Skip to content

U.S. Airline Preparation

While you prepare for your trip to the United States, be aware that airline regulations might be different than they are in your home country. You should understand the baggage restrictions, customs rules, and point of entry requirements. To help make your trip easier and more enjoyable, we’ve created this pre-arrival checklist for students.

Pre-Arrival Checklist

To meet U.S. airline regulations, you may need to pack differently or wait until you reach your destination to purchase some items. Most importantly, make sure you have all of your important travel documents within easy reach.

1. Travel Documents

You will need to present