Delta’s new booking tool can help snag flight deals with miles or cash — here’s how to use it
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The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) announced that fully vaccinated Americans are at “low-risk” to themselves and can now travel. For millions, that means the desire to go somewhere, as long as there are limited restrictions.
The impending travel boom is coming, as evidenced by airlines, such as Delta, offering numerous new leisure destinations.
Now, Delta has introduced a clever trip discovery map that functions in two ways to help plan your next trip. First, it’s a tool for filtering out COVID-19-restricted travel destinations. And secondly — and perhaps even more interesting — is that it serves as a deal finder.
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The Delta Discover map is part of the pandemic-era trend of technology features to help navigate the often confusing array of travel requirements. But one of the best parts of this tool is that Delta provides a way to filter for the cheapest destinations to fly from your home airport — and you can search using miles.
Let’s see how it works.
Travel flexibility is key
If you’re planning on traveling soon, flexibility is required above all.
State and country restrictions are regularly changing. Airlines are adding new destinations and changing flight schedules. And there are always new offers to get you back out there (including Delta’s latest promo to get you elite status faster).
Delta’s discovery tool is a way to easily search for top destinations based on travel restrictions and price — whether that’s in cash or SkyMiles. This tool is a centerpiece of Delta’s streamlined digital Travel Planning Center, what Delta calls a “one-stop guide to resources to manage travel restrictions, testing requirements and everything else.”
How the tool works
First, you enter your home airport and select whether to include trip pricing (in U.S. dollars, miles or a featured vacation package).
You’ll immediately see a map with varying shades of blue and gray. Each state and/or country is labeled as open to visitors, open with restrictions or restricted entirely. The countries where Delta does not have reopening information is in the lightest gray.
From there, you can filter your results by sliding the bar to the left or right to indicate the maximum amount you’re willing to pay in miles or cash.
Other filters include region — broken down by North America; Central, South America & Caribbean; East, Southeast Asia & Australia; and Europe, Africa & Middle East — and destination type whether that’s beach, city, history, food or outdoor.
One of the unique elements of Delta’s map is that you can actually filter down to some of the more minute parts of a destination’s reopening. For instance, if you don’t care where to go, but you want all restaurants and museums to be open, you can search for that.
Similarly, you can exclude destinations with certain requirements such as the need to quarantine or be vaccinated to be allowed entry.
What’s really neat about the tool is that search results are populated live as you filter — and everything is very seamless. All fares are based on real-time itinerary pricing available on Delta’s website.
The lowest roundtrip award priced out at just 9,000 SkyMiles in basic economy. From New York, those cities included Fort Lauderdale, Chicago, Orlando, Miami, Tampa and Syracuse.
I was surprised to see even a roundtrip flight to Bogota, Colombia cost just 12,000 SkyMiles and in main cabin, no less. You search within the map or scroll down for the full list of destinations.
When you click on a search result, you’ll be taken to Delta’s flexible calendar where you’ll have a more expansive view of dates and pricing.
Limitations of the tool
There are definitely some missing elements to Delta’s new tool. You can only search roundtrips and there is no way to look for flights on a specific date until you actually click on the result. That’s a huge missing component in its current form.
Additionally, only the lowest priced award or cash ticket appears in the search results so I’d like to see the ability to search by a specific cabin or at the very least, exclude basic economy. With that said, it’s great to know a general baseline of what a destination costs. Even if you don’t plan to book in basic economy, you can expect the main cabin price (whether in cash or miles) to be slightly higher.
Remember, all basic economy tickets purchased through April 30, 2021 qualify for free changes and cancellations.
How to earn more SkyMiles
If you’re in need of more SkyMiles to make a redemption, you can transfer points from Amex Membership Rewards at a 1:1 ratio. Additionally, Delta has a strong lineup of cobranded Amex cards, many of which are offering the following welcome offers. Here are current bonuses on Delta’s consumer credit cards.
Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card: Earn 40,000 bonus miles after spending $1,000 in purchases on and up to $50 back in statement credits for eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants within your first 3 months of account opening.
Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card: Earn 50,000 bonus miles, plus 5,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles after you spend $2,000 in purchases and up to $100 back in statement credits for eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants within the first three months of account opening.
Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card: Earn 50,000 bonus miles, plus 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases and up to $100 back in statement credits for eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants within the first three months of account opening.
Both American and United also offer flexible trip planning map tools that emulate Google Flights.
However, Delta’s tool is made for the COVID-19-era and is a robust option when it comes to seeking out your next travel destination. Even better, the ability to search using miles — especially with no published award charts — is a mighty welcome addition. With a few enhancements, this will become a regular flight booking tool for Delta travelers everywhere.
Featured photo by Chris Dong/The Points Guy.
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