Travel tips - United Hub

Travel tips

10 essential tips for the solo traveler

By Nick Harper

Are you a solo traveler? The sort of person who wants to head out into the world and experience whatever you like, wherever you like, whenever you like? You're not alone.

Research shows a spike in bookings for solo travelers across almost all age groups in recent years — from baby boomers to millennials. More and more of us want the freedom to travel on our own terms, and more and more of us are turning those dreams into reality.

If you're a first-time solo traveler, you'll feel liberated, but before you head out on your first solo journey, here are 10 things you should know.

Woman traveling by herself


1. You'll come back a better person

Of the many benefits of solo travel is that you'll come back a more confident, independent person, regardless of how confident you were when you set out. When you travel in a group, or even just a pair, you're free to fall back on others and let them decide for you. But when you're traveling solo, every decision is ultimately up to you. And with each decision you make, you'll grow as a person.

2. You need to tell people where you're going

While solo travel isn't unsafe, you won't have anyone to watch your back, or your bags. Give yourself, your friends and your family peace of mind by leaving a copy of your itinerary that includes your flight times, accommodations and anything that helps them keep track of your whereabouts. Then, make another list with international emergency lines, U.S. embassy numbers, toll-free and international numbers for your credit card company, travel insurance documents and anything you might need in an emergency. And before you travel, register your trip with the U.S. State Department's STEP program, so that the local embassy or consulate can assist you if they need to.

Two men traveling together in an airport

3. You don't have to go solo all the way

It's very easy to make friends on a solo vacation, should you choose to. Stay in lodges or hostels rather than hotels and you'll share space with like-minded travelers but be prepared: you probably won't have peace and quiet like you would in a hotel room). If you're up for meeting other solo travelers, choose small group or escorted travel, particularly to destinations that are off-the-beaten-path. Expedition cruises and safaris are two other popular options if you're looking for more social experiences.

4. Buddying up can be good for your budget

Two words send shivers down the spines of solo travelers: single supplement. Since hotels charge by the room — not by the number of people using the room — you'll likely be charged the same rate as two people sharing a room if you book alone. . Try to reserve a single room well in advance, but if you can't do that, check any single supplement charges before you book. You can also ask about a roommate option where you sign up to share a room with another solo traveler, saving money and making a friend.

Man traveling through Kuala Lumpur

5. Choose your destination wisely

The world is your oyster but be careful not to bite off more than you can chew. A shorter trip somewhere close to home will give you a good idea of how solo travel works. From there you can work up to bigger adventures. London, Tokyo, Sydney, Melbourne and Bangkok all rank very highlywith solo travelers from the U.S. And there are plenty of great U.S. destinations, like New York, Seattle, San Diego and Washington, D.C., and lots of great options on a smaller scale, like Austin, Texas; Charleston, South Carolina; Asheville, North Carolina; and Boulder, Colorado. Most of those are big, vibrant, bustling cities with enough to keep you entertained around the clock, and each gives you the chance to meet other travelers or explore on your own.

6. You're free to make it up as you go

Solo trips mean every decision you make is up to you and only affects only you. Want to ride a mule deep into the Grand Canyon? You can. Want to spend three days in the Louvre? That's your call. Want to sleep in until midday? Go for it.

Perhaps the greatest benefit of traveling alone is that you can do what you want whenever you want, and you can change your plans at any time. The freedom to make it up as you go is rare in everyday life and it won't last forever, so embrace it while you can.

Man exploring the Grand Canyon

7. You may encounter and defeat a new phobia

Solomangarephobia is the fear of eating alone in public. The dreaded table for one can be the most difficult and awkward part of solo travel, but it doesn't have to be. Seek out a casual cafe rather than a fancy restaurant. Then find a seat at the bar, on a terrace or in a booth, bring a book or your diary and chat to the restaurant staff. And from time to time, you can avoid the awkwardness completely by ordering room service and eating dinner on your bed.

