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Weekend inspiration: Sydney

By Kelsey + Courtney Montague

Sydney continues to be one of our favorite cities in the world – vibrant, stunning, with an amazing foodie scene and genuinely nice people. Each year we try to schedule a few street art jobs in Australia so we can spend the Northern Hemisphere's winter in the summer sun of Australia. If you're in town for a few days, here are some of our favorite spots.

Friday evening

If you're looking for places to stay, we recommend anywhere near or on Sydney Harbour. If you can swing it financially, our two favorites are The Pier on Sydney Harbour and the Park Hyatt. Both are majestic hotels set out on the water with equally magnificent views of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House.

Steps up to the Opera House

Pasta at Kindred

We find that we crave comfort food after a long flight, and there's no better place to enjoy it than Kindred. It's a warm cozy space with pasta and bread made in-house. The lasagna and the burnt butter triangoli can't be beat, and be sure to order a loaf of homemade sourdough with dinner.

Saturday

Wake up early for a full day of exploring the city. Take a short cab or Uber ride to Lorraine's Patisserie – their croissants are warm and buttery and their coffee is strong.

The Rocks Market in Sydney

Kelsey's Magic Wand street art piece

After breakfast, head over to The Rocks Market where they have a stunning array of locally crafted art, jewelry, house ware and beauty products. The homey, cozy cobblestone lanes lead you to some of the best local artisans that Sydney has to offer. Be sure to also take a moment to pose with our Magic Wand street art piece on Atherdan Street.

We recommend The Glenmore Hotel's pub for lunch. This pub, built in 1921, has incredible views of the harbour from their rooftop. Grab one of their Australian Brewery Session IPA's, play a game of pool and end up on the roof with a Glenmore Burger in hand.

Following lunch, grab your swimsuit and take a 30-minute Uber to Bondi Beach – Sydney's most iconic beach. There's more to Bondi than just a beach, beyond is a village full of cafes, restaurants and shops worth exploring.

Bondi Beach, Sydney

Bring a towel and start off with a cold swim at the Instagram-worthy Icebergs Club swimming pool. When in need of some warmth, lay in the sun on the white sand beach while watching the surfers – you can even take surfing lessons if you'd like.

If you have time, there's a wonderful walk between Bondi and Coogee Beach. This walk takes you along the rocky coast to hidden beaches and swimming holes. It's a beautiful walk that will get your heart pumping.

For dinner walk up the hill to the trendy Bondi Trattoria for great local eats. If you're still awake when you get back to Sydney and looking for a drink, we highly recommend stopping by the Sydney Opera House Bar.

Sunday

Head over to Paramount Coffee Project to grab some caffeine and breakfast. Take a moment to check out the workout schedule for the recreation club on the roof to see if there is a class that interests you.

If you're looking to pet a wallaby or hold a quokka (quite possibly the cutest creature you have ever seen) we highly recommend signing up for the Featherdale Wildlife Park Mammal Encounter. It's about an hour drive from Sydney, but it's definitely worth it.

Featherdale Wildlife Park Mammal Encounter.

Sydney Harbour


When you get back to Sydney check out Ribs & Burgers on The Rocks for a hearty lunch. In the afternoon, check off two essential experiences by booking an Opera House Tour and, if you're not afraid of heights, the Sydney Harbour Bridge climb. Both offer stunning views and completely unique experiences.

After a somewhat exhausting day we love when we can come back to a hotel and dine there. Park Hyatt offers wonderful dining options, including The Dining Room, which is their signature restaurant. Finish your weekend with stunning harbour views and elegant food.

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Porto: Portugal’s surprising second city

By Bob Cooper

“Second cities" or those that rank #2 in population often surprise world travelers. And second doesn't mean second-rate. Porto is Portugal's second city — so off-the-radar that many world travelers haven't even heard of it. Yet, Porto and nearby spots in northern Portugal can be delightful destinations even if you don't visit the more well-known city of Lisbon.

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Old city by day

The best place to get oriented, as in most European cities, is in the old city center. Porto's Old City is so well-preserved that it's a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A 12th-century cathedral and the 15th-century Church of St. Francis, notable for interior wood carvings gilded by hundreds of pounds of gold, are mixed in with a rich collection of imposing granite, red-roofed Baroque buildings. Add 225 stairs and a stirring view to your walking tour by ascending the 250-foot-high Clérigos Church bell tower, built in 1754, which dominates the Porto skyline. Historic bridges over the Douro River and Soares dos Reis National Museum, an art museum housed in a palace, are also excellent sites to see.

Food and music by night

Porto's youthful population has turned it into a lively city after dark. You might start off the evening in the Old City at Abadia do Porto, a 1939 restaurant that serves traditional Portuguese dishes like roasted lamb and grilled octopus, or at Astoria, with its modern Portuguese fare served inside a former palace. Whether you choose a Portuguese, French or fusion restaurant, seafood is likely to be highlighted, drawing on Porto's proximity to the Atlantic and the Douro. Then, you can head to the large collection of bars and nightclubs in the nearby Galerias district, which includes Radio Bar, inside a former court building, and Gare, a disco in a tunnel that stays open until 6 a.m.

Head west to the beaches

The closest Atlantic beaches to central Porto are at Foz do Douro (mouth of the Douro), just 20 minutes away by city bus. But why settle? In a rental car you can explore Atlantic beaches and beach towns that extend for hundreds of miles along Portugal's coastline. Two of the best are Foz do Minho, the nation's northernmost oceanic beach that's just across the Minho River from Spain, and Quiaios, a dune-fringed paradise of sand south of Porto. Many beaches in northern Portugal are cradled in coves protected by rocky promontories, similar to northern California and Oregon beaches.

Or east to the wine country

The Douro Valley wine region is another World Heritage Site and one of the world's best and most scenic wine regions. It's up the Douro River from Porto by boat or 90 minutes by road. Namesake port wines and other fortified wines are the region's signature beverages, which can be sampled at tasting rooms on the Douro along N-222, a wine road that's been called the world's most scenic drive. While you're in the area, check out the wine and anthropology museums in the wine towns and yet another World Heritage Site — Coa Valley Archaeological Park — known for its prehistoric rock carvings.

The basics

Portugal's Mediterranean climate and coastal breezes bless it with mild weather year round, as the average temperature ranges from 57 degrees (and rain) in January to 78 degrees (and a little rain) in August. Whenever you come, there's no need to learn Portuguese as English is spoken even more widely than elsewhere in Western Europe. Once you arrive, rent a car only if you don't mind ridiculous drivers. The trains are more relaxing — light-rail and subway trains crisscross the Porto area and funicular cable cars climb its steepest hills. There's even a scenic train that follows the Douro nearly to Spain, with a roundtrip fare of only about $30.

Getting there

Portugal requires that visitor passports don't expire until at least three months after the arrival date, so check that. Next, buy some Euros (for a great exchange rate) and reserve a flight. United Airlines flies nonstop from New York/Newark to Porto and MileagePlus® award miles can be redeemed to cover accommodations and Hertz rentals. Go to united.com or use the United app to plan your trip.

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An insider's guide to Boston

By Betsy Mikel

Boston is a pack-it-all-in kind of place. Founded in 1630, one of America's oldest cities does many things well. Boston's many claims to fame include many of America's oldest historic landmarks and one of its oldest ballparks. It's a destination for history buffs, culture vultures, foodies, sports fans, families and more. No matter who your travel companions are or what they're interested in, everyone will find something to pique their interest in Beantown.

Getting there & around town

Fly direct to Boston's Logan International Airport (BOS) from many U.S. cities — visit united.com or use the United app to book your flight. Flights are 90 minutes from New York, two hours from Cleveland and five to six hours from California. From Logan International Airport, it's easy to hail a taxi, use ridesharing apps or take public transportation. If you want to take the scenic route, take a water taxi across Boston Harbor directly into downtown.

Downtown Boston is easy to navigate. It's walkable and taxis are plentiful. The MBTA, Boston's public transportation system, offers affordable access to Cambridge, many attractions and the suburbs. Keep in mind it's one of the oldest transportation systems in the country, so expect a few bumps. Because the city is dense, parking can be expensive or hard to find, so avoid driving if you can.

