There's a lot you'll need to consider before booking your travel (once you're approved to go abroad by the OEA AND formally accepted into your program):
Keep in Mind
Refer to the following information based on the type of program in which you are participating. Remember that you will likely need to book your flight before you receive your Financial Aid/scholarship disbursements for the semester you will be abroad. The closer to the intended date of departure, the more expensive flights are likely to be - once you receive the green light from the OEA to book your flight, don't wait until the last minute to do so!
All participants must be present for the entirety of their program's official dates and for all scheduled program orientations and/or activities. Students should verify their program's dates with their host university, affiliate provider, and/or in the online program brochure and book their travel accordingly. Note that if study abroad travel dates will conflict with other courses, students are responsible for working with their faculty members to gain approval of and manage their absence from class/field placement. Few programs offer group flights to and from the U.S. However, once the OEA clears students to book travel, students are usually able to communicate with other participants in their program (if applicable) to try and coordinate to travel on the same flight, if desired.
Exchange, Affiliate, or Direct Enrollment Program Participants
Students should not book their airfare to and from the host country until they have received the following:
- Approval from the Office of Education Abroad to study abroad AND;
- Official acceptance into the program by the affiliate provider and/or host university AND;
- Official arrival date (to include any mandatory on-site orientations) and official departure date (ensuring they are not leaving prior to the exam period or any other mandatory events)
Faculty Led Program Participants
Students should NOT book travel arrangements until they receive official notice from BOTH the Office of Education Abroad directly and from your Faculty Director that they are clear to do so. The OEA will usually send this notice by email within a few weeks after the program's final confirmation deadline, and then students should always run an itinerary by their Faculty Director before purchasing.
Once the OEA notifies you that you are clear to book travel:
- Consult your Faculty Director for:
- Guidance on recommended or required flights. Faculty Directors will often communicate the details of their itinerary(ies) once they are booked so that you may try to book a seat on that same flight
- Required departure and arrival/meeting information specific to your program
- If you will not arrive at the same time as your Faculty Director(s) or the rest of your group, communicate with your Faculty Director for guidance
- Check the online program brochure and with your Faculty Director to:
- Confirm if you are required to travel on their same flight, or if your program has a mandatory group flight
- Verify which travel is included in the program fee and for which travel you are individually responsible
- If your program does not have a mandatory group flight, you do not book a seat on the same flight as your Faculty Director(s), or if you will otherwise arrive or depart in your destination country outside of the scheduled meeting time your Faculty Director will arrange for the program, verify your program's dates and ensure that you book your flights such that you are present for the entirety of the program
The OEA or UNC Charlotte cannot be held responsible should the student purchase a flight before they have been approved, accepted, or have confirmed travel dates and arrival information. If the student books a flight incorrectly, they will be responsible for any fees that may be associated with changing their flight in order to be present for all mandatory program activites.
The Office of Education Abroad cannot recommend specific airlines, travel agencies, or flight itineraries, but hopes that students find this page helpful as they prepare for their international travel. All study abroad participants are individually responsible for their own international travel arrangements unless the program provider or online brochure of the specific to the program in which they will participate states otherwise.
Things to Consider
There are many resources on the internet to assist with booking international travel and affordable flight options (e.g. Expedia, Kayak, etc.). If utilizing these resources, it's important to pay attention to the fine print. For example, booking through these sites can involve inflexible cancellation or change policies, limited baggage allowances, an excessively long or short layover, or cause the traveler to have an increased risk of the flight being delayed or canceled.
When researching flights, ensure layovers allow enough time to get off a plane and get from one gate to another to board a connecting flight, especially in the event of any delays or cancellations. It's recommended that travelers research all airports through which you will travel order to be familiar with the general layout (e.g. shuttles between terminals, etc.) and customs processes. It will be helpful to know in advance the general size of the airport, which could determine approximately how much time you need to get from one gate to another. You may also need time to go through customs in the first overseas airport you land in (even if it is not your final destination).
