The Most Important Resources for LGBTQ Travelers - United Hub

The most important resources for LGBTQ travelers

By The Hub team

By Meredith Heil

This story was originally published on AFAR| May 8, 2019

From an interactive website that tracks global LGBTQ-related laws to a travel-oriented app that facilitates meetups abroad, these are the trip-planning tools that LGBTQ travelers should know about.

As a queer travel writer, I'm constantly thinking about LGBTQ culture and tourism on an international scope. I've learned that whether it's tracking down the best gay bars in Berlin or making sure it's safe to hold hands while walking the streets of an unfamiliar city, the LGBTQ community's travel planning needs aren't always met by picking up a one-size-fits-all guidebook.

Thankfully, the internet is rife with travel advice that provides lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender adventurers with the information needed to design the trip of a lifetime. From navigating foreign laws to booking a gay-friendly resort, this trusty list of travel resources has you covered.

LGBTQ-specific travel news and safety basics

U.S. State Department A section of this government-run online resource offers basic pointers for LGBTQ travelers such as travel document checklists, general safety tips, and information about travel insurance and various U.S. embassy locations.

Equaldex Launched in 2014, this interactive map-anchored website keeps a running tab on LGBTQ rights-related laws around the world via a global network of user contributions.

National Center for Transgender Equality This Washington, D.C.-based advocacy organization addresses information relevant to gender-nonconforming and transgender travelers. It features a particularly comprehensive guide to airport security that addresses concerns related to potentially intrusive TSA screening procedures.

OutRight Action International Formerly known as the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, this nonprofit publishes news, studies, and reports on LGBTQ issues around the world that can help travelers stay informed about safety in various destinations.

Erasing 76 Crimes Journalist and LGBTQ advocate Colin Stewart heads up this news-oriented blog that spotlights global developments related to LGBTQ rights spanning countries across the Middle East, Asia, Africa, Europe, Oceania and the Americas.

GoAbroad's LGBTQ Study Abroad Guide For queer students interested in studying abroad, this PDF provides a wealth of information, including tips for coming out to a host family, LGBTQ-specific scholarships and a list of queer-friendly study abroad programs.

LGBTQ-friendly accommodations and services

The International LGBTQ+ Travel Association This website acts as a one-stop-shop for all things related to LGBTQ travel planning. It brings together a massive network of queer-approved hotels, transportation providers, tourism boards, travel agencies, tour operators, event promoters and local media in over 80 countries worldwide; it also maintains recommendation-based travel and business blogs.

Purple Roofs An LGBTQ mainstay since the late '90s, this booking website showcases small, family-owned bed-and-breakfasts, hotels, vacation rentals, inns, and tour companies worldwide. It also hosts a variety of related travel resources, including event listings and a dedicated LGBTQ travel blog.

World Rainbow Hotels This modern travel directory combines a curated list of stylish, queer-friendly hotels in countries where attitudes toward gay, lesbian, bisexual, and trans travelers are for the most part accepting. The website also features an image-driven blog full of travel inspiration, global news, events and other articles.

Travel Gay and Travel Gay AsiaThese twin booking sites serve a predominantly gay male audience, pointing international travelers to city guides with relevant information about bars, clubs, saunas, shops, beaches, and events, as well as queer-friendly hotels across the globe.

GayCities A similarly gay male–focused online travel guide, this web resource recommends gay-friendly bars, clubs, restaurants, hotels, shops, gyms and more in 238 different cities from Cape Town to Mexico City.

In addition to explicitly LGBTQ outlets, you can now find pages dedicated to LGBTQ consumers on mainstream online travel booking sites like Expedia and Orbitz. Queer-oriented promotions and packages are also often offered by big-name hotels such as Marriott and Kimpton.

LGBTQ-specialized tour operators and agencies

LGBTQ-friendly tour operators for organized trips (both group and private)

For LGBTQ travelers who'd rather leave trip planning to the experts, award-winning tour operators such as Outstanding Travel, Zoom Vacations, Out Adventures, Toto Tours, Detours Traveland Concierge Travel all offer a diverse array of international group and private trips. International tour operator R Family Vacations also designs and leads LGBTQ family-friendly trips (plus a few new adults-only options) on land and at sea for public groups and individuals. The queer-run wilderness education organization, The Venture Out Project, operates LGBTQ-specific backpacking trips in the United States for teens, adults and families.