When to visit

Summer and fall are the most popular seasons to visit. Summer is prime time to enjoy Boston's many parks, outdoor eateries, open-air concerts and baseball games at Fenway Park. Mild fall weather, beautiful autumn foliage and Halloween festivities in nearby Salem, Massachusetts make October one of Boston's busiest months. The city also sees an influx of visitors for the Boston Marathon in April. You'll find smaller crowds and more affordable prices in winter, but brace yourself for the cold.

What to do

There's so much to take in just by walking through Boston's cobblestoned streets. Downtown is quaint, compact and easy to explore by foot. The small city is packed with historic sites, New England's finest food, proud sports fans and friendly locals.

As the birthplace of the American Revolution, Boston's historic sites are an attraction in themselves. Walk the 2.5-mile Freedom Trail to visit 16 of them around the city, including Revolutionary-era museums, churches, buildings and an impressive warship. Faneuil Hall Marketplace is on the trail, too, and is one of Boston's top attractions, with plentiful shopping, dining and live music. Not much of a walker? Boston Duck Tours operate land-and-water historic tours on World War II-inspired vehicles, which transform from truck to boat mid-tour.

Many museums and sites are tucked along Boston Harbor. The waterfront is always bustling with activity year-round. The harborwalk is the perfect place to meander and explore without a strict agenda. Plan to visit a major attraction or two, but leave time to enjoy the scenery or to pop into a café for a coffee and sweet treat (award-winning Flour Bakery + Cafe is a local favorite).

Deemed the “Athens of America," Boston boasts not only some of the country's oldest and most architecturally significant buildings, but also a thriving arts and culture scene. You could spend your entire trip touring its dozens of world-class museums. Take in classical music at the famous Boston Symphony Orchestra, or take a leisurely stroll through Boston Public Garden and Boston Common, the city's most well-known public parks. Riding the giant Swan Boats through the Public Garden lagoon is a kitschy, yet delightful experience, especially for kids.

What to eat

What must you absolutely eat in Boston? In short, everything. Long ago the city was nicknamed Beantown, allegedly after slow-cooked molasses baked beans served to sailors and traders. Today, Boston continues its reputation as a great eating city. From clam chowder to cannoli, the most popular dishes here are often hearty and decadent. Boston is also known for fresh lobster rolls, roast beef sandwiches and, of course, Boston cream pie.

Ask any Bostonian where to find “the best" of anything, and everyone will recommend a different spot. Cannoli from Mike's Pastry, Boston cream pie from Omni Parker House (where it was invented) and the roast beef 1000 sandwich from Cutty's frequently top the must-try lists. If you make it to a ball game at Fenway Park, Fenway Franks are a Boston staple.

Amazing destination

Bora Bora: The most beautiful island in the world

By The Hub team

Each week we will profile one of our employee's adventures across the globe, featuring a new location for every employee's story. Follow along every week to learn more about their travel experiences.

By Chicago-based United Club Customer Service Representative Amile Ribeiro.

They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I know it can be very subjective but, once you set your eyes on it, I'm sure you'll agree with me: Bora Bora is the most beautiful island in the world.

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There are very few things that can get me out of bed early in the morning, and airplanes are one of those things. We were already in Tahiti and woke up at the crack of dawn to catch our quick flight to Bora Bora. After checking in at the airport and getting a quick breakfast, we headed over to the gate to line up for our flight. Air Tahiti has an open seating arrangement, and we wanted to make sure we got the best possible seats. We were able to secure two windows seats. Travel tip: Sit on the left side of the plane when landing in Bora Bora. We took off from Papeete and within minutes we were flying over Mo'orea. Then we flew around Ra'i ātea and Taha'a, and finally arrived in Bora Bora, the island that Polynesians call "First Born." Pora Pora is the actual local pronunciation, but the first explorers misunderstood it and 'Bora Bora' stuck. Though after setting foot on the island, I've come to call it "Paradise on Earth."

At the airport we were met by a representative of our resort, given flower leis and directed to our high-speed boat. I couldn't believe the color of the water; it was as if Paul Gauguin himself had painted it. After a thrilling ride, we reached our hotel's dock, where a local playing the ukulele welcomed us. We were then given a tour of the astonishing property and were taken by golf cart to our overwater bungalow. We have stayed in many beautiful properties around the world, but when we opened the door of our bungalow our jaws dropped. It is truly a one-of-a-kind experience that all should have at least once in their lifetimes. And worth every penny. The view of majestic Mount Otemanu is something right out of a fairy tale. After the sun set, the nighttime dance show was equally enchanting.

