The best thing about award travel tickets is the chance to go to more cities — for free!

I’ve often told friends and family how I got over $10,000 in plane tickets for just $160. Now I’m telling you the simple version. If you have the time and know how I suggest you try it. You can also hire someone for a small fee to do this for you. I would say that it’s worth it to maximize your ticket! Let me know if you have questions.

Open jaws are awesome but what is it?

Essentially, when booking an award ticket you can fly into one destination and out another. To get from your arrival city to your departure city you’ll have to figure out another means of transport. I usually see what works best for the country I’m in. Local airline carrier, bus, train or rental car. I will look at cost and time to determine which wins. Sometimes the $16 bus trip across 4 countries is worth it or sometimes it’s best to do the $120 flight. It really depends on what’s important to you — comfort, things you’ll see on the way or price.

For my tickets, in this example, the open jaw was flying into Siem Reap and out of Phnom Penh. Just use the multi-destination award ticket option and play around until you find a “yes”. If all else fails on the online tool call someone and ask about the rules but beware, booking on the phone can cause an extra fee.

Stop overs are key

The next thing you need to know to maximize your award ticket is the stop over. On one leg of your journey you can stop at a destination (almost of your choice) for free for a few days. The “almost of your choice” part comes in with the destination (arrival and departure) and stop over cities being in the same”zone”. Each airline has zones, kind of related to continents but it can be a bit fuzzy, to see how many points you’ll need for the fight. If you stay in the same zone you’ll get the most out of your ticket.

Airlines differ with award charts and rules but on United (Star Alliance partner) I got two plane tickets valued at over $10,000 for $160. We flew Asiana Airlines and went from the U.S. to Siem Reap (stay awhile), Phnom Penh (open jaw — resume scheduled flight) to Manila (stop over for a few days) to Seoul (day trip) back to the U.S. Seoul was kind of a bonus. A lot of in-and-out fights to Seoul, you end up spending the whole day. I’ve found this is a great way to break up the long flight between Asia and the U.S. Get out, explore, stretch your legs, eat some great food and get some non recirculated air. Plus it’s my favorite airport: lots of shopping, food, places to lounge or sleep, free showers and free arts and crafts. Also, to explore beyond the airport they lead tours (for a fee).

In this example Manila was the stop over. It was in the same zone as all our other stops so why not stay a few days on our “free” flight?

It’s your turn!

There you have it. The story of my best “free” ticket. For your free ticket you’ll want to research the multi destination rules, zone maps and award charts on your airline of choice. Try a Star Alliance partner or another like One World and all its airlines.

Get started earning points

Here’s some info on my favorite travel credit card to get you started collecting points!

RR Tuk Tuk