Plane Ticket Tips

Before Booking:

Know your options for how/where to book your flight:

  • Directly with the airline
  • Student Travel Agency
  • Travel Agency

Know your trip type:

  • Roundtrip: Most common choice for study abroad students and typically the most affordable option.
  • One-way: This is a good option for Academic Year students or someone who has two different city pairs. Please note: booking two one-way tickets will usually cost more than booking a round trip. In addition, some countries such as Greece and Italy will require semester students to have a round trip ticket. Ask your program advisor if you aren’t sure. (If you are unsure of your return date, booking a roundtrip or multi-city ticket and changing the date later is usually better than purchasing a one-way now and then another one-way later.)
  • Multicity/Advanced: This trip type can be a good option if you travel after the program ends, or if you need to return to a different city in the US
    Ex: Des Moines – Seoul & Seoul – Chicago
    Minneapolis – Paris & Rome - Minneapolis

If you would like assistance booking a ticket, go on Navigate, select Study Abroad/National Student Exchange, and then select Study Abroad Center, and finally Student Visas and Flight Booking.

Know your program dates, when you should arrive and depart, and if airport pickup is provided, etc.

While Booking:

Know your fare class.

  • Basic Economy isn’t recommended as those are non-changeable, non-refundable, checked bags incur a fee, and you cannot reserve a seat in advance.  
  • Regular Economy class is recommended for most students.
  • You may book a higher class if desired.

Research your luggage limits and fees. (Check out our packing tips page)

Select a seat.

Select a special meal if you have dietary restrictions (vegetarian, vegan, gluten free, kosher, halal, etc.)

Travel insurance is optional. Students who are enrolled in Iowa State’s sponsored On Call International Insurance will have similar travel protection.

If booking on StudentUniverse, be aware of some additional fees for booking special meals, seat assignments, flexible booking, etc. Special meals and seat assignments are generally free services through the airline’s website. Use your airline record locator number from your booking to pull up your reservation on the airline’s website to make these selections.


Before Travel:

Download the app for the airline.

Check your flight schedule for potential changes. If the schedule has changed significantly (more than 30 mins) or you can no longer make your connection, please contact the party through whom you booked the flight.  Airlines will make changes for free if their schedule change caused an issue.  Contacting the airline via their chat box on their website usually results in quicker service.

Add your passport information to your flight record or airline profile.

Prepare and upload COVID documentation to the airline’s website (if applicable).

Optional: Enroll in the airline’s loyalty (frequent flyer) program and add your loyalty number to your reservation record.


24 hours before departure:

Check your flight schedule

Online check-in

Pay bag fees (if applicable)


During your travel day(s):

Check your flight schedule

Arrive at the airport 2 hours before departure

Use the app to get gate, maps, and schedule information

If you experience delays and/or cancellations, you can speak to airline representatives at the airport, use the airline’s live chat, or call. Compensating for non-weather delays/cancellations is the responsibility of the airline. This could include meal and/or lodging vouchers.


Upon Arrival:

Proceed through customs and immigration.

Contact your family to let them know you have arrived.

Review your checked bag upon arrival. If delayed, lost, or damaged, file a report with the airline’s luggage office. You can usually do this at the airport or online. Retain any documentation you receive.


Prior to Returning Home:

Add your passport information to your flight record or airline profile.

Prepare and upload COVID documentation to the airline’s website (if applicable).

Check your flight schedule for potential changes

Online check in

Pay bag fees (if applicable)