10 Tips to Make Summer Travel a Breeze - United Hub

10 tips to make summer travel a breeze

By The Hub team

It's time for a summer vacation. You've booked your ticket and you're looking forward to beaches, boardwalks, relaxing by a pool and connecting with family and friends. You may already be wise to the benefits of booking your flight well in advance — so here are ten tips to make sure your summer travel plans are seamless.

1. Get equipped for a smooth journey with the handy United app

Download the refreshed United mobile app before your flight to check flight status, check in, sign up for flight notifications, find your gates, access our free personal device entertainment when available and more. New features will streamline your experience by giving you quick access to these important details.

If you're registered for TSA Pre✓® your mobile boarding pass in the app will indicate this. You can even use our airport maps to find a beverage or snack prior to boarding.

2. Give yourself extra time at the airport

Arrive early and avoid the stress of the airport hustle. You'll want to give yourself extra time before your flight. The TSA advises arriving at the airport two hours before your flight for domestic travel and three hours for international travel, in anticipation of long security lines. This can help ease the stress when navigating busy check-in areas, security lines and crowded boarding gates.

To help everyone get through security lines as quickly as possible, please cooperate with TSA guidelines and have your boarding pass and identification ready before you get to the front of the line.

3. Make sure your bags are fit to fly

Pack smart. Before packing your bags, check to see what exactly you can carry on and what you should plan to check. Planes are usually full during summer vacation 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.

If you are planning to travel with food, be aware that food items may require further TSA inspection. If you're not sure if a food item is considered a liquid or a gel it is best to pack the item in your checked bag or ship it to your summer vacation destination in advance.

If you're traveling for a celebration and bringing gifts along, wait to wrap them until you reach your destination or consider shipping them. TSA agents may inspect wrapped packages, which could mean needing to undo your carefully wrapped packages and pristine bows.

Also, keep in mind we can't accept hoverboards, smart wheels and other self-balancing recreational devices powered by lithium batteries as checked or carry-on bags. You must remove spare lithium batteries from any checked or gate-checked bags, including batteries that are part of the bags themselves. Once removed, you can bring these batteries on board. We don't allow bags with non-removable lithium batteries on any United flights, including United Express® flights.

And to skip the wait at the baggage carousel, try BagsVIP, our door-to-door baggage delivery service.

4. Read our information about special travel requests and recommendations

Have a special request? Learn about the accommodations we provide for children, pets, travelers with disabilities, travelers with food allergies and more.

Traveling with children? Kids can ride in their collapsible strollers through the airport, and then these can be checked at your gate. Your stroller will be returned to you at the aircraft door at your connecting city or destination. If you're planning to bring a larger, non-collapsible stroller or car seat, you can check it in the lobby.

Traveling to a warm-climate location? Protect yourself from sun and bugs with these tips.

  • Apply sunscreen before spraying insect repellent
  • Use insect repellent containing at least 20% DEET
  • Wear lightweight, long-sleeve shirts, long pants and closed-toes shoes
  • Sleep in places that are air conditioned or screened against bugs

Learn more and find additional travel tips from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Do you need a wheelchair at the airport? We have wheelchairs available for customers with disabilities to use at each of our airports. It's best to request a wheelchair before the day you're traveling. You can arrange wheelchair service through your travel agent or by calling the United Accessibility Desk at 1-800-228-2744 within the U.S. or Canada. Once you arrive at the airport, notify a United representative or skycap that you need a wheelchair to get you to your departure gate, and they will assist you.

5. Check in starting 24 hours before departure

Save time with mobile check-in. You can check in and receive your boarding pass directly on your mobile device by using the United app. With your boarding pass right on your device, you simply scan the barcode at airport security checkpoints and at the gate during boarding.

You can also check in online and print out your boarding pass or request to have your boarding pass sent to your mobile device.

6. Ensure that you have all your personal items including necessary documentation

Make a checklist. Before heading out the door, double-check that you have all your personal items, including travel documents, ID, house keys, medicine and other valuables you may need on your trip. For international travel, please make sure that you have all the necessary documentation before arriving at the airport. Learn more about international travel document requirements

7. Check flight status, important notices and weather

Hit refresh. Check the United app regularly for the latest updates, weather conditions, flight status, and gate and seat assignments. You can also visit our important notices page to find important information and updates about travel waivers, international travel, TSA and security, airports and United Club℠ locations.

8. Before you board

Better Boarding. Once you're through security, check the United app or the screens at the airport for the latest gate assignments and boarding times. Arrive early to charge up your devices at our available charging stations and make sure your personal items (such as your backpack or purse) contain your items such as ID, medicine, keys, e-cigarettes and other valuables. With our "Better Boarding" process, you'll receive push notifications to the United app when your flight starts boarding. Customers will board through two color-coded lanes to ensure you spend less time standing in line. We encourage you to make yourself comfortable while you wait for your group to be called, and we'll let you know when we're ready for you to board.

9. Explore your inflight Wi-Fi and entertainment options

Prepare to be entertained. We have a variety of entertainment options to choose from including our free personal device entertainment and free DIRECTV® on select aircraft. You can check your flight status 48 hours before departure to peruse your Wi-Fi and entertainment options. Remember to do the following before you fly to access our streaming entertainment: 1) Download the United mobile app or ensure you have the most recent version downloaded on your device 2) Fully charge your device prior to boarding 3) Pack your headphones to enjoy hours of entertainment.

10. Start your summer vacation onboard

Relax and enjoy your flight. Our teams will be working to provide you with a great journey to your destination.

Cape Town: A first-timer’s guide to the Mother City

By Eric Rubens , December 07, 2019

Eric Rubens (@erubes1) is a MileagePlus member based in Southern California. He is a photographer/videographer who loves meeting new people and traveling the world.

When planning a vacation, one of the first steps is picking a theme. If you're in search of mountains, many look to the Rockies, Swiss Alps, or Dolomites. If a tropical vacation is desired, Hawaii, Mexico, or the Caribbean may be calling your name. There are so many beautiful destinations in this world, but is it possible for one of them to be blessed with incredible mountains, picturesque beaches, and some of the best wildlife viewing in the world?

Cape Town is one of the few places I've found that seems to have it all. With the iconic Table Mountain and Lion's Head rising out of the city, there are hikes leading up to majestic views down the African coastline. The beaches of Clifton and Camps Bay are some of the most incredible beaches on this planet. If wildlife peaks your interest, there's Boulder's Beach, home to one of the only land-based penguin colonies in the world. Did I mention the safari is a short trip away? Add in an exchange rate that is very favorable and you have all the makings of a trip you'll never forget.

Camps Bay Beach

Planning a trip to Africa for the first time can be both intimidating and a bit challenging. I found very few of my friends or family had been, which made my voyage to South Africa even more exciting. Cape Town is home to a hip urban scene, a vibrant melting pot of culture, and jaw dropping landscapes that'll make you wonder why you didn't visit sooner. There's no city quite like it, and this list of top things to do will make sure you maximize your time in the Mother City. Several theories exist regarding the origin of Cape Town's nickname as "The Mother City." Some say it can be traced back to the beginning of the city's history as a trading hub in the 17th century, or its status as South Africa's first metropolis. But many locals have their own theories – one running joke is that it takes nine months to get anything done in the very laid back city.

View from the top of Table Mountain

#1: Take a hike or tram up to the top of Table Mountain

This iconic mountain rising from the city is arguably home to Cape Town's best views. The 2 to 3-hour hike to the top makes for a fun activity if you're up for it. Otherwise, take in the view from the aerial cableway, complete with 360-degree rotating floor and running every 5 minutes from the base. Once up top, there's plenty of walking trails, souvenir shopping, and food and drinks. Table Mountain is known for the blanket of fog that rolls over the peak, so weather at the top can change quickly. Make sure to check the weather before heading up and bring a jacket, since the wind can be intense!

