graphic with global learning participants

Preparing to Travel

Congratulations on your decision to take your education global. Now it is time to get practical. The goal of this resource is to help you build skills that will serve you well over a lifetime of travel and global learning.

Before Departure

Prior to departure, take the time to review the provided information and do your own research so that you are prepared for travel, or prepared to act if the unexpected happens.

  • Research your Destination
  • Country Information

    Before traveling, check the U.S. Department of State Country Information to find international travel information such as visas, embassy and consulate locations, vaccinations, etc. Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to stay informed and connected.

    Travel Advisories

    The U.S. Department of State issues a Travel Advisory for each country of the world. Travel Advisories follow a consistent format and use plain language to help travelers find and use important information about safety. Travel Advisories apply up to four standard levels of advice, describe risks, and provide clear actions U.S. citizens should take to help ensure their travel safety. Travelers from other countries may have an equivalent resource with their home country.

    For more information on the meaning of advisory levels please visit the U.S. Department of State website. Travel advisories are subject to change at any time.

    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

    Check the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention for health guidance for travelers, including recommended vaccines or prophylaxis. Read your country page to get a good idea of what risks there are and how to manage them. Discuss any concerns with your healthcare provider prior to travel.

    UC Davis monitors U.S. Department of State and the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention travel advisories in relation to our travel programming.

    For questions about health and safety, visit our Health and Safety page and speak to the advisor or coordinator for your program to learn more.

  • Buying a Plane Ticket
  • Please wait to purchase your plane ticket until you’ve received confirmation that your program is confirmed.

    For UC Davis programs, you are responsible for making your own travel arrangements to arrive and depart from the program location. You will receive instructions from your program coordinator with the exact date and time to arrive at your program and the location in which your program begins.

    Schedule an advising appointment with your advisor or program coordinator if you’d like to talk through purchasing airfare.

    When considering when you should arrive to your destination, consider that you will need at least two hours to deplane, collect luggage, clear customs and immigration, and navigate through the airport to ground transportation. Then, determine how long it will take you to travel from the airport to your housing accommodations. This will give you an idea in how to time your arrival.

        o  Identify your departure and arrival airports. Identify the date and time you want to depart and arrive.
        o  Using a website that searches several airlines (such as Kayak or Google Flights), do a preliminary search of these dates and airports to get a general idea of what is available and the average cost. Use the sort tools to look at variables like cost, duration, number of layovers. Notice the arrival date and time. Your flight may arrive one or two days after your departure date. Some considerations:
            •  Does your flight arrive on time to your program? 
            •  Is it cheaper to travel on certain days of the week, or a little earlier or later in the day?
            •  If you arrive early or stay late, is it worth it to get a hotel for those days?
            •  Does one flight stand out as meeting your needs better than others?
            •  Consider baggage allowances and restrictions (see Packing section below).
            •  Watch out for low fares which may not be worth the lower cost because they are significantly longer than other flights in your search or have multiple (2+) layovers.
        o  The simplest way to book a flight is directly with the airline, though you can also use search engines. Booking directly with the airline simplifies making changes to your travel plans, including missed and canceled flights. Check and double check before you book. Make sure your dates, departure and arrival times and destinations are just what you want.
        o  Do not book a flight with a layover that is shorter than 45 minutes, or an international layover shorter than 1.5 hours. Even if you are able to make the plane switch on time, if you check a bag, it likely won’t.
        o  You should plan to arrive at your departure airport at least 2-3 hours in advance of your flight departing. Make sure that your transportation to the airport will be able to get you there on time, especially if you have an early morning flight.

  • Entry & Exit Requirements
  • You are responsible for obtaining all necessary entry documents before traveling. For UC Davis programs, if you are denied admittance to your program location, you will remain liable for Study Abroad fees.

    International Travelers

    All students are required to have a valid passport to travel abroad. A passport is a government issued document that certifies the identity and nationality of its holder for the purpose of international travel. Your passport must be valid for at least 6 months after your planned return to the U.S. Check the expiration date and apply early for renewal if necessary. For more information on getting a passport, please visit the U.S. State Department or UC Davis ARC Business Center.