Remember that you must be present for the entirety of your program and for all required program orientations and/or activities. Keep in mind when you need to arrive in-country and try to avoid flights with excessively-long layovers that would make it hard or impossible for you to arrive on time.
Arriving early or remaining abroad
Some students choose to arrive early prior to their program's start date or remain abroad after their program's end date in order to travel. Before making the choice to do this, students should consider the following:
- Are you legally able to enter the country/region early or remain in the country/region after your program ends? Students should refer to the host country embassy's website for more information about their legal status and to consider visas and residence permits, if required
- If you arrive early or stay later, can you move into your accommodations early and/or remain in your accommodations after the end of the program? If not, you will be responsible for securing your own temporary housing (e.g. hotels, hostels, etc.)
- If you arrive earlier or stay later, will this cause conflicts with other courses you are taking (if applicable)? If so, you are responsible for working with your faculty members to gain approval of, and, if the absence is approved, to manage your absence from class/field placement. The OEA does not recommend missing class for study or travel abroad
Booking separate flights
Typically, when you book a flight, each leg of the journey is booked within the same itinerary, which is recommended. Some students may decide to book each leg separately. Generally, when each leg of the flight is booked together within the same itinerary, the airline will work with you to get you to your final destination in the event one flight on the itinerary is canceled, delayed, or something beyond your control causes you to miss a connection (i.e. technical issues, a different flight's cancellation, etc.). If you book each segment of your travel separately, it can be more difficult to rearrange travel in the event of flight cancellations, delays, or missed connections.
return flight considerations
Some students may choose to purchase a one-way ticket to their host country (i.e., if they do not yet know their end date, if they will be abroad for a year, if they plan to travel after their program ends, etc.) and then purchase their return flight later. However, some countries may require proof of a roundtrip or onward ticket in order to enter the country, without which you may be denied entry. It is the student's responsibility to determine whether or not they are able to enter the host country on a one-way ticket by visiting the website of and/or communicating with the host country's embassy.
The Office of Education Abroad highly recommends that students purchase travel insurance (also known as cancellation insurance) when booking their flight in case personal or global circumstances prevent your participation in the program. The cost of travel insurance will vary and insurance policies will vary depending on the flight and airline. However, there may be insurance travel policies available that will offer reimbursements in the event flights are canceled due to certain factors. Note that this is different from international health insurance, which is already included in the study abroad program fee for all participants.
The following companies may offer discounts on airfare for students. The OEA does not endorse these or any specific travel provider.
STA Travel may offer discounts on travel to students and also have a "Book Now, Pay Later" option that allow students to put down a deposit on a flight reservation and submit payment in full later on. Learn more about STA Travel here.
Student Universe may offer discounts on travel, hotels & tours. Learn more about Student Universe here.
Upload Itinerary to OEA Application
The OEA requires all students to upload a copy of their flight itinerary to their online OEA application as part of their study abroad pre-departure requirements. Instructions are provided in the form for students who purchase a one-way ticket. Note that the OEA collects this information for risk management purposes in order to verify students' locations in the event of an emergency. It is not used to verify that students have booked appropriate itineraries based on their program dates and locations. It is each student's responsibility to confirm that they have booked flights such that they are present for the entirety of their program and for all required program orientations and/or activities.
Research Travel Regulations and Guidance
Even if you are a seasoned traveler, keep in mind that international travel policies and regulations are subject to change frequently and with little notice. As soon as possible, students should ensure they have familiarized themselves with the following information as it pertains to them and the host destination/countries through which they will travel.
Entry and exit government regulations
- Go to the U.S. Department of State's website (non U.S. citizens will need to identify an equivalent resource from their home country)
- Enter the host destination
- Review the entry and exit requirements section carefully
- Ensure your passport is valid according to the information listed
- Apply for a visa, residence permit, or other immigration document if applicable
Some countries may require that travelers show proof of certain vaccinations at entry, without which they may be denied entry. Some airlines will not even let you board the plane if you do not have this required documentation.