LGBTQ-friendly cruises

Inclusive travel company Vacaya hosts curated LGBTQ getaways on chartered cruise ships, as well as to all-LGBTQ international resorts. The popular lesbian travel brand Olivia Cruises has been running entertainment-filled cruise, resort, adventure, and riverboat group trips exclusively for queer female-identified travelers since 1990. And cruise company Source Events, which caters predominantly to gay men and their families, organizes both all-gay charters and private LGBTQ groups aboard larger cruise ships (as well as personalized cruise journeys and on-land group itineraries).

LGBTQ-friendly travel and networking apps

From joining queer-specific networking groups, to checking for upcoming LGBTQ events in different cities, to starting important conversations about shared experiences through hashtags such as #travelingwhiletrans, LGBTQ travelers have long relied on social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter when planning for domestic and international trips. More recently, meetup apps have created new opportunities for connection between LGBTQ travelers.

Apps (available on iOS and Android)

Meetup This stalwart community-building platform is a great tool for connecting with fellow LGBTQ folks and getting to know local queer scenes on the road. The "LGBTQ Meetups" section points app users toward various happy hours, professional networking events, book clubs, and hiking groups, as well as playgroups for LGBTQ parents.

SCRUFF Venture Gay dating app SCRUFF recently launched a travel-oriented edition aimed at making it easier to connect with LGBTQ people "before and while you travel." By clicking into one of the app's 500-plus destinations, users can view members marked as "visiting now" or "visiting soon" in each given location. The app also provides travel tips from city "Ambassadors" (members who volunteer to give advice and recommendations to visitors), plus updates about

LGBTQ issue–related travel advisories.

Refuge Restrooms This important resource for trans, intersex, and gender-nonconforming individuals maps out safe restrooms in various countries around the world, which users can search for based on proximity to a location.

LGBTQ-focused travel magazines and blogs

Magazines

Out Magazine's online outpost Out Traveler covers everything from luxury LGBTQ-friendly hotels and nightlife hot spots to the latest must-have gadgets for jet-setters. Passport Magazine, available in both digital and print formats, touches upon a wealth of topics related to LGBTQ travel, with sections devoted to food and drink, hotel reviews, product roundups, and events. Also worth checking out is Connextions Magazine, which compiles long-form hotel reviews, human interest stories, destination guides and other global lifestyle content relevant to LGBTQ travelers. (The print and digital publication also has a Spanish edition.)

Although not their main focus, many widely circulated LGBTQ lifestyle outlets like theAdvocate, Curve, Autostraddle, Diva, and Chill also feature travel-related news, commentary, city guides, hotel reviews, profiles and more.

Blogs

Touted as "a lifestyle blog for men and other stylish travelers," the popular blog Travels of Adam hosts op-eds and personal essays, LGBTQ travel tips and hacks, and restaurant, bar, and hotel reviews in destinations from Egypt to England. Married couple Auston and David head up another gay male–focused travel blog called Two Bad Tourists, which features navigating international gay-friendly destinations, festivals and events.

On the queer female travel blog Dopes on the Road, you can expect to find a wide range of content, from travel diaries and safety tips to pop culture commentary. Beautiful photo galleries, travel journals, LGBTQ profiles and interviews, travel tips and destination guides dominate Once Upon a Journey, a helpful travel blog from lesbian couple Roxanne Weijer and Maartje Hensen.

Entertainment for all

By The Hub team, August 04, 2020

Our Marketing Inflight Entertainment and Connectivity team and Bridge, our Business Resource Group (BRG) for people with all abilities, partnered together to test and provide feedback on our award-winning seatback inflight entertainment (IFE) system.

Aptly named "Entertainment for all," our new seatback IFE system offers the an extensive suite of accessibility features, allowing for unassisted use by people of all visual, hearing, mobility and language abilities.

"It's nice to know that I can get on a plane and pick my favorite entertainment to enjoy, just like every customer," said Accessibility Senior Analyst and Developer and Bridge Chief of Staff Ray C., who is blind.

"As a deaf employee, the closed captioning availability on board our aircraft is something I value greatly," added Information Technology Analyst Greg O. "The new IFE further cements United's visibility within the deaf community and elsewhere. It makes me proud to be an employee."

Accessibility features of the new IFE include a text-to-speech option, explore by touch, customizable text size, screen magnification, color correction and inversion modes, and alternative navigation options for those unable to swipe or use a handset. For hearing-impaired and non-English-speaking passengers, customization options provide the ability for customers to be served content and receive inflight notifications based on their preferences and settings —with closed captions, with subtitles or in the language of their choice from the 15 languages supported. Our "Entertainment for all" system won the Crystal Cabin Award in 2019, and recently, the Dr. Margaret Pfanstiehl Research and Development Award for Audio Description by the American Council of the Blind.