Employee and her husband at local ball

We had planned to be in Bora Bora during the final leg of the famous Hawaiki Nui Va'a canoe competition, which happens to be a major event in the cultural life of French Polynesia and has the reputation for being the toughest canoe race in the world. The center stage was at the island's most beautiful beach, Matira. We stood in awe as the winners reached the finish line after several hours (and days before that) of frantic paddling from island to island, showcasing the power of human strength and endurance. Besides being an incredible sporting challenge, it is also a colorful spectacle that filled the beach with flower-clad women and the air with the pulsating beat of drums. We were also able to celebrate and dance with them later that night at the local ball in Vaitape (Bora Bora's largest city). It was a marvelous way to get a deeper understanding of another culture!

Besides having the time of our lives at the resort's infinity pools, inner lagoons and beach, we also went to the Turtle Center and had a chance to feed these amazing creatures while they're being rehabilitated to go back into open waters. From there, we took a boat tour of the main lagoon and went swimming with stingrays and sharks. Few things scare me in life, and sharks are on the very top of that short list, but I mustered the courage and what a thrill it was! To commemorate my bravery on the last day of our trip, I got my very first tattoo: a hammerhead shark. Polynesians believe that such sharks act as guardian angels to humans and protect us from the Great White. My husband got a Polynesian design that was custom made just for him, and it represents travel, freedom and courage. We also got a set of matching Polynesian wedding bands. Since the art of tattoo originated in Polynesia, this is the most enduring souvenir one can get from such an amazing culture, but I'm sure the memories of our trip will also stay with us forever!

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Weekend inspiration: Singapore

By Kelsey + Courtney Montague

Singapore is, in a word, a marvel. With over 5.5 million people, it is one of the most densely populated cities in the world. However, over 50 percent of the land on this island is covered by green spaces, including 50 parks and four nature reserves. Given all its greenery, and how spotless the city is, the city doesn't feel congested or cramped. Instead, it's a stunning confluence of Asian and ex-pat culture.

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Friday evening

When you arrive in Singapore, we recommend making reservations at Lavo Italian Restaurant & Rooftop Bar in Marina Bay Sands Hotel Tower 1. Try to go early for a drink and a walk around their scenic balcony.

If you have enough room after dinner, head over to Non-Entrée Deserts for desserts that will blow your mind. Make sure to order The Chocolate Avalanche or the Rubber Ducky, depending on if you like chocolate or mango sorbet, respectively.

Saturday

There's no time to waste in this stunning Asian metropolis, so we recommend waking up early and checking out a local favorite for breakfast: Toast Box. We love the Kaya Toast, a sweet coconut based jam with butter on toasted bread.

Gardens by the Bay in Singapore

Gardens by the Bay in Singapore

After breakfast, grab a cappuccino and make your way over to the famous Gardens By The Bay. Stroll through all of it, but if you have a limited amount of time, don't miss the Cloud Forest - home to the tallest man-made waterfall in the world. If it's not raining, you have to see The Garden's "super trees," man-made trees that are each 25-50 meters tall and full of vertical gardens. After you've had your fill of the most beautiful flowers & greenery in the city, continue your walk to the Art Science Museum.

The Art Science Museum sits in the unique intersection of art and science. Each installation is interesting and many are interactive. Make sure to grab a coffee at their cute gift shop on the main floor on your way out.

The Marina Bay Sands Mall sits right next to the Museum. Head to the mall for an afternoon of shopping and, if you're hungry, grab lunch at Black Tap Burgers in the mall. Although you should expect a line, their crazy milkshakes are well worth the wait. Their cake batter milkshake is our personal favorite.

Cake batter milkshake from Black Tap Burgers

Dinner at Caffe Fernet with a beautiful view of the Marina Bay Sands Hotel is a must. After dinner, if you have the energy, we recommend walking to Merlion Park to see Singapore's most famous foundation.