8. You'll learn more by talking to the locals

Travel guide books and apps are great for gaining a better understanding of a place, but they're never as effective as speaking to the locals. An all-night salsa dancing joint in Havana, a secretive speakeasy in Brooklyn, the hands-down best street food in all of Bangkok — nobody knows the local scene like a local. Smile, attempt to say hello in their language, ask questions and you'll end up with a far better experience — and maybe even a friend for life.

9. You'll need a secret stash of cash

Running out of money a long way from home is never fun, but it's even more of a problem if you're all by yourself. To guard against an unexpected emergency, take a $100 bill and tuck it under the sole of your shoe. You might not need it, but if you do, that little piece of paper might just get you out of a scrape.

10. And you'll need to act appropriately

When you're traveling on your own, a little caution goes a long way. Research which neighborhoods are and aren't safe to roam, particularly alone and after dark. If you get lost, avoid standing around poring over maps like an obvious out-of-towner. If you drink, don't drink too much that you can't easily find your way back home. And as cynical as it might sound, keep an open mind but trust no one. The world is a big and beautiful place, but trust your common sense.

Solotravelerworld.com is an excellent resource to find out more.

And wherever you choose to travel, begin your solo trip by booking your flights via united.com or the United mobile app.

Going greener at airports across the country

By The Hub team

We're lightening our footprint at airports across the U.S. These efforts make your travels more environmentally friendly, as well as lessen the impact we're having on all our local communities. Check out the different ways we're doing this.

Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)

Biofuels program at LAX is at the heart of our sustainability pledge

We're committed to reducing our greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2050 so we've invested a lot in biofuels. Biofuels are made with renewable resources like agricultural waste or trash instead of petroleum. We're proud to be the leading airline in biofuels – operating the first U.S. commercial flight powered by renewable biofuel in 2011 and being the first airline to continuously use biofuel for regularly scheduled flights from Los Angeles since 2016.

San Francisco International Airport (SFO)

At SFO, you're flying from one of the nation's greenest airports

Boarding area E in Terminal 3 is our home at San Francisco. The LEED Gold-certified terminal features solar panels on the roof and terrazzo tile made from recycled glass. Sustainably designed with natural light and sweeping views, you can enjoy an open and airy feel throughout as you wait for your flight — a drastic change from the cramped, fluorescently lit terminal of the past.

O'Hare International Airport (ORD)

A new sustainable biofuels plant is coming to the Chicago area

One of our biofuel partners, Fulcrom BioEnergy, has announced that construction will begin in 2020 on a new biofuels plant in the Chicago area. This plant will produce approximately 33 million gallons of fuel annually, nearly half of which will be jet fuel. Our partnership with Fulcrum BioEnergy will reduce our carbon footprint as well as divert waste from landfills and create 160 full-time permanent jobs and 900 construction jobs at the local Fulcrum facilities.

Denver International Airport (DEN)

Our United Club locations at DEN are both comfortable and energy efficient

Through our partnership with Certifiably Green Denver, we've made improvements to both our United ClubSM locations at Denver. The East and West locations have each earned the Certificate of Environmental Excellence. You'll enjoy the same comfort and amenities you know and love at all our United Club locations, and you can rest easy knowing that behind the scenes we're being more energy efficient. We've also introduced recycled products and composting.

George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH)

Electric ride: Houston leads the pack in electric ground equipment

While across our network, 39% of our ground equipment systemwide is electric, that number jumps to 74% in Houston. Using electric equipment lowers our emissions and reduces our carbon footprint. This means we use less fuel, as well as keep the air around the airport cleaner for both our employees and our customers.

How to take care of the world as you travel around it

By The Hub team

We all want to explore the world and to do so in a way that limits any harm to the earth. We committed to reducing our greenhouse gas emission by 50% by 2050, and our award-winning Eco-Skies program has us flying toward a more sustainable future. You can do your part to help reduce the impact of your travels with these simple tips.

Pack lighter

Jet fuel is a major factor in the environmental impact we have when we fly, and the amount of jet fuel used on each flight is determined by factors including the weight of the aircraft. Ridding your suitcase of those two extra pairs of shoes you probably won't need really does make a difference — for every extra pound on the plane, we load and use more fuel on the aircraft. So if we all pack a few pounds lighter, we can use less fuel per flight.

