How to Use United’s New Map Search Tool

If you don't know where you want to travel, this United map can show you flights for your budget.
Alisha McDarrisJan 4, 2021

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In September, United became the first U.S. airline to launch a map search tool, which allows travelers to look for flights to multiple destinations based on criteria like what activities you’d like to do and how much you want to spend on your ticket.

Here’s how to use the new United map search tool to find the perfect flight even when you don’t know where you want to go.

How it works

Powered by Google Flight Search technology, United's new map-based search tool lets you search by destination, activity or cheapest price. You can search by flexible or specific dates, one-way or round-trip flights, nonstop flights, maximum price and also by these interests:

  • Beaches.

  • Beer and breweries.

  • Culture.

  • Food and drink.

  • Hiking.

  • Outdoors.

  • Romantic.

  • Skiing and snowboarding.

  • Snorkeling and scuba.

  • National parks.

The national parks filter is especially on brand since United proudly broadcasts its ability to connect travelers to more than 60 national park destinations, from Shenandoah to Yosemite.

Whatever price, destination or activity you fancy, just select criteria like your preferred departure airport, whether you have specific dates in mind or you’re flexible and how much you want to pay, then click “Search.” See a flight that appeals to you? Click on it on the map and it will open a new page with booking options.

There’s also a “Where I’ve Been” filter that will show all the destinations you’ve traveled to with United, letting you reminisce about your adventures or show off your world-traveler credentials to friends.

What the new map search tool is good for

United’s new tool streamlines the search process for travelers who aren’t sure where their budget can take them or are looking for ideas about where to go.

For example, say you know you’d like to go skiing this winter and have a few weeks’ flexibility on when you can travel. Also, you don’t want to spend more than $250 on a round-trip ticket. Simply plug all that data into the tool and click “Search.”

The map will show you what ski destinations you can get to from your departure point and within your budget. You will still have to research things like what ski resorts are in the area, but you’ll have narrowed down the possible destinations to fit your needs.

Likewise, if you want to visit a national park on specific vacation days, just use those filters and the interactive map search tool will show you flights into airports near national parks and that fit your dates and budget — places like Rocky Mountain National Park, which you can reach with a flight to Denver, and Cuyahoga Park, which you can visit by flying into Cleveland.

The tool doesn’t always work perfectly. A search with multiple interest filters may result in mixed results. For example, select “Golf” and “Beaches” and you may get good results like Tampa, Florida, and Charleston, South Carolina, along with land-locked Albuquerque, New Mexico.

What the map doesn’t do

While the map search is impressive, there’s one thing it doesn’t do: show prices in United miles. Even after you select a flight and click through to a booking page, you must select “Edit Search,” in the departure and arrival destination you just chose on the map, reselect dates, and check the “Show price in Miles” box to see award flights.

This seems like poor planning since many MileagePlus members will want to use the new map tool to find trips they will then book using miles. But it’s still useful for narrowing down possible destinations.

Also new: Destination guide showing COVID travel restrictions

United also launched a handy Interactive Destination Guide, powered by Smartvel, at the beginning of September that offers guidance on state-by-state travel restrictions, whether face masks are required and what businesses are currently open, among other information. Using the United map for COVID travel in conjunction with the new map search tool makes it easier to find a destination where you’ll want to travel.

The bottom line

For frequent United travelers searching for the perfect trip based on your interests, travel dates and budget, the new United map search tool is a great resource. It may help United customers discover surprising new destinations, and at best, it could connect you with flights for a trip perfectly suited to your needs and desires.

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