The Micronesian Hopper

We recently had the chance to visit Palau and Yap in Micronesia and had an amazing time. All of this was possible because of a sweet spot in the United award chart and because of United’s generous award routing rules. Luckily, this award is still bookable today with United recent devaluation. I mentioned this briefly in my post Getting to Palau, but I wanted to dive into more detail.

Japan to Oceania

United prices Japan to Oceania at 12.5k/30k (economy/business) miles one way. United’s “Oceania” region is massive and nearly everywhere in that region presents great value.

The following countries are included in Oceania:

American Samoa, Cook Islands, Fiji, Federated States of Micronesia, French Polynesia, GuamMarshall Islands, New Caledonia, Northern Mariana Islands, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Tonga, Vanuatu, Western Samoa

Some of these places are very, very far away from Japan, which can present even better value (like French Polynesia). I’ll talk about some of those in a future post (because I definitely want to take advantage of them someday), but for now I want to focus on Micronesia. Micronesia consists of the bolded countries in my Oceania list above. The key to this hopper is Guam. United flies to Guam from six different airports in Japan.

All of the airports from which United flies to Guam from Japan
All of the airports from which United flies to Guam from Japan

Guam is kind of like a mini hub for United in Micronesia that serves as a point in which you can jump off to many of the other islands in Micronesia. These are the routes that United flies from Guam (GUM) to the rest of Micronesia.

United routes from Guam
United routes from Guam

The Micronesian Hopper

United allows a stopover in the same region as your final destination and allows you to return to somewhere different in your origination region. In this case, it means getting a stopover in Oceania (in our case specifically Micronesia) and also allowing the ability to return to a different airport in Japan if you wish. With these routing rules, it is possible to combine many pairs (but not all) of these destinations in a single round-trip ticket from Japan. I’ll explain the one we took, but there are many more possibilities.

Where We Went

We took advantage of these rules to visit both Palau and Yap, which interested us both. Palau is famous for its jellyfish lake in which you can swim with stingless jellyfish. These jellyfish lost their stinging ability after being separated from predators for millions of years. Unfortunately, jellyfish lake was closed this year due to a severe drought that killed off most of the jellyfish population. They want to give the jellyfish a few years for their population to jump back. Luckily for us, there is a similar place called jellyfish pond, which was just as amazing, closer to mainland Palau, and cost a lot less money. Palau is also known for world class scuba diving.

jellyfish palau
Jellyfish selfie time

Yap is known for their ancient tradition of stone money. It turns out that most of this money came from Palau, which we thought was pretty interesting. It is also known for its large manta ray population.

How We Got There

Our journey started in Osaka. From the Osaka airport, we flew to Guam, had a layover, and then flew to Palau where we enjoyed 6 nights. This was our destination for this round trip ticket. After our time in Palau, we flew directly from Palau to Yap. This was our stopover on the way back to Japan. We spent 3 nights in Yap before hopping back to Guam for a layover before we ultimately returned to Tokyo. This is what our ticket looked like.

Our Micronesian hopper ticket
Our Micronesian hopper ticket

Sometimes routing language can become confusing so I bolded some parts in the paragraph above to clear up confusion. We were able to book this incredible trip for only 25,000 miles each!

Conclusion

We had an absolute blast and loved these islands. We particular enjoyed Palau because the scuba diving was out of this world and left us wanting more and more. Swimming and touching the jellyfish was also something I’ll never forget. Brittany has a recent post out if you are wondering what you can do in Palau. I will say that the one downside to these islands is that they were pretty expensive, coming from Southeast Asia beforehand. Our tickets were almost free (just some taxes/fees on the award ticket), which helped a ton. The cash price for these intra-Micronesia flights is surprisingly high, so this United Micronesian hopper could be a good way to save some money if some of these islands are on your bucket list.

Have you been able to book a Micronesian hopper? What was your experience like?

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