Bring a reusable water bottle

Frequent flyers are well aware that liquids are not allowed through security, but empty bottles are another story. You can bring an empty reusable water bottle and fill it up at the many water fountains and filling stations throughout the airport. You'll save money and plastic if you don't need to buy a bottle of water in the terminal.

Don't stuff garbage into your cans, cups and bottles onboard

While you may do this to look out for your flight crew, it makes it harder to recycle those items. Since 2010, we've recycled over 30 million pounds of waste — help us separate trash from recycling to keep that going.

Pull down shades and open air vents

Once you've landed, pull down your window shades and open the air vents before you leave the plane. This helps keep the aircraft cool and uses less power for air conditioning on the ground.

Use public transportation

Most major cities have public transportation options to get you to and from the airport. Besides being both quick and economical, you'll also reduce the use of gas from a taxi or rideshare. Public transportation is also a great way to get around and get to know a new city.

Rent bicycles

Biking around a new city is a fun and great way to explore. Additionally, many major cities have introduced bike share programs which make it simple to rent a bike in one neighborhood and return it in another.

Reduce your carbon footprint

You can reduce your travel footprint by purchasing carbon offsets which support projects that reduce greenhouse gases. Calculate the footprint of your travel plans and donate money or miles to carbon reduction projects. Learn more.

Now you can go globetrotting and feel better about treading lightly. Do you have more green travel tips? Share them with us on social media!

Featured

Hydrating in-flight remedies for today’s global travelers

By The Hub team , April 02, 2019

Starting this month, you can now treat your skin to Sunday Riley formulated skincare products on board and in United Polaris® lounge locations. A pioneer in the Green Technology field, Sunday Riley products combine advanced actives and purified botanicals to truly transform your skin. A female-founded and led business, Sunday Riley is growing rapidly with an expanded reach across North America, Australia, Asia and Europe. Viewing skincare as an extension of self-care and overall wellness is something the brand recognizes especially when taking care of oneself on the go while traveling.

Soon, you'll see Sunday Riley on board for customers traveling in United Polaris business class, United Premium PlusSM, and on our premium transcontinental flights. There will also be new onboard lavatory skincare products in addition to new skin and bath items in our United Polaris lounge locations. All skincare is formulated by Sunday Riley exclusively for United with hydration in mind to meet a flyer's need for increased moisture as they travel.

  • United Polaris amenity kits will feature four skincare items: A lip balm, face moisturizer, hand cream and a facial cleansing cloth.
  • United Premium Plus amenity kits will include a lip balm as well as a hand cream.
  • Our premium transcontinental amenity kit will include a lip balm.
  • Onboard lavatories will include a face mist and hand cream.
  • United Polaris lounge locations will also feature a hand wash, hand cream, shampoo, conditioner and body wash specially formulated by Sunday Riley for United

We're thrilled to be bringing Sunday Riley products on board and into our lounges.

O'Hare wait times, in real time

By The Hub team

We have partnered with TSA and are working closely with them to bring new technology to security checkpoints, which will help reduce processing times and provide more information to those waiting in line. In February at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport, we launched a new wait time display system that helps inform passengers of expected security wait times and to further help them find their way to the correct checkpoint on their boarding pass from wherever they enter our lobby.

This innovative new technology calculates expected wait times by monitoring passenger throughput in each checkpoint. Screens positioned throughout our Terminal 1 lobby inform passengers of expected time to clear the security process, while also helping them navigate to the three different checkpoints in our lobby – Premier, PreCheck, and standard screening.

"Our new wait-time system now allows us to provide passengers with timely security information and peace of mind as they walk into the lobby and begin their journey, emphasizing our core4 standards of caring and efficient in another key part of the travel experience," said United's Customer Service Delivery Innovation Senior Analyst Paul Schrader.

