You’ve booked your plane ticket for the holidays and are looking forward to festive conversations around the dinner table and that second slice of pie. You may already be wise to the benefits of booking your flight well before the holidays are here – including better fares, a choice of dates and times and seat availability. But there are additional things you can do to help ensure a smooth travel experience. Here are some tips to help get your holiday off to a great start.
Before you go
Besides booking your flight early (it’s not unreasonable to purchase your ticket months in advance of the holiday), avoiding certain travel dates is also advised. For example, the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and the Sunday after Thanksgiving are heavy travel days. The day after Christmas and New Year’s Day can be very busy, as can the weekends that follow those holidays.
Know your departure and arrival times
Another important tip: If someone is meeting you at your destination, give a quick call, text or email to confirm the arrival time. Also, provide your flight number and remind them to check the flight’s arrival time before they head to the airport to meet you. Direct them to our Flight Status & Information page at united.com/flightstatus
or sign them up for flight reminders
MileagePlus members can take advantage of our flight status notification subscription service
, which automatically notifies you if your flight is on time, delayed or canceled. You’ll also receive an alert when you can check in and receive your boarding pass.
View the airport layout
Familiarize yourself with the airport terminals in your departure and arrival cities. View our airport maps
Carry proper documentation
Be sure you have a government-issued photo ID with you such as a driver’s license or passport. Check our Documentation Requirements
page for details. Also, note that the name on the ID that you’re using for travel must exactly match the name on your reservation.
Plan airport transportation
Take the time to plan how you’ll be getting to the airport – and leave for the airport early. During holidays, roads can be congested near the airport and parking lots are often full. Consider taking public transportation, a shuttle bus or another option that doesn’t require you to drive your own vehicle – or you may be able to reserve a spot in a satellite lot.
Before packing your bags, know exactly what you can carry on and what you can, and should, check. Planes are usually full during the holiday season and you’ll want to avoid having to check bags last minute that you intended to carry on. Also, familiarize yourself with regulation-size bags to avoid having to pay extra for oversized items.
Label your bags
As an extra precautionary measure, we suggest you put your name and contact information on the outside and inside of each bag you plan to check. Consider printing out your itinerary or email confirmation and slipping that into your bag to make baggage identification more efficient.
Carry unwrapped gifts
If you’re toting holiday gifts for others, don’t wrap them in advance. TSA agents may inspect wrapped packages, which means undoing your carefully taped wrapping paper and nicely tied bows.
Follow the 3-1-1 rule
The "3-1-1 rule" applies to all carry-on items: Each liquid, gel or aerosol that you carry on board with you must be placed in a container that holds no more than 3 ounces, and you must put all of your 3-ounce (or smaller) containers in a single quart-sized, zip-top plastic bag. You’re allowed to carry only one zip-top bag with you. At the security checkpoint, remove your plastic bag from your carry-on baggage and place it in a screening bin before sending it through the X-ray machine. If you're checking a bag, keep things simple and pack your liquids in your checked baggage.
Give yourself extra time
Airports are particularly bustling during the holiday season, and you’ll want to give yourself extra time before a flight. This can help ease the stress when navigating busy check-in areas, security lines and crowded boarding gates.
If you’re traveling within the U.S. during peak holidays and you’re taking only carry-on bags, you should arrive at least 60 minutes before your flight. If you do have bags to check, we suggest you arrive at least 90 minutes prior to departure. For travel outside the U.S., it’s a good idea to arrive at the airport at least two hours before your flight.
If you’re flying out of one of our large hubs – for example, Chicago, Cleveland, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Newark, San Francisco or Washington Dulles – we recommend you add an extra hour to these suggested times.
You can view a list of check-in and processing times
for our airports (be sure to scroll down to the charts with the processing times for airports sections) but keep in mind that these times are for normal travel periods, not holidays.
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) requires that all reservations contain Secure Flight information
, including full name, date of birth and gender, a minimum of 72 hours prior to travel or at the time of ticketing, whichever comes first. If you don’t present this information, you may be denied transportation.
Check in early
We offer a number of ways for you to save time by checking in and retrieving your boarding pass before you get to the airport – in fact, starting 24 hours before your flight departure time.
On united.com, you can check in and print out your boarding pass from united.com/checkin
or request to have your boarding pass sent to your mobile device.
You can also check in and receive your mobile boarding pass directly from your mobile device – by using our mobile app for Apple, Android, BlackBerry and Windows devices or by accessing our mobile website.
With your boarding pass right there on your device, once you’re at the airport, you simply scan the barcode at airport security checkpoints and at the gate during boarding. If a seat change, upgrade or change in departure gate occurs, your boarding document can be refreshed to display the new information.
In addition to checking in and pulling up your boarding pass, the
all-new version of our app for iPhone offers access to a new easy-to-use home screen, travel cards and travel wallet, adding
even more convenience on the go.
Check in at the airport
You can also check in and print out your boarding pass at one of our airport kiosks
. If you haven’t flown recently, be sure to check out the more modern,
simplified design of our new kiosks that helps make the check-in process faster
and more intuitive. Just remember, if you’re flying internationally,
please allow extra time to swipe your passport at the kiosk and retrieve your boarding pass.
At designated kiosks, you can check your bags. Use the screens to indicate the number of bags you’re checking and, after you receive your boarding pass, proceed with your bags to the designated bag-drop area near the kiosk. One of our representatives will take care of everything from there.
Note: We also offer curbside check-in and bag drop at some airports.
Help speed up your security screening
The best way to speed up the screening process is to avoid having anything on or with you that might lead the TSA officers to pull you aside for additional screening. You can help prevent extra screening by emptying your pockets and putting any metal items, such as large or heavy jewelry, in your carry-on bag. You should also avoid wearing clothing with a high metal content, and if you have some sort of hidden medical device, be sure to let an officer know in advance.
If you travel somewhat frequently, you may want to consider applying for TSA pre-screening, a program designed to speed up checkpoint screening for known travelers and active duty service members. The program allows certain travelers to get through security more quickly and easily at select airports. Learn more about TSA pre-screening program.
Make yourself comfortable
A few helpful tips can help you stay as rested and healthy as possible when you’re traveling. Even with a one-hour hop from Chicago to Cleveland, it’s advisable to wear comfortable clothes and shoes for the flight. For longer itineraries, you can perform simple stretches
while you’re in your seat. When the captain has indicated that it’s safe to get out of your seat, take advantage of the opportunity with a brief walk in the aisle.
Keep yourself hydrated by drinking plenty of water or juice before and during the flight. Eating light meals and avoiding caffeinated beverages and alcohol while you fly can help you feel refreshed when you reach your destination.
We hope you find these tips and tools helpful to streamline your travel during the holidays. If you have a great tip that you’d like to share with your fellow travelers, please let us know by adding an article comment.