"This really showed the benefits of partnering with BRGs in helping us improve products and services for our customers and employees," said Inflight Entertainment and Connectivity Senior Manager Corinne S. "Even though we have been recognized with awards for our IFE accessibility features, we are not resting on our laurels but continuing to work towards improving the inflight entertainment experience for all of our customers to ensure entertainment is available for all."

Shaping an inclusive future with Special Olympics

By The Hub team, July 24, 2020

If your travels have taken you through Chicago O'Hare International Airport anytime since October 2019, you may have had a friendly, caring and jovial exchange with Daniel Smrokowski. Daniel is one of four Service Ambassadors thanks to our ongoing partnership with Special Olympics. This inaugural ambassador program aims to provide Special Olympic athletes employment opportunities within our operation, affording them a unique and meaningful career.

Since 2018, our partnership with Special Olympics has become one of United's most cherished relationships, going beyond the events we take part in and volunteer with. While the plane pull competitions, polar plunges, duck derbies and Special Olympics World Games and other events around the world are a big part of our involvement, the heart of this partnership lies with the athletes and individuals supported by Special Olympics. To advocate for their inclusion in every setting is one of our biggest honors, and we take great pride in the role we play in the organization's inclusion revolution.

Aiding in the success of Special Olympics' mission to create continuing opportunities for individuals with intellectual disabilities, throughout the two-year partnership, United has volunteered over 10,500 hours and donated over $1.2 million in travel to the organization. The impact of this partnership is felt at every level, both at Special Olympics and within our own ranks.

"The Inclusion Revolution campaign, led by our athletes, aims to end discrimination against people with intellectual disabilities. United Airlines has joined in our fight for inclusion, empowering our athletes with the skills needed to succeed and opportunities to contribute their abilities as leaders," said Special Olympics International Chairman Tim Shriver. "United Airlines believes that people with intellectual disabilities should be perceived as they really are: independent, world-class athletes, students, employees, neighbors, travelers, and leaders who contribute to make this world a better place."

Our Service Ambassador program is just one of the many ways Special Olympics has impacted not only our employees, but also our customers. "I see every day how our Service Ambassadors connect with our customers the moment they walk into the airport lobby," said Senior Customer Service Supervisor Steve Suchorabski. "They provide a warm, welcoming smile ad assist in any way they can. To see these young adults hold positions that a society once told them they couldn't is truly the most heartwarming part of my job," Steve continued.

"The opportunity to be a part of the United family means everything to me," Daniel said. "I feel so much pride showing up to work in a Special Olympics/United co-branded uniform, working among such a loving and supportive community. The relationship between these two organizations is truly helping to shape my future while letting me use my gifts of communicating and helping others. Hopefully, I can spend my entire career at United," Daniel added.

In honor of Special Olympics' Global Week of Inclusion in July, we're asking our employees, customers and partners to sign a pledge to #ChooseToInclude at jointherevolution.org/pledge.

And be sure to check out Daniel's podcast The Special Chronicles.

United works with partners to send food to USDA food bank

By The Hub team, July 23, 2020

In collaboration with food-logistics company Commodity Forwarders Inc. (CFI), United moved nearly 190,000 pounds of fresh produce to Guam for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Coronavirus Farm Assistance Program. This new program was created to provide critical support to consumers impacted by the COVID-19 global pandemic.

A variety of fresh fruits were transported from Los Angeles (LAX) to Guam (GUM) on United's newly introduced, non-stop cargo-only flight – a route added to meet cargo demand during the COVID-19 crisis. The fresh food was repacked in 10-pound cases in Los Angeles, prepared for departure at CFI's LAX location, and flown to GUM by the United team. Through this beneficial partnership between United and CFI, the perishable goods were kept cool during every step of the process and distributed as part of the food bank program in Guam.

"Everyone on our team has worked relentlessly during the pandemic to get critical goods to where they are needed most. Establishing a comprehensive network of cargo-only flights have allowed us to keep the supply chain moving even while passenger flight capacity has been reduced," said Regional Senior Manager of Cargo Sales, Marco Vezjak. "Knowing that we are able to help during these difficult times – in this case the Guam community – is our biggest reward and greatest motivation to keep moving forward."

United is proud to play a role in maintaining the global food supply chain and helping people access the supplies they need. Since March 19, United has operated over 4,000 cargo-only flights, moving over 130 million pounds of cargo.

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