The wait time display system will also help TSA optimize its resources by providing insights into checkpoint performance metrics and is just the latest in our other partnership efforts with TSA at O'Hare, including testing computed tomography scanners and installing Automated Screening Lanes to improve the screening experience.

Customers can currently see estimated wait times on our websites for Denver International Airport and San Francisco International airport. We are constantly assessing ways to improve the security experience for our customers, and the long term goal is to have wait time display systems active at all of our domestic U.S. hubs.

7 tips to stay travel savvy this year

By The Hub team

The beginning of the year is the perfect time to reflect on what's working and not working when it comes to travel habits and your travel routine. Here are seven tips to consider before you travel next.

1. Apply for Global Entry

For those who travel internationally, Global Entry will make your travel experience feel like a breeze. With expedited clearance privileges, you'll be able to skip long customs lines when entering the U.S. from international destinations. To apply, you'll need to complete a background check and an in-person interview. The membership costs $100 for five years. And the bonus: TSA Pre✓ ® is included.

2. Take advantage of loyalty programs

Earn award miles through a great selection of credit card products including the United℠ Explorer Card and the United MileagePlus® Club card. From free checked bags and priority boarding to United Club℠ passes and Premier Access®, you'll find an award program that fits your travel needs.

You don't have to have status to get into one of our United Club℠ locations, either. Purchase a one-day pass for $59 through the United app or at the lounge's front desk. Once inside, you can recharge in comfortable seats, grab a bite to eat, enjoy a complimentary beverage or catch up with work.

3. Utilize airport amenities

From world-class restaurants to relaxing retreats, many airport locations have amenities that are worth a visit. With major upgrades to restaurant and bar offerings, you'll soon forget you're in an airport terminal. Below are a few locations worth checking out:

  • Vino Volo wine bars that offer great wines by the glass or flights, along with bottles (check for locations here)
  • The relaxing yoga room at San Francisco International Airport, located in Terminal 2
  • Olio, an upscale eatery known for paninis and soups that's the brainchild of award-winning Chef Monica Pope, located in Terminal C at George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston
  • Melange, a bakery and chocolatier, located in Terminal C at Newark Liberty International Airport
  • Tortas Frontera by award-winning chef Rick Bayless, located in Terminal 1 at Chicago O'Hare International Airport

4. Download a travel app

There are currently thousands of apps designed to make your travel life easier. By utilizing more travel apps, you can make your trip more seamless, from packing more efficiently to easily finding great restaurants near you. Three apps you may want to consider downloading are:

  • Gate Guru, which gives locations of restaurants and stores at the top airports in the world. There are also user reviews, and sometimes you can even get a discount coupon.
  • Packing Pro, for those who want to be more organized when trying to decide what — and what not — to bring on a trip. There are customizable and sample packing lists that cover every contingency.
  • United, may be thought of as solely a way to book flights and check in, but the app actually has a number of additional features, including a currency converter, airport maps and much more.

5. Pack smarter

Now that you've downloaded an app to help you pack smarter, next up is packing lighter. We've all overpacked at some point in our lives, but the trick that savvy travelers exercise when flying is that they always pack less. Try to maximize your carry-on for shorter trips and repeat outfits when going on longer trips. It may seem counter intuitive, but packing lists can be helpful — especially when planning out a longer trip where you'll be going from city to city lugging around a suitcase. Trust us, your back and travel companion will thank your future self.

6. Organize your travel documents

It goes without saying, but just in case it's not on your list, you should always photograph your travel documents including your ID and passport. You may take every precaution out there, but sometimes the unpredictable happens and your passport goes missing. Instead of scrambling to produce another copy, you'll rest assured with the second copy you made sure to pack away from your passport in case your luggage or personal backpack is stolen.

7. Use your vacation days

This may seem like an obvious tip, however, each year more than 700 million vacation days go unused in the U.S. If you've got the days, you should be using them. A long weekend trip offers you the chance to take a break from work and recharge, while also exploring a new city. Whether you visit a neighboring state or go abroad, you'll be able to get out and experience a new part of the world.

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