    If applying for a new passport or a renewal, apply early. It can be difficult to get appointments and processing times can also be delayed. Once you apply for your passport, you can check the status on the State Department website linked above.


    A visa is an official endorsement placed in your passport, issued by the country or countries you intend to visit, that grants you permission to enter that country for travel, study, or internship purposes for a specified time period. Each program’s Travel page has more information about entry and exit requirements for U.S. passport and for non-U.S. passport holders. The U.S. State Department website provides information for U.S. citizens on entry/exit requirements for all countries.

    If you are planning on traveling to other countries before or after your program, you need to check visa requirements for those countries as well.

    Domestic Travelers

    For programs in the USA, a valid ID is required to travel by domestic flight. A valid ID includes a driver’s license or other state photo identity card issued by Department of Motor Vehicles, US passport book or passport card.

    Note that starting May 7, 2025, the US Department of Homeland Security will require a REAL-ID to board domestic flights. California residents: learn more.

  • Packing
  • Pack light! We recommend a maximum of ONE carry-on and ONE medium checked bag. You should be able to carry your luggage unassisted. Students enrolled in UC Davis programs are provided with a program-specific guide that covers a basic packing list along with any specific items recommended for the program and location(s).

    Airlines have varying policies on baggage and whether it is included in the cost of your ticket or for an additional fee. Note when purchasing your ticket what is included or not included with baggage. Airlines also have weight restrictions and charge additional fees for overweight luggage or extra bags. Confirm baggage allotments and restrictions with your ticket via the airline website.

    Packing Tips

        o  Research the climate and average weather and temperatures for your travel destination(s) so you know what kind of clothing and shoes to pack. Clothes that can be layered are always a great option.
        o  Consider the length of time you are traveling and your access to laundry services. If laundry is readily available, you can think about packing less and washing more often.
        o  Pack essential items in your carry-on: extra clothing for a day, important toiletries and medications, empty water bottle, electronics, valuables, and travel documents. Your essentials will be with you at all times, and in case your checked luggage is delayed, you will have what you need to get you through a few days.

  • Travel Vocabulary
  • Round-trip flight – A flight booked with a ticket to your travel destination and another ticket returning from your travel destination.

    One-way flight – A flight booked with a ticket to your travel destination with no ticket for return from your travel destination. Depending on travel plans or flight costs, a traveler may book two one-way flights to make a round-trip.

    Carry-on – luggage that you carry onto the plane with you and store in the overhead compartment or under the seat in front of you. Your ticket and airline website will provide size and weight restrictions for a carry-on. On smaller planes or when a plane is full, airline agents may gate check larger carry-on luggage to put underneath the plane. This is typically at no cost to the passenger but means that your carry-on will not be accessible for the duration of the flight. You should be prepared to remove essential items or items not allowed in checked baggage when you gate check your luggage.

    Checked baggage baggage that goes underneath the plane and is inaccessible during the flight. You check this baggage with an airline agent upon check-in at the airport. Your ticket and airline website will provide size and weight restrictions for checked baggage.

    Baggage Claim – area of the airport in the arrival terminal where passengers collect their checked baggage, typically at their final destination airport.

    Boarding pass – pass received from airline upon check-in (may be in electronic or paper ticket form) for your flight that includes your seat assignment and often has your departure gate listed. Departure gates can change so be sure to refer to the departure screens in the airport to verify your departure gate.

    Layover – term used to describe the connection time between flights when a traveler transitions from one plane to the next in the airport terminal. Layovers range in time and are known at the time of ticket purchase and are part of your itinerary. In case of delays, it is recommended to have at least one hour, or more, especially for international flights, between flights.

    Direct flight – term used to describe a flight that departs your origin airport and directly arrives at your final destination. There are no layovers on a direct flight. Also called nonstop flight.

    Security refers to a screening checkpoint prior to entering the departure gates of an airport. The purpose of security is to prevent prohibited items and security threats on planes.

    Immigration refers to the people traveling between countries. Immigration is oftentimes referred to as passport control or border control, which are checkpoints you will pass through and present your passport and any additional travel documents upon arrival.

