This summer international travel on U.S. airlines is expected to reach an all-time high, with an estimated 31 million travelers flying from June 1 – August 31! Whether to a business meeting in Bangkok or a vacation in Vienna, if you are one of the lucky few millions, we have some tips for you.
Check out the A4A Summer Air Travel Forecast Infographic.
From lining up your passport and other necessary travel documents to reviewing your airline’s baggage allowances, the best way to help ensure that your international flight goes as smoothly as a plane crossing the pond is to be prepared and informed.
Preparing for an International Flight
Check Your Airline’s Policies
Since airline policies vary, the best way to begin preparing for your trip is by consulting your carrier’s website for details on the policies and amenities that it offers for international flights. Here are links to international travel information for our member airlines:
You will need a valid passport if you are flying into or out of the United States. If you don’t have one or if you need to renew your passport, visit the State Department’s Passports & International Travel website.
Depending on your destination, you may also need other documents such as a visa. Check out the State Department’s handy Traveler’s Checklist for general information and the Learn About Your Destination page for all the specific requirements for your trip.
Traveler Tip: Some countries require that passports be valid for another six months beyond the date of entry so be sure to check that yours meets all conditions.
Know Before You Go
Before you book your trip and in the weeks leading up to your departure, check to see if the State Department has issued any Travel Alerts or if the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has issued any Travel Health Notices. You may enter your destination country on the State Department’s Learn About Your Destination page and the CDC’s Travelers’ Health for detailed information regarding the area you are visiting, including any required immunizations.
Sign up for the State Department’s free Smart Traveler Enrollment Program to receive important information and updates from the U.S. Embassy in your destination country. Enrolling will also make it easier for the government or your family to reach you in an emergency.
Traveler Tip: Consult a diagram of the airport and review ground transportation options beforehand so you’ll know where to go when you arrive. Also consider downloading a language translation app on your smartphone. Many are available for free and can even be used when not connected to cellular data or Wi-Fi.
Most airlines allow you to check up to two bags free of charge on international flights but this can vary depending on your airline, your frequent flier status and your destination country so, as always, consult your carrier’s website for details.
When traveling overseas, try to avoid bringing hard-to-replace items like expensive jewelry, unnecessary things like extra credit cards or any items that may be restricted by your destination country.
While most airlines offer complimentary meals on international flights, check to see what your carrier offers and prepare snacks or a meal if necessary.
Traveler Tip: Pack all medications, prescription or over-the-counter, in your carry-on that you may need any time during your trip since certain medicines may not be readily available at your destination.
At the Airport
Arrival and Check-in
Arrive at the airport at least two hours before your scheduled departure time. Some airlines suggest arriving three hours prior to departure for certain destinations and most carriers close check-in for international flights an hour before departure so be sure to review your airline’s policies. When you do arrive at the airport, have all of your travel documents including passports and visas readily available to present to airline and security officials.
Traveler Tip: Some airlines require that international travelers check in at the airport, rather than online.
Security Made Easier
If you’re interested in saving time clearing customs and going through security, then the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Global Entry program is right for you! Global Entry grants pre-approval to “trusted travelers” for expedited clearance upon arrival in the United States. Learn more about eligibility and the application process. Global Entry also grants eligibility for the Transportation Security Administration’s Pre✓™ program, which allows travelers to use designated, faster-moving security lines, leave their belt, shoes and light outerwear on and keep their laptop and 3-1-1 bags in their carry-on.
Traveler Tip: Check out the CBP’s Mobile Passport Control app to further expedite entry into the United States.
While sitting at the gate, check for all of your travel documents and get reorganized. You will want to have them handy when you arrive at your destination. Typically, flight attendants will distribute any immigration or customs forms that may be required by your destination country for you to fill out prior to landing.
Traveler Tip: Make copies of your itinerary and all of your important travel and financial documents – keep one copy with you separate from the originals and leave the other with a family member or friend back home – in the event of an emergency or if any of these items are lost during your trip.
Visiting the United States from Another Country?
If you are an international visitor coming to the United States, here are a few sites that could be helpful for your planning: