(Last year I decided January was the ideal month to discuss ways to save money. If you can manage a few cost-saving tricks during the winter, a vacation is more easily affordable when the weather turns warm. Here are the best tips for 2011.)
Do you have a long-lost cousin in Dallas you've always wanted to visit? Do you have a hankering for a slice of Chicago deep-dish pizza? Or maybe you know you'll be exhausted by your flight back from Croatia and want to spend a night in Boston before finishing the trip home to Seattle.
No matter what your reason, you can visit any of those cities and it won't cost you a dime!
All you need to do is exercise the stopover option on your international frequent flier ticket. Once you've snagged your almost-free ticket to Europe (See the article below.), you can easily arrange for a stopover in an American gateway city.
Here are the rules.
The free stopover is only available with international flight reservations using frequent flier miles.
The stopover must be at an American gateway. The gateway is defined as the last place you're leaving from en route to Europe, or the first place you're returning to on your way back from Europe. For example, if my flight is San Diego to Los Angeles to Chicago to Paris and the reverse sequence on the return, I could schedule a stopover in Chicago either on the way to Paris or on my way back—or both. (I could not schedule a stopover in LA.)
The stopover time is almost limitless—from 25 hours to a month or more.
Gateways vary with airlines, but, to give you an idea what's available, here are the seven gateways for American Airlines: Boston; Miami; JFK Airport in New York City; Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas; Chicago; Raleigh-Durham, NC; and Los Angeles.
An almost-free international flight is a treat, but an extra trip on the side that is totally free is a bonus you shouldn't ignore! So, with all the money you'll save utilizing free flights, you can splurge with some Texas barbecue on your way back from Spain. Give Cousin Sally a call in Dallas and let her know you're on your way!
For an amazing amount of information about stopovers, see this Million Mile Secrets website page and click on Part 4 (in the middle of the page).
You will probably have to make your reservations with an agent over the phone because the airline websites aren't equipped to handle stopovers.
The free stopover with frequent-flier-mile international tickets is probably available with all US airlines, but you will have to check. I know this option is available with American Airlines and Delta Airlines because I spent all day verifying the information with Gloria Lee from American Airlines and Chris E. Kelly from Delta.