mainland U.S. through Europe and back to the mainland U.S. The sample itinerary is as follows:

  • New York → Amsterdam; Paris → Athens; Istanbul → Los Angeles.

Let's say you fly from New York to Amsterdam (flight No. 1), then travel from the Netherlands to France by train. Then, you fly from Paris to Athens (flight No. 2) to hop around Greece — the Excursionist Perk works here since you’re still within the same region (Europe). Your final European destination is Turkey, so you can travel through all the Eastern European countries to Istanbul. From Turkey, you fly back to Los Angeles (flight No. 3), just to add another U.S. city onto your trip.

Because you book this as an Excursionist Perk award, your flight from Paris to Athens costs you zero miles. We looked up this redemption in economy class and the award priced at the following rate:

  1. New York to Amsterdam: 30,000 miles + $5.60 taxes.

  2. Paris to Athens: 0 miles + $34.60 taxes.

  3. Istanbul to Los Angeles: 30,000 miles + $42.47 taxes.

Such a massive trip for only 60,000 miles + $83 in taxes is an excellent redemption. Plus, collecting that many United miles isn't overly difficult. A combination of credit card welcome bonuses, points transfers or miles earned from your regular United flights can get you all the way there.

Alternatively, if you paid in cash for this trip, it would set you back $3,453. By using your miles, you’re receiving nearly 5.6 cents per mile (here's the math: ($3,453 cash cost - $83 taxes) / 60,000 miles). This is a significantly higher rate than NerdWallet's baseline value of United MileagePlus miles at 1.2 cents apiece. In other words, it's a great redemption, providing more than four times our valuation.

The Excursionist Perk is the reason that you’re extracting such an excellent value, as you’re receiving three awards for the price of two. But if you were using cash, you’d be paying for all three flights. The example illustrates why miles are so valuable.

Final thoughts on the United Excursionist Perk

The Excursionist Perk’s generous routing rules allow you to book three open jaw awards for the price of two. As long as your flights remain within the region requirements, you can fly into and out of any countries within the regions, allowing you to craft creative multi-country trips. These types of trips aren’t for everyone, but given the discontinuation of round-the-world tickets in 2016, the Excursionist Perk still provides travelers a way to have a trip with many different destinations.

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