- Refer to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC)
- Enter the host destination under the "For Travelers" section
- Click "extended stay/study abroad"
U.S. Department of State Resources
- Go to the Department of State's Students Abroad page
- Research the closest U.S. embassy in the host destination, local laws, prohibited items, travel and transportation notices, etc.
- Learn how to identify officially-recognized, reputable, legitimate taxi and other transportation services in your destination
Airline Policies & Regulations
Depending on through which airline you book your flight(s), review their website(s) before packing for information regarding:
- All baggage (checked, carry-on, etc.) weight and size restrictions - there are usually hefty fees for packing a heavier or larger bag than the standard limit, or for checking specialty items
- The cost of checking and carry on luggage, if applicable - students are individually responsible for any and all luggage fees, even on group flights
- Liquids: many airlines limit the amount of liquids, gels, aerosols and creams that can be carried in your carry-on luggage
- Prohibited items
If you will have a connecting flight within your destination country, check that airline’s regulations as well – the size and weight restrictions may be smaller than what you are allowed on an international flight.
Travel Security Administration Policies
It is essential that you familiarize yourself the packing and security policies and guidelines of the U.S. Travel Security Administration (TSA; for example, what you can and can't pack in your checked vs. carry-on luggage). Failure to follow these regulations can mean throwing things out that you don't want to or getting held up in airport security!
- Check the status of your flight regularly in the days and hours leading up to your departure to be aware of any delays, changes, or cancellations
- Be sure to check-in to your flight online (if possible) as soon as possible starting 24 hours before your flight's scheduled departure
- You are typically advised to arrive at the airport two to three hours prior to your flight's departure for an international flight so that you have time to go through security, etc.
Customs & Security
The first airport of arrival in a foreign country (even if this is not your final destination) will likely require all travelers to go through customs, or you may go through customs at the airport of the final destination. Depending on the country of arrival, flight attendants may pass out cards to be filled out prior to arriving at the gate. These cards may be required to present at customs and may ask for information such as the traveler's passport number, flight information, address they will be staying/living a for the duration of the program, etc. Ensure you have access to this information before the day of travel and communicate with a flight attendant if confused about any of the information requested. It's common for it to take a while to get through customs.
Once at an immigration officer's station in customs, they will ask for the traveler's passport and any other immigration documents required by that country (e.g. visa) if applicable. Please ensure you also bring with you your official acceptance letters given to you by the affiliate provider (if applicable) and the host university.
Some airports also require frequent security checks at various locations, such as any time travelers change terminals or enter a gate. Be prepared for multiple security checks throughout the entire duration of the travel day.
*In the event of any last-minute change (i.e. delay or cancellation) in itinerary on the dates of travel, it is the student's individual responsibility to contact the airlines or appropriate parties to make any necessary adjustments (and, if applicable, to notify your Faculty Director of the situation when able).
- Download the (typically) free app to your phone that corresponds with the airline(s) you'll be using throughout your travel
- You may want to save the customer service number of your airline(s) to your phone for quick access in case there are any issues with your flight
- Pay attention to and abide by all posted airport/airline security and safety rules, notices, and announcements at all airports
- Wear comfortable clothing & shoes on your travel dates; it's often cold on airplanes!
- If you have not traveled by plane often, you may want to research the airports through which you will travel to familiarize yourself with their layout, where to go when you arrive, customs and security processes, how and where to check in, etc.
- When navigating the airport, follow signs and other posted guidelines. When in doubt, ask airport staff for help as needed!
Photo by: S. Williams, Italy
The information provided above is intended as a resource for students studying abroad through UNC Charlotte. This does not represent an endorsement of any particular service provider or their services. This page is not intended to represent the full scope of resources and considerations involved in planning international travel nor which resources or courses of action are best for each individual student. All study abroad participants are responsible for doing their own research to determine and follow whichever resources and processes will ultimately work best for them individually. All information is subject to change.