    Customs – refers to the items travelers carry with them. Countries have restrictions on certain items that can enter/exit a country with the traveler. Certain types of food is a common example. Oftentimes the embassy of your destination country will provide a list of restrictions. Customs and Immigration are often done together as checkpoints you will pass through in the airport.

At the Airport

One great thing about airports is that they are well-marked with signage. When in doubt, follow signs or ask someone.

  • Checking In
  • You can typically start checking in for your flight 24 hours in advance through the airline’s app or website. For international flights, you may need to check-in at the departures desk at the airport, or you may be able to check-in online, but will still need document verification at the airport by an airline agent. Follow directions as prompted by your airline. Upon check-in, you will receive access to your boarding pass, which is your ticket to getting on the plane.

    Consult your airline’s website or your departure airport website for advice on arrival times prior to flight departures. The general rule of thumb is two hours prior to a domestic flight and three hours prior to an international flight. While this may seem like a generous amount of time, depending on your destination and the airport, operations and travel congestion may impact time needed prior to departure.

    Using the airline app can be a convenient way to travel. If you plan to go paperless, be sure that you always have access to your phone to be able to show your ticket/boarding pass. Consider a paper boarding pass as a backup if you’re unsure if you’ll have phone access.

    Following check-in instructions with your airline, it’s likely you’ll be dropping off at least one bag to check at the departures desk for your airline. If you have yet to check-in or need document verification, an agent will do so during this time, print a boarding pass, and verify your departure gate. Airline agents and signs will direct you to the actions you need to take. In most cases, your checked baggage is checked all the way to your final destination. If you have a layover at another airport, your checked baggage will automatically move to your next plane. If there are any exceptions, your airline should let you know.

  • Security and Screening
  • All travelers at the airport will go through security and screening prior to arriving to their departure gate. In the US, this is commonly referred to as TSA, which stands for Transportation Security Administration, the government organization that oversees the security and screening at all US airports. Follow signs at the airport for security. There will likely be a line. At the head of the line, a TSA official will ask to see your valid government-approved travel ID and your boarding pass.

    It is recommended to review the information on the TSA website to understand how the security and screening process works. Your carry-on luggage will be screened and you may be asked to remove bulky clothing layers and shoes. You will go through a security scanner – either full body or metal detector. TSA officials will direct you as you move through the process. If further screening is needed of your luggage or self, follow directions from TSA officials.

    The TSA website also provides information on what can packed in your luggage and if so, where it should be placed, in your carry-on or checked baggage. There are restrictions on liquids that can be carried onto the plane; liquids larger than the allotted 3.4 ounces or 100 ml must go in checked baggage.

    Consult the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) websites for details on the liquids rule (3-1-1), security screening, and what you can/cannot bring on international and domestic flights. Note that these rules apply for U.S. airports and that other countries may have different security and screening measures.

  • Departure Gate
  • Once you are through security, you’ll head to your departure gate. In the airport terminal, you’ll have access to bathrooms, drinking water (bring an empty reusable water bottle), and typically food and any other entertainment offerings of the airport.

    If you have time before your flight and prefer to move around, be sure to pay attention to the time so you do not miss your flight. Many airports will have large screens displaying flight information throughout the terminal area. There you can check to see if any information about your flight has changed, which may include delays, gate changes or boarding information. If you are traveling solo, never leave your luggage unattended, which means you’ll need to take it with you wherever you go.

    When it comes time to board your flight, follow the announcements of the gate agent who will provide directions on the boarding process, done typically in groups, which are often assigned on your boarding pass.

  • Customs on Arrival
  • When you make your first landing outside the US, you will likely go through some form of border or passport control. This varies by country and airport. You are typically given a customs declaration form prior to landing. They basically want to know your purpose for being there and what you are bringing in with you to screen for anything that is prohibited. At border or passport control, they will ask to see your passport and visa (if one was needed) and may ask your reason for entry or proof of departing flight or documentation for the program, so be sure to have those accessible.

