Buying a Plane Ticket
Now that you've been accepted into your education abroad program, the next big detail (besides your passport and visa, of course!) is buying your plane ticket(s) so you can get to your destination. Not quite sure where to start? We have some tips and sources to help you through buying a plane ticket.
The best tip? Research and plan ahead! We know, we know, we sound like your parents – but really, nailing down all the details well before your program can help save you from some unfortunate mishaps at the airport and better yet...money!
When you begin searching for flights and tickets, there will be some information you need to have on hand.
Most of these things you should be able to find on your program page, but some of these things may be up to you to decide.
Before booking tickets, be sure know these things:
- Will you need a one-way or round trip ticket?
- Where you'll fly out of (departure city) and where you'll fly into (arrival city).
- Dates of when you'll leave and return.
One-way vs. Round Trip Tickets
You may be tempted to think you'll save money by only buying tickets that will get you TO your program, referred to as one-way flights, and waiting to purchase the return flights – don't be so sure!
It's important to buy both your flights TO your program and FROM your program due to the potential that some unforeseen circumstances could make that difficult when you're abroad. Buying both the to and from flights is considered a round-trip ticket.
Along with your flights, consider if you'll need local transportation. If you happen to be taking a bus or train from an airport abroad to your final destination, make sure you purchase those tickets ahead of time. More information about transportation while you're abroad can be found in our "Local Transportation" section.
Searching for Flights
Once you've been accepted into your program, it's a good time to begin the flight search. You can purchase flights up to 11 months ahead of your trip, but you don't have to. Just keep in mind that the earlier you buy your plane tickets, the cheaper they're likely to be. Giving yourself enough time early on will help you find the best travel combination to get to your program.
When you're researching plane flights, be sure to check flight search engines or booking engines AND airline websites. Not sure where to do that? Skyscanner, Expedia, Hotwire, and Priceline are some flight search engines (there are tons more), and some airline websites could include (but aren't limited to) Delta, British Airways, Air China, and Latam Airlines. Our office and UK in general don't sponsor, or have direct affiliation, with these groups, but they're some good ones that we as travelers like to use.
Search engine sites can help save you time by doing some of the legwork for you, but other times, they don't include every airline or the best offers. Be sure to fiddle around with your departure and arrival cities...you might be able to save $300 by flying out of Newark Liberty International instead of JFK International and into Buenos Aires, Argentina instead of São Paulo, Brazil.
There are some specific search engines or providers that offer flight discounts and other special options for university students, such as Student Universe, CheapOAir, and STA Travel. STA Travel offers some especially sweet deals for students like their Price Beat Guarantee and Buy Now, Pay Later options. With Book Now, Pay Later you can book your flight reservations by making a small deposit upfront (as low as $49!) and paying off the remaining balance closer to your departure. STA Travel also offers an insurance option, which we'll explain in a little bit.
You might not be able to fly directly into the city of your program. If that's the case, be sure to give yourself enough time in between connecting flights (or bus/train) for you to make it from Point A to Point B. Better to have extra time sitting in the airport between flights doing some working through your Netflix series than missing your next flight altogether.
While many airlines will let you check two suitcases for international flights at no charge, that is not always the case. Other international flights may give you one checked-bag free of charge, but have a fee for the second. Also keep an eye open for the maximum weight limit, you don't want to be charged extra money because your suitcase is too heavy.
Sometimes it's cheaper to just pay for an additional suitcase instead of the overweight charge. While international flights may give you two checked bags free of charge, many national flights (both in the U.S. and abroad) do not. Keep that in mind during your planning, budgeting, and reservation process.
No matter how much we prepare and hope everything goes smoothly, sometimes hiccups do come up during your travels.
- Did you miss a flight or need to reschedule?
- You make it to your destination but your luggage is delayed somewhere along your route?
- Your luggage or passport is stolen, what now?
- What happens if you get sick and have to cancel your trip all together, are you stuck paying for your flights?
These are just a few examples of times when travel insurance could benefit you. Travel insurance is typically an add-on option you'll find when you're buying your plane tickets. In addition to purchasing it directly from the airlines site, there are travel insurance providers, like: STA Travel (specializing in student travel), insuremytrip, and Haylor, Freyer & Coon Inc. We're not experts in this, and these three are only examples, but you can find out more info and providers on our travel insurance page.