Penguins at Boulder Beach

#2: Visit the penguin colony at Boulder's Beach

Even though it's an hour or so drive from the city, visiting Boulder's Beach and its nearly 2,000 penguins is an unforgettable experience. Watching the penguins lounge on the beach and come in and out of the waves makes for some incredible pictures and a unique encounter. You can also swim in the nearby waters and will often come face to face with members of the colony.

#3: Wake up for a sunrise hike up Lion's Head

One of the most bucket list-worthy activities on a visit to Cape Town is catching sunrise atop Lion's Head. It's a challenging hike and not for those with a fear of heights, but you won't soon forget the view from the summit. If you're willing to scramble and make your way up the final ladders, 360-degree views of the city await, and the sunrise over the city is one for the ages.

#4: Explore the Cape Winelands and the beauty of Constantia

South Africa has some of the best vineyards in the world. Even though the towns of Franschooek and Stellenbosch get the majority of the press, nearby Constantia is home to the oldest wine estate in the country, Groot Constantia. Its proximity (just 15 minutes from the city center) makes it perfect for a day trip. The city sightseeing "Hop-On Hop-Off" bus tour has a purple line that connects through this region, so getting here is easy! If wine tasting isn't your thing, the Alphen Trail is a beautiful trek through the countryside and sure to put you in a relaxing mood.

Chapman's Peak Drive

#5: Take a road trip down Chapman's Peak Drive

One of the most beautiful drives awaits just south of Cape Town. Carved into the cliffs and winding along the ocean, this road between Hout Bay and Noordhoek offers majestic views of the coastline. Just make sure to keep your eyes on the road since the sheer beauty can be distracting!

#6: View the diversity of flora throughout Kirstenbosch Gardens

The flora and fauna of South Africa is some of the most diverse in the world, and no place showcases it better than Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens. Tucked along the slopes of Table Mountain and widely recognized as one of the most impressive gardens in the world, Kirstenbosch is home to over 7,000 species of plants. The newly completed Centenary Tree Canopy Walkway allows you to walk above the tree line. If you visit in summer, try to make one of the Sunday concerts in the gardens, which are a hit with locals and visitors.

V & A Waterfront

#7: Shop your heart out along the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront

Known as one of the biggest tourism hubs of the city, the always bustling V&A Waterfront is home to many of Cape Town's finest restaurants, shopping, and the launching point of many tours. There are countless ways to spend your time here, but make sure to stop by the V&A food market, where over 40 vendors sell gourmet street food from around the world.

#8: Make your way to the Southern tip of Africa

If you're up for an adventure, take a trip to The Cape of Good Hope. You'll most likely encounter penguins, baboons, and who knows what else along the 1.5-hour drive. The weather can be very unpredictable, so make sure to check it before making the trip south. While there, visit the lighthouse and if you're hungry grab a bite at the appropriately named Two Oceans Restaurant.

#9 Take a tour of historical Robben Island

Even though the prison has been shut down since 1996, a visit to this UNESCO World Heritage Site is one of Cape Town's most popular tours. Tours take around 4 hours including a ferry ride to the island famous for housing Nelson Mandela for 18 of the 27 years he was imprisoned.

Insider tips:

-Use the "hop on hop off" bus for an easy guided tour of the city. The route takes you to many of the best spots throughout Cape Town and allows you to explore at your own pace. Buy tickets ahead of time to save on fare!

-Cape Town has some incredible boutique hotels and bed & breakfasts. My favorites are: Tintswalo Atlantic, 52 De Wet Luxury Boutique Hotel, and Derwent House Boutique Hotel.

-Make sure you don't carry too many valuables on you if you're walking around at night. Although beautiful and mostly safe, there is still a good amount of opportunistic crime throughout the city. Always pay attention to your surroundings.

You can purchase tickets now at united.com or on the United app for three weekly nonstop flights from New York/Newark to Cape Town beginning December 15.

Opinions expressed by the author are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of United.