    Be sure to read about the customs laws for the countries you plan to visit. Some countries are very specific about what can and cannot be brought into the country – this includes food and prescription medication, among other items. The U.S. Department of State provides information regarding customs and import restrictions and recommends reviewing the foreign embassy website for your destination country to learn more about what may be prohibited.

    If you have arrived at your final destination, it is time to pick up your checked baggage. Some airports have a customs screening after baggage claim before you exit to the arrival terminal. Follow airport signs for baggage collection and exit.

  • Advice for Potential Travel Setbacks
  • Delayed Luggage

    Bring important items with you in a carry-on bag so you’ll be set for a few days should your luggage be delayed. Delays can range from a few hours to multiple days. Be prepared as this takes the stress out of needing to immediately replace items.

    You may want to consider the purchase of a luggage tracking device (Apple AirTag or others sold online) that will show the location of your bag in case it is delayed or lost.

    When luggage is delayed, you will need to file a claim at the airport, an office often in the baggage claim area, so they know where and how to reach you once your luggage is located. Be sure you have the program contact information readily available so that you can provide a delivery address and phone contact for luggage courier service. Your on-site staff support can assist you upon program arrival with directing you on how to obtain any other items for immediate needs until your luggage arrives.

    Missed Flight/Unexpected Change in Travel Itinerary

    If you miss your flight or experience a travel delay or flight change, it is important to share your new arrival information with your program faculty, the UC Davis Global Learning Hub, and your loved ones so we don’t worry about you and will know when to expect you on site. If you miss your flight, you will need to work with your airline for assistance to get on another flight to reach your destination.

Upon Arrival

The first few hours in a new location can be hectic. Slow down, ask questions and settle in. Your journey has just begun!

  • Communication
  • Before you leave, make sure you know the plan for getting picked up at the airport or finding your way to your housing. Additionally, investigate options for using your cell phone service and data while traveling. Depending on the phone service, you may be able to use your phone without charge or for a fee. Talk to your provider before departure to explore the options available to you.

    If your program plans to use a messaging app service (WhatsApp, Line, WeChat, Google) to communicate your arrival at the airport, set this up before you leave and ensure you have important numbers saved. Communication when you first arrive is extremely important! If you are delayed, lost or have any issues at the airport, it is important that you communicate this right away.

  • Getting to Your Housing (Meeting Spot)
  • Before leaving the airport, make sure you have all your belongings. Whether you are being met at the airport by staff or faculty in your program at a prearranged meeting spot or you need to get to your housing on your own, have a plan before you arrive.

    Meeting Spot

    If your program has airport pickup arranged for you, you will be provided information on where, when and who you will be meeting at the airport. Connect with others in your program who will also be arriving at the airport on the same day or around the same time. Airports usually have free Wi-Fi but also check out the section above on communication to make sure you have a plan to get in touch with whoever you are meeting. It may be helpful to decide how you will reach out to others in your program before you leave by creating a WhatsApp, Line, or other online communication.

    If you are delayed, be sure to contact the staff or faculty who has arranged the pickup. If you cannot find the meeting location, you can do a few things:

        o  Reach out to the group if you have a group chat and ask for help
        o  Go to the information booth in the airport and ask for help. The staff at these booths usually speak English.
        o  Call or message the staff or faculty you are meeting and let them know you are unable to find the location.
        o  Stay calm! Airports are busy and complicated places, but they are also self-contained. As long as you don’t leave, you will eventually find the meeting place.

    Getting to Housing on Your Own

    If you are expected to arrive at your housing or meeting place outside of the airport on your own, refer to the provided arrival instructions. It is a good practice to research transportation from the airport to your housing and plan for your arrival. That way you have the directions you need and access to tickets or currency necessary if taking a taxi or public transportation.

  • Public vs. Private Transportation
  • Many major international airports are located outside of the city center and may require taking transportation to get to your housing or meeting location.

    Public transportation from the airport can vary from buses to metro trains, some of which are designed for shuttling passengers to and from the airport quickly. If you are unsure, ask questions to ensure you are getting on the correct bus or train and will arrive in the exact location you need to go. If you need help, look for the information booth, show them the address of where you need to go written in the local language.

