International and Domestic Air Travel for International Students in the US



As an international student, your first US experience most likely will start by flying to the US, unless if you currently live near the US border in Canada or Mexico. In the middle of your student life, you might also want to travel around within the US by airplane. In both cases, you will need to familiarize yourself with booking an airplane ticket, the luggage allowance, and any other issues related with traveling by airplane. Therefore, in this section we will discuss some issues related to air travel.
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How do I buy an airline ticket?

International Air Travel

If you are planning to travel internationally and your destination is relatively far or requires many connection flights, it might be good for you to order your ticket through a travel agent. First, travel agents have connections with many airlines, they can make a special arrangement with the airlines and they can buy tickets in bulk, so they get a special discount. That way they can pass some percentage of the discount to the customer. Secondly, if your trip requires many connection flights, you do not need to check each combination of airlines that is cheaper and has no schedule conflict.

However, not all travel agents are willing to cut off their profit to provide discount for customer. You should be careful in choosing the travel agent. Make sure that they are reliable and customer oriented.

If your travel destination is relatively not too far and does not require many connection flights, you can reserve your ticket on-line. You can go to your favorite airline’s website and order your ticket there, or you can order it from travel websites that provide package deals (airline ticket – car rental – hotel), such as orbitz or expedia.com. In these websites, you can choose whether you want to order airline ticket only or whether you want to order the package.

When you purchase the ticket online, don't forget to print out the receipt and any confirmation number you received after you submit your payment on-line. Before your departure, you will have to show the confirmation number to the airline agent at the airport check-in point to get your boarding pass.

Domestic Air Travel

If you want to travel domestically, booking your airline ticket on-line is better than booking it through a travel agent, because it is simpler and cheaper. You can go to your favorite airline’s website and order your ticket there, or you can order it from travel websites that provide package deals (airline ticket – car rental – hotel), such as orbitz or expedia.com. In these websites, you can choose whether you want to order airline ticket only or whether you want to order the package.

When you purchase the ticket online, don't forget to print out the receipt and any confirmation number you received after you submit your payment on-line. Before your departure, you will have to show the confirmation number to the airline agent at the airport check-in point to get your boarding pass.

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How do I pay for my ticket?

If you purchase the ticket online, you will have to pay either by credit card or debit card. If you purchase a flight through a travel agent, you can pay by check as well as credit / debit card.

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Can I get some deals / discounts?

If you order the ticket from a travel agent, it is rare that you will get a discount / deal unless if you are a loyal customer, or if you are traveling in a group. However, if you order the ticket early (3 – 4 months in advance), you might get a lower price, because at that time the demand for the ticket is not to high. The demand will be higher 1-2 month before the departure date, and the travel agent will increase the cost to get more profit.

If you order the ticket on-line, you might get a deal or discount if your travel date match with the travel deal provided by the airline or other travel websites. Airlines or travel websites give out deals and discounts from time to time, especially during off-peak seasons. If you are a first time customer, you will have to check their websites and find out their offers. After you registered with their websites, usually they will e-mail you whenever they have new deals / discounts, unless if you prefer not to get the advertisement from them.

Some airlines also provide a special discount for student. You can register as a student in their website and get a special student discount.

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 How much baggage can I carry while traveling by airplane?

International air travel (for each person)

The weight and s ize of the baggage that you can carry with you differs for each airline. You should check with them before your departure. However, in general, you are allowed to carry two types of baggage: cabin baggage and checked baggage.

Cabin baggage is limited to one item. However, the maximum weight varies greatly among airlines. It can be as and light as 7 kgs (15 pounds) or as heavy as 18 kgs (40 pounds). In addition to this cabin baggage, you are allowed to carry with you these items in the cabin: a lady’s purse or handbag, an overcoat, an umbrella or walking stick, a laptop, a camera, some reading material, a wheelchair, an infant’s carrying basket, infant’s food, and infant’s stroller

Checked baggages, if your flight includes any point of the US, are limited to two items. Each should weigh maximum 32 kgs (70 pounds). However, most domestic flight within the US currently limits the baggage only up tp 50 pounds. You should chek with your airlines regarding this limit.

Domestic air travel (for each person)

Same as the international flight, you are also allowed to carry a cabin baggage and checked baggages for domestic flight.

The maximum weight for cabin baggage varies greatly among airlines. It can be as light as 7 kgs (15 pounds) or as heavy as 18 kgs (40 pounds). In addition to this cabin baggage, you are allowed to carry with you these items in the cabin: a lady’s purse or handbag, an overcoat, an umbrella or walking stick, a laptop, a camera, some reading material, a wheelchair, an infant’s carrying basket, infant’s food, and infant’s stroller

Regarding the checked baggage, some airlines allow two checked baggages, each weigh maximum 32 kgs (70 pounds). Some other airlines allow only maximum 23 kgs (50 pounds) for each bag. You should check with your airline if you want to get the more accurate information.

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What documents should I carry when I am traveling abroad?

When you are traveling abroad during your study in the US, including traveling to your home country, you should carry these documents along with your ticket:

    • Valid Passport with valid US visa

    • I-20 / DS-2019 signed by your International student advisor / Responsible officer

    • I-94 form

    • Letter from school or your class schedule (optional but recommended)

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Can you give me some tips for booking a flight?

Below are some tips to travel by airplane:

  • Book the flight early, i.e., 3 to 4 months in advance for international travel and 3 to 4 weeks in advance for domestic travel. If you book a flight for a nearer date, the ticket will be costlier.

  • If you are traveling domestically within the US, buying ticket online is always a good idea. However, always compare the price that you get from your favorite airline’s website with the one from the on-line travel company.

  • Keep in mind that some airlines provide special deals, especially if you travel during the weekend or late night / early morning. However, they will set the departure date and time for you.

  • When you buy the ticket on-line, you can choose the option of getting free info regarding your flight. You might want to check this option, so that you will be informed if there is any flight delay or cancellation.

  • Since the security is tightened in airports, allow some extra time for check-in and security check before your departure. Arrive at least two hours in advance.

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Can you provide me the latest safety tips for air travel?

Please visit the Transportation Security Administration website for latest safety tips for air travel

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