Need To Know Tips For Booking The Best Flight Abroad
I’ll be the first to admit, I had no idea how to book a flight before I came abroad. I didn’t realize all you really have to do is pick a date and time, throw down your passport info (if you’re going to a foreign country), and type in your credit card number. I’m not really too embarrassed about it either. Every time I’ve flown before, someone else has booked the flight for me, and I’m assuming it’s the same for just about every other college student out there. Well it’s time to take your flight booking virginity because if you plan on doing any traveling while abroad, I doubt you’ll want your parents doing it for you every time.
What better way to start than with your first transoceanic flight to your abroad university half way around the world. At its simplest, the process is what I outlined above, and when you’re booking flights for your travels while abroad, there isn’t much more you have to consider. But your flights to and from home are a little different. Before you go book your $1200 flight to who knows where, take these things into consideration. It will save you a lot of time, money, and headaches in the long run.
1. Check luggage costs
Most airlines will let you check 2 suitcases with no charge on an international flight. However, for some people like myself, you may have to check a 3rd bag and that can be costly. I had to pay an extra $150 dollars to get my clubs over to Scotland (well worth it by the way, and still cheaper than shipping them over via UPS).
There isn’t really a way around this – just be aware of what the costs are, and compare airlines because there’s a chance some might charge you, even for a 2nd bag. (I believe Virgin Atlantic lets you bring 1 sporting goods item free of charge, so if anyone else is looking to bring their clubs abroad, go there first.)
2. Make sure the airline you choose allows you to amend your travel dates
The start date of the semester is usually set in stone, so there’s no question when you’ll need to be there. The end of the semester is a different story. When you first book your flight, coordinate your return flight with the last day of exams.
Exam periods can last up to two weeks at most universities, so unfortunately, you won’t know your finals schedule until mid semester at the earliest. If you’re done at the beginning of the first week, you may not want to hang around. Some airlines will charge you big bucks to change your return date, others might do it free of charge. And hey, you never know what might pop up that would require you to change your flight home.
3. Consider where you’ll be making a layover
Unless you’re getting your flight directly from a major airport like Logan, JFK, or Newark, you’ll probably have a layover. Do you want your layover in the States or in a foreign country? It’s a legit question. If you have no problem navigating Heathrow Airport all by your lonesome, then feel free take your layover in London.
I’ve found that most times, flights with layovers in Europe are actually much cheaper than flights with layovers in the States. There’s probably a logical answer for that, which I don’t know and don’t really need to know. However, if your options are Newark in the good old USA or Charles de Gaulle in France, and it’s your first time making your way through a major airport (not to mention you don’t know French), then taking a layover in the States and paying the extra hundred bucks or so might be the better option.
4. Reserve the best seat
When flying, there are very few things worse than being stuck in the middle seat. As long as you book far enough ahead of time, most airlines will let you choose your seat when you book. If you’re someone who uses the bathroom more than the average person, stick with an aisle seat, and if you want something to lean on, go for the window seat. To get started, check out Seat Guru or SeatExpert.com.
If you keep those 4 things in mind, you should be fine. One more quick note – pay attention to baggage restrictions as well. Most airlines require bags to be 50 pounds or less, and I’ve seen a girl have to buy a third suitcase at the airport gift shop in Edinburgh because both of her suitcases were overweight. Save yourself the headache and get one of these.
A great place to start is STA Travel. They specialize in student travel, flights, trains, buses, hotels, rail passes, etc. It’s also where you can pick up your International Student Identity Card. Take a look at the “Exclusive Tickets” section under flights. They are specially designed for students and have tons of flexibility in terms of fares, travel dates, and refunds. And of course there’s always the old reliable Expedia.com as well as a number of other sites that have a cheap ticket search.
Here are a few of the major airlines that fly to Europe: Continental, British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, and KLM. They probably fly to plenty of other continents as well, and I know there are a ton of airlines out there that will take you wherever you need to go, you just have to look.
If you have any other money saving suggestions, questions, or comments please feel free to leave them below and I’ll get back to you!