Say Halo to Curaçao

By Bob Cooper , December 06, 2019

Planning a Caribbean vacation around hurricane season isn't necessary if you head to Dutch-affiliated Curaçao. The southernmost of all Caribbean islands — just off Venezuela's coast — is rarely even grazed by hurricanes. It also has an ideal tropical climate with average winter highs in the 80s (and water temperatures to match) and only about one inch of rain a month.

Curaçao will be more accessible beginning December 7, 2019, when weekly nonstops begin from New York/Newark on United Airlines. The new seasonal service on 737-700 aircraft makes Curaçao the 21st Caribbean island destination for United, which already flies to the other two nearby "ABC islands" — Aruba and Bonaire. Why choose Curaçao? Because like the island's famous blue liqueur, it's colorful, exotic and appealing.

Settling in

Jet lag won't be an issue for Americans flying to Curaçao because it's in the same time zone as New York. Nor is it a long flight — about five hours nonstop from New York/Newark. Upon arrival you can take a taxi, rental car or hotel shuttle from Curaçao International Airport to your accommodations — a resort (reserve early), boutique inn, vacation house or B&B. Most are in Willemstad, a coastal city only five miles from the airport.

Forts above the port

Straat Curaçao Getty Images/iStockphoto

The historic city center and harbor areas of Curaçao's only city of Willemstad are designated as a UNESCO Heritage Site, mostly for the 17th to 19th century Dutch colonial architecture of the houses and forts. The houses are painted a rainbow of bright colors in the Caribbean tradition, and the city is packed with forts — Fort Amsterdam (built in 1636), Fort Beekenburg (1703), Fort Nassau (1797) and Fort Waakzaamheid (1803). All four offer stellar views and are free to visitors.

On the waterfront

Curacao colorful houses Getty Images/iStockphoto

Along with forts, the harbor area is home to the oldest continuously operating synagogue (and museum) in the Western Hemisphere, an African art museum that tells the story of the slave trade through West African art and artifacts, and a maritime museum. These visits can be followed by a tour and tasting at the Curaçao Distillery, where you'll see how the peels of the native Laraha bitter oranges are turned into curaçao liqueur.

Snorkel from the sand

Two people snorkeling off coast of tropical island Getty Images

The chief allure of this 38-mile-long island is, of course, the ocean. Besides sunbathing at any of the dozens of powder-sand cove beaches, you can wade right in and snorkel in the turquoise, bathlike sea, usually around 80 degrees. Visibility is up to 100 feet, a snorkeler's dream. More adventurous types can snorkel or dive from day boats that head to prime diving sites like the Mushroom Forest (mushroom-shaped coral), Blue Cave and several shipwreck spots. There's also a nice aquarium on the shoreline where marine life is seen up close in their natural habitat —from land or aboard a minisub that dives 1,000 feet.

Ready, set…

Curaçao is a convenient tropical destination for Americans because U.S. dollars and credit cards are commonly accepted, English is widely spoken and no visa is required. But the local culture and cuisine are still exotic enough to be intriguing with local specialties like stewed iguana and cactus soup served in restaurants and from food carts in Willemstad.

If you go

Flight reservations from New York/Newark (EWR) to Curaçao (CUR) can be made at united.com on the United app. Use miles to reserve a hotel, rental car or both with MileagePlus®.

Fantasy Flights: Making holiday wishes come true

By The Hub team , December 04, 2019

One of our most treasured events of the year is here – Fantasy Flights! Our Fantasy Flights bring holiday cheer to children in need by taking them on a special trip to the "North Pole." Each station creates a North Pole with care, in preparation for all the children who will soon be there…

Our participating stations this year are HNL (Honolulu), FRA (Frankfurt), CLE (Cleveland), DEN (Denver), IAD (Washington Dulles), LAX (Los Angeles), SFO (San Francisco), MCO (Orlando), ORD (Chicago O'Hare), GUM (Guam), EWR (New York/New Jersey), NRT (Tokyo-Narita), PHX (Phoenix), IAH (Houston), MCI (Kansas City) and SAT (San Antonio).

Please stay tuned for stories, photos and more from these magical events. #UAFantasyFlights

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