Before you fly

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Air travel planning tips

There’s much to do before your next vacation. After you’ve picked a destination and purchased your airline tickets, make sure you’re up to date on all the latest travel advisories and regulations. Whether you’re planning a trip in the US or heading to an international destination, the airline industry and the Federal Aviation Administration enforce tough rules for travelers. Before you fly, make sure you’re up to speed on the travel requirements.


Gone are the days of paper airline tickets; e-tickets have taken over. This means shorter lines at the airport ticket desks and one less thing to remember before you leave the house. But, make sure you have the necessary information for checking in.

No matter how you bought your tickets – online, on the phone or at a travel agency – be sure to check the airline requirements when you book your flights.

  • With e-tickets, you need to provide a reservation number or credit card at check-in. Make sure you have one or both items with you when you arrive at the airport.
  • Always have a photo ID with you. A copy of your ticket and a photo ID is required at the security gate.
  • Remember to reconfirm your ticket before you fly. You can access your flight information on the airline’s website by using your confirmation code from your e-ticket. Any flight changes will be listed here and you can also check in for your flight 24 hours before departure for domestic flights and 72 hours before for international flights.

Passports and IDs

It’s not as easy to cross the border as it once was. Today’s passport laws have changed and make travel to other countries more complicated. Passport requirements have changed. In 2005, the US government introduced a new policy called the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, which changed passport requirements for US travelers booking flights to Canada, Mexico, Panama, Bermuda, and many Caribbean countries. Today, a passport is required for all US citizens traveling outside of the United States.

For domestic air travel, all adult passengers must present some form of government-issued photo identification. A valid driver’s license or passport will work. For international air travel, all passengers (including children) must have a valid passport.


When traveling internationally, it’s important to determine whether or not you will need a visa to enter certain countries. To get you started, check out thisquick overview of visa requirements for US citizens.

Double check visa requirements by contacting the Embassy of the country you are visiting. Review a complete list of US embassies worldwide.

If you do need a visa, start your application early, as it can take weeks to process depending on your destination and you may need to send them your passport.

Visit the US Department of State website for comprehensive information regarding passports, visas, and other documents required for smooth, safe air travel no matter where you’re headed.


When planning for international travel, consider spreading your funds across credit cards, travelers’ checks, and cash. Travelers’ checks may be the safest way to carry money, but getting cash overseas has become a lot easier. ATM machines will usually issue local currency to foreign cards. Here are our top money tips.

Keep your funds in several different places.

  • With travelers’ checks, keep your receipts separate from your checks.
  • Carry enough local currency to pay for a taxi from the airport, meals, and the first hotel night if you haven’t already paid.
  • Find a secure way to carry your funds and travel documents.
  • Money belts are terrific for holding the bulk of your cash.


You might already have some insurance coverage and just don’t know about it. Check with your credit card company or auto club and see what’s covered during travel. Some travel insurance plans include overseas medical coverage; some just cover personal property and transportation expenses. Be sure to check with your current medical insurance provider to see what’s covered out of state and overseas.

Make copies

Ever lose your passport while overseas? It’s not pretty. Avoid as much hassle as possible by making copies of all important documents before you go and store them in a safe place on your journey. Hint: do not keep the photo copies with your actual passport. Leave the copies in a safe in the hotel room, or in your locked luggage. To be extra safe, leave photocopies at home with somebody you can get in touch with in an emergency.


For some regions of the world, immunizations are necessary prior to travel. Proof of immunization is a requirement for entering some countries. Anti-malarial medications may have to be started weeks in advance

Packing for your flight

You’ve gone through the checklist and made all of your arrangements. You’re more ready to fly than you ever thought possible, but you’re not done yet. Take a look at your luggage and make sure you’ve taken all security regulations seriously.

Checked bags

  • Don’t lock your luggage – security will open them.
  • Ask the airline how many bags you can check.
  • Find out how much each bag can weigh.

Carry-on bags

  • Ask the airline how many bags you can carry on.
  • Carry everything you would need to survive if you lost your luggage. Consider: food, tickets, documents, change of clothes, medications, etc.
  • Will you need a converter to use electric gadgets?

If you know you need to travel light, follow this time-honored advice: pack your bags, then take everything out, leave half of the clothes and books on your bedroom floor, and pack again.

Air travel security

There is no reason why new regulations should spoil your fun. Flying is the safest way to travel, but there are new requirements that you must adhere to. Be sure to check TSA’s website and become informed before you fly. Review this carefully and consider some basics:

  • Find out what you can take with you – and what is banned from airports and airplanes.
  • Be prepared to slip off your shoes before boarding.
  • Get a doctor’s note if you have metal in your body (such as pacemakers, pins from surgeries, etc.).

Moving on

Air travel has changed in the last few years, but there is no reason why anyone should be discouraged from flying. Make your lists, follow these steps, and have a great trip.

(Featured image: jeremytanner)

Before you fly was last modified: June 26th, 2019 by Melisse Hinkle
Author: Melisse Hinkle (271 posts)

A New England native but explorer at heart, Melisse has traveled throughout North America, biked through rice paddies in Bali, seen the Northern Lights in Iceland, walked alongside llamas in Machu Picchu and made her way around Europe while studying abroad in London. She is the Head of Content and Social Media for North America at Cheapflights.