Greg’s #40KFarAway Mystery Excursions

Frequent Miler's 2019 40K to Far Away Challenge is done! Greg, Nick, and Stephen competed to see who could go farthest with 40,000 points and $400! Click here for contest results and next steps.

The 40K to Far Away Challenge got underway this morning. After a brief flight delay scare (just a little fog), I was on my way… all the way to West Virginia. When I arrived, I turned around and got back on the same jet to fly back to DC. This seeming inanity was all part of my master plan.

Turning around in West Virginia was a bit more stressful than I had imagined. We were let out into the land-side section of this tiny airport whereupon I immediately heard the boarding announcement for my return flight. And I saw that I’d have to go through security to get there. Luckily, no one else was in line and I made it through easily.

My flight to West Virginia and my return flight to DC were booked as two separate United round-trip-ish awards. The first award looks like this:

  1. Washington Dulles to Lewisburg, West Virginia
  2. Free Excursionist one-way in a different region
  3. Chicago to Houston (this segment is scheduled for February)

Segments 1 and 3, above, cost 5,000 United miles each (10K miles total). Segment 2 is free thanks to United’s Excursionist Perk award. To get a free Excursionist one-way, you need to begin and end in the same region (US, in my case) and the free segment must be in another region (I’m not yet telling where mine is).

What!? Why!? I know, I know. It’s really hard to wrap your mind around this. United never intended for Excursionist Perks to be used in this way. But, thanks to Drew at Travel is Free, I knew how to push this perk to the limit. So, I did two of them…

My return flight award looks like this:

  1. Lewisburg, West Virginia to Washington Dulles
  2. Free Excursionist one-way in a different region
  3. Houston to Chicago (this segment is scheduled for February)

Finding 5K awards

Finding a 5K award that left from DC wasn’t easy. Luckily, I found a useful pattern: the cheapest flights are sometimes available at 5K miles. See: Finding United MileagePlus 5K Awards. Using that technique, I found 3 options from DC. Next, I needed another 5K award from that destination airport to either go back to DC or to go to the next useful stop on my itinerary. I scoured all possible options and found only one that worked for my needs: to Lewisburg and back.

I wasn’t thrilled with this option because I knew that weather would impact a flight like this more than most, but it was literally the only option I could find that would let me nest two United Excursionist awards into my trip. I took a chance.

20K already spent

Half of my 40K budget was spent on these two awards which, so far, have only gotten me to West Virginia and back. That sounds a bit discouraging, but it was crucial for setting up two free one-way flights in another region. As a bonus, I also get a free weekend in Houston long after the 40K to Far Away Challenge is done. I’m feeling pretty good about this use of miles now.

Where will I fly my Excursions?

I’m not ready to reveal my excursionist flights yet! However, keep in mind that my goal was to go far. So, you can assume that I’ll fly across a very large region. Or two. But I can’t use them in the US (since my award flights begin and end in the US). In order to visualize my options, I earlier created United Region Maps so that I can easily see which regions are biggest. Check out those maps here:  United Excursionist Perk Maps. Visualize regions to optimize awards.

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[…] option when planning his #40kFarAway itinerary: book a cheap intra-US segment to give yourself a free intra-Africa flight. The Central and Southern Africa region is huge, and flights are often very expensive. Here’s […]

[…] Greg and Nick both had early starts and caught early shuttles to Dulles. Greg’s first flight took him to Lewisburg, WV on United, a trip he only needed so he could take advantage of the Excursionist perk. See: Greg’s #40KFarAway Mystery Excursions. […]

T. Jones

Nested excursionist perks! Ten points for technique and style!


I did intra Africa free 3 times all in business class. 1 time set up using Japan to North Asia 30k, and the other two times. did a round trip from BOG to Central America, 20k each, and flew over 8k in busines class intra Africa for each of the set up ticket.


Forget the environment, it’s all about maximizing that excursionist perk and dropping some fat content on my blog!!!! #40KFarAway


I am guessing you are taking advantage of the DC to Senegal using VA and one of the Free Excursionist one-way flights is intra-Africa.


The problem is that with 20k in Economy he would burn the last of his miles and would only have $400 minus what he already spent on award fees and taxes… not sure what you can find from Africa for little money as they don’t have low cost carriers apart from a few in South Africa and Ryanair flying to Northern Africa but nothing long distance.


I’ve been anticipating an intra-Africa flight Excursionist too. Likely routing through ADD down to South Africa, that’s my bet.


Likely doing MAD-DKR via avios on Iberia. In economy it should be about 10K Avios+ ~$40 in taxes in fees.

then Using the excursionist perk flying something like DKR-CPT


I think the code for the new airport is DSS. Also, DSS and CPT are not in the same region.

One decent miles-only itinerary:
MAD-DSS (10k IB/BA Avios)
DSS-(IST)-SEZ (Excursionist Perk)
SEZ-CMB (10k IB Avios)
CMB-???-???-TSE (Excursionist Perk)

MAD-DSS is 1960 miles.
DSS-SEZ is 6865 miles traveled, 5149 great circle.
SEZ-CMB is 1869 miles.
CMB-TSE is 5480-6124 miles traveled (depends on route), 3059 great circle.

Still leaves room for another leg from TSE if he’s got any cash left…


For United, Senegal and Cape Town are the same regions. Africa is split into North Africa and then Central Africa/South Africa. Yeah the new airport is DSS, my apologies.

Also it looks like Greg used UR for JFK-MAD flight. So he’ll only have 10K UR remaining to get back home. Gonna be interesting


Misread the region map, and totally thought he paid cash for that… Double Whammy for me!