Sunday

Wake up and grab a Kopi coffee in a to-go bag at Singapore Zam Zam, then continue your walk down Haji Lane and be on the look out for cute shops & restaurants. Here are a few of our favorites:

  • Selfie Coffee – You can take a selfie and they'll print it on a coffee for you.
  • Juice Clinic – Perfect for healthy foods and really fantastic juices.
  • 68 Haji Lane – Cute boutique for jewelry, purses and handbags.
  • Windowsill Pies – This is, hands down, the best smelling shop on the lane. Grab a slice of pie and head upstairs to their second floor to watch the bakers bake. If you go up one more floor you'll find a cozy Harry Potter-feeling attic room.
  • Funq – A great place for drinks, people watching or a light lunch.
  • Arab Street – This street right next to Haji Lane is incredibly cute with some great shops.

Singapore Zam Zam

Atlas, a stunning bar in Singapore

If you're looking for a pre-dinner drink stop by Atlas, a stunning bar. If you have time, make reservations beforehand – we arrived at 3 p.m. when they opened and there was already a line.

Cap off the night with a drink on the rooftop bar at Andaz Singapore. Enjoy a cocktail with an incredible 360-degree view.

On your way out be sure to stand with our botanically inspired #WhatLiftsYou wing mural on the 25th floor.

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Weekend inspiration: Bangkok

By Kelsey + Courtney Montague

Bangkok is a city steeped in mystery to many, especially to people from the West. Its name alone is fascinating. The word "bang" in Thai means "village on a stream." "Ko" means "island." People believe its name is an ode to the key rivers that work their way through and around the city. We recently spent some time in Bangkok, so if you're there for a few days, be sure to visit some of our favorite spots.

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Friday evening

When you arrive we recommend grabbing drinks and dinner on Khao San Road. This is a back-packers paradise and the perfect place to grab a cheap and quick meal. Tom Yum Goong Banglamphu has incredible hot and sour shrimp soup. If you're looking for Western fare, stop by Mulligans for some fish and chips. The best place to get a drink and people watch is The One Bar — a little pricey but worth it.

Saturday

A trip to Bangkok would not be complete without a tuk-tuk ride. Ask your hotel's concierge to organize the tuk-tuk. Pro tip: make sure they negotiate the price with the driver before you leave the hotel.

The Grand Palace is a great place to go for your first stop in Bangkok. Try to get there early to avoid the lines. Flip-flops or open toed shoes aren't allowed within the palace, so be sure to wear closed-toe shoes. Also, try to make sure your shoulders and legs are covered. If you don't have a long skirt or pants, have no fear. They sell loose, comfy pants in ornate patterns at the entrance to the palace (they were so comfortable we honestly wore them the rest of the trip).

The Grand Palace is breathtaking and has been home to the Kings of Siam (later named Thailand) since 1782. Take your time as you stroll around the palace grounds and visit the many different buildings. Over 200 years of royally inspired craftsmanship grace every wall, hall and chandelier in the palace.

After exploring the Grand Palace, take a cab ride over to the Marble Palace — here you'll find a site less touristy, but just as beautiful. For an Instragram-worthy spot and a very different scene, check out the Unicorn Café. Everything in the café is unicorn inspired, even the food.

Saturday evening

We highly recommend heading to dinner at Thara Thong. This restaurant has fantastic food, it's in a beautiful location and there is a fun traditional Thai dance performance that starts after 6 p.m. Make sure to get reservations beforehand.

Sunday

Your trip to Bangkok wouldn't be complete without visiting a floating market. We suggest getting up early and visiting the Khlong Lat Mayom floating market. Allow yourself to get lost in the sights and smells with the locals as they shop for their weekly groceries. Then, visit the Chatuchak weekend market (only open on the weekend) — which is the equivalent of Bangkok's Grand Bazaar. While there, try a Thai coconut and buy plenty of souvenirs for your friends and family at home.

After wandering around the markets, consider speaking to your hotel about getting a Thai massage. If you've never had a massage, be sure to let your masseur know, but simply put a Thai massage is similar to a deep tissue massage here in the U.S.

Sunday evening

With a population of over 8.2 million people, it's difficult to understand how huge Bangkok is until you set foot on one of the many stunning rooftop bars or restaurants in the city. We love The Surawongse at the Bangkok Marriott Hotel. The views on this rooftop were only surpassed by the kindness of the staff and the quality of the cocktails.

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