    Private transportation may also be a good option to get from the airport to your housing. Research the options available in the location you are traveling to. Keep in mind that not all countries and locations have Uber. Some may rely on taxis or local rideshare companies. If taking a rideshare or taxi, take precautions. Take a taxi from the official taxi area only (should be marked by a sign), ride with another person from your program if possible and make sure you know where you are going, how long it should take and about how much it should cost. Your best precaution is preparation.

  • Traveling Before Official Program Start
  • If you are planning to arrive early or travel before your program officially begins, be sure you communicate this to the program coordinator, faculty for your program and your loved ones. If there is airport pickup or arranged transportation to your housing, let them know whether you still plan to use this or not. If you will arrive at your housing on your own, follow the above advice, and ask the staff or faculty for your program if there is anything you need to know for your arrival.

    Do your research. There may be different restrictions for entering the country, going through customs and immigration upon arrival. If you are arriving on a student visa, other type of visa or advanced parole, check on any restrictions for when or where you should arrive. Certain countries have restrictions on travel to other countries ahead of entering their borders. Check in with the program coordinator (or staff) if you plan to travel ahead of your planned program to ensure that you will not face any challenges for entry.

  • Tips for a Smooth Arrival
  •     o  Travel with others. This helps you coordinate upon arrival, potentially share some of the costs of transport, and there is confidence in numbers.
        o  Communication is key! If there are any hiccups to your arrival, no matter how small, tell the group and most importantly, let your staff or faculty know.
        o  Research and plan your transportation from the airport to housing/meeting place, especially if it requires you take private or public transportation.
  • Jet Lag
  • Airline travel can be exhausting, especially when compounded with a multiple-hour time difference. You will likely feel less than refreshed when you arrive in your program location. Tips for beating jetlag:

        o  Set your phone time and/or watch to the time zone of your destination as soon as you board the plane. Start thinking in terms of the new local time as soon as possible.
        o  When it is allowed by the cabin crew, try to stand up, stretch, and move around at regular intervals.
        o  Avoid caffeinated and alcoholic beverages during the flight. Drink plenty of water.
        o  Upon arrival, try to stay awake until a normal bedtime (in the local time) in order to make the quickest possible adjustment.
        o  Try to get outside for fresh air upon arrival, if you have the opportunity.

  • Responsible & Ethical Travel
  • We encourage you to be conscientious about the environmental, socio-cultural, and economic impacts you have on the host community by being a responsible traveler. As UC Davis’ Principles of Community extend beyond campus, being a responsible traveler helps foster and reinforce UC Davis’ relationships with the host community.

    As a responsible traveler you:

        o  value being culturally conscious.
        o  value being environmentally responsible.
        o  interact with mutual respect among communities you enter.
        o  adapt to the place, rather than demanding a place adapt to you.

    Ethical Photography

    As social media and photo sharing are prevalent, it is important to recognize the power photos can have. Inform yourself about the ethics of travel photography, taking into consideration how your host community will feel about your portrayal of their culture, sacred sites, and the power dynamics that can be involved in taking someone's photo.

Returning Home

It can be bittersweet to leave a temporary home. Often preparing to go home will follow a similar protocol as preparing to travel in the first place.

  • Preparing to Return
  •     o  Pack smart – depending on how long you were away, you may want to purchase a second bag to check at the airport. Be sure to look into baggage restrictions with your departing airline, especially weight limits.
        o  Souvenirs – buy small unique items or local treats to bring home to remind you of your time away.
        o  Customs and immigration – the U.S and other countries you may return to will also have limitations on what you can bring back. Check the U.S. customs requirements.
        o  Staying connected – If you met people, made friends or new colleagues, you may want to stay connected. Make a plan to stay in touch however possible.
        o  Adjusting takes time – Know that you may have an adjustment period both physically and mentally. Prepare for the return home by taking self-care measures, eat well, drink lots of water and don’t rush back into daily life too quickly.
        o  Arrange for pick up – even though you are likely to be familiar with transportation back home, there is nothing like being picked up by friends or family after time spent away.