Pre-Flight Checklist For Studying Abroad Trip

If you’re anything like me and have never been on a long flight before, you probably aren’t sure what to expect! Here are some things I learned about flying internationally that I think will help you prepare for your departure too.

1. Passport

This may seem obvious since you can’t go anywhere without it, but it’s also the most important because you can’t go anywhere without it. Make sure you pack your passport in a safe but accessible location since you’ll be needing it to board your flight.

2. Visa

If you’re a student that holds a US passport, you won’t be needing a Visa since you are traveling as a tourist, not a student. However, if you’re an international student holding a passport from your country of origin, make sure you check your own country’s regulations as to whether or not you need a visa.

3. Passport Cover

Before my trip, I went out and bought a cute cover for my passport. While it may be very Instagram-worthy, I recommend leaving it at home. They make you take your passport out of the cover anyway at the airport, and the cover ended up staying at the bottom of my suitcase for the duration of the trip.

4. Copies of Important Documents

While you might have a copy of your boarding pass easily accessible on your phone, I strongly recommend printing out paper copies of all your important documents, including a color copy of your passport. You never know when you might need them, and it’s better to be safe than sorry in case of an emergency.

5. Check in to Your Flight

Be ready to check in to your flight 24 hours prior to take off. And I mean, exactly 24 hours before take-off. When you check in, there will often be the option to change seats for little to no cost. So if you ended up with a middle seat and would like an aisle, be sure to check in 24 hours before your flight!

6. Dress

It’s so important that you dress comfortably for your flight! My advice is to wear something you will be comfortable sitting in for several hours and to dress in layers! The air conditioning can get very cold once the plane gets going, so be sure to have a sweatshirt or a jacket on hand in case you are chilly. I also recommend bringing a pair of fuzzy socks or slippers if you want to be extra cozy.

7. Always, ALWAYS Pack a Carry-On

Whenever I travel, I always make sure to pack a carry-on suitcase, and I mean an actual suitcase, not a duffle bag. While airlines are for the most part very good about getting your checked luggage on the plane with you, there is always the chance of a mix-up. Most of the time the airline can ship your lost luggage to you, but it’s always best to have a change of clothes on hand while waiting for any lost items to arrive.

8. Foreign Currency

This was something I was really worried about before my trip, but it ended up not being a big deal at all. Before I went, I asked around and got several different opinions about how to carry money abroad: some said I should buy currency from my bank, others said to wait and take it out at airport ATMs, others said I would be just fine getting around with my debit and credit cards. What I discovered was something much different, so I’ll tell you what worked for me. I planned on using my credit card heavily on the trip, since I am a Discover card user and they don’t charge you international fees. However, my Discover card was only accepted at one venue—a McDonald’s in Austria. I later discovered that while Discover advertises that their cards work in every location, they actually mean the Discover Diner’s Club card. My advice is to do some in-depth research on what card you hold to make sure it works and you’re not getting charged any extra fees. I would also NOT recommend buying currency from your bank. One of my friends did this and her bank gave her outdated bills that she was unable to use upon arrival. Your best bet is simply going to an ATM (not at the airport though, as the exchange rates tend to be higher) and taking out cash. My bank only charged me a small fee for doing this and it worked much better than trying to use a debit card. Most places require you to buy a minimum of $10 worth of merchandise before they’ll swipe your card, so I always recommend carrying cash. It’s honestly the easiest way to get around.

9. Neck Pillow

Make sure you have a good neck pillow! There’s a good chance that you will be taking an overnight flight, so be sure to invest in a neck pillow that will allow you to sleep comfortably and soundly.

10. Noise-canceling headphones

While this is an optional item, I recommend looking into a good pair of noise-canceling headphones. The plane engines tend to be very loud and can make falling asleep difficult. A good pair of headphones will block out the noise of the engines and allow you to play some soothing music and help you sleep, which will, in turn, help you beat jet lag!

11. Snacks

Many people don’t know this, but you can bring snacks on your flight! If they agree with TSA regulations, feel free to stock up on crackers and chips for your flights. I raided my local dollar store before I left and bought a bunch of snacks for super cheap. It beats paying airport prices!

12. Refillable Water Bottle

If you’re like me, you probably are looking to travel on a budget and are not looking forward to having to pay $5 for a bottle of water at the airport. That’s why I would recommend traveling with an empty refillable water bottle! It’s perfectly fine getting through security and you can fill it up for free at the airport. Another tip: ask for a cup of water from your closest airport Starbucks. It’s free, and you can refill it!

Julia Meyer

School: Northern Illinois University

My Europe seminar with IBS was my first time traveling out of the country. By the end of the trip, I felt like a pro and a lot more confident going into unknown situations.

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