2-1: Purchase Flights

by Jon SenderBack to Guide

Beginning of Part 2, tasks you should complete in the months before your trip

When booking your flight, you can search sites like Expedia, Travelocity, etc., but also check out AAA or a local travel agent for the heck of it. I was about to book on Expedia when someone gave me the name of an Israel-only travel agent whose price turned out to be cheaper by several hundred dollars. Needless to say, I went with him instead.

Picking your landing date is fairly straightforward. You might be able to arrive early the day of your orientation, leaving just enough time for the commute from the airport. However, I recommend arriving at least a few days in advance and either staying at a hostel or with a contact—more on finding those later—because this will allow you to get over jet lag earlier and be ready for the coming challenges of getting settled in on campus. But definitely find out your program’s start date before booking a flight.

As for your return date, you very well might not know exactly when you plan to come back home. You might decide to stay in your host country just a bit longer to explore after finishing exams, or you could meet someone who wants to visit some crazy country after your program and decide you want to go along. Or if you’re booking too early, your desired return date might not even be available yet. Your best bet is to simply pick a valid return date after the end date of your program, with the expectation that you could end up changing it later. Yeah, it’ll cost you $200-300 plus/minus the difference in fare, but that’s just part of traveling because you may need the flexibility. Aim to change your return flight exactly once, because as you can see, it’s not cheap to do so repeatedly.

One option is to ask your abroad university if they offer any group flights. They can either help or book those for you, and you would arrive with other Americans on your program. However, a group flight will offer you less flexibility if you plan to stay later than your program.

Whether you use a group flight or fly solo, as I did, be sure to book your flight several months in advance, unless you’re okay paying a high price and dealing with limited availability. Plus, you might need your receipt to apply for a student visa anyway. Price probably won’t change much whether you buy four months or three months in advance, but you really want to take care of this sooner than later.

If you plan to plane-hop, bank on purchasing those flights later, once you’re already settled in abroad and know if others will be coming with you. Don’t get too far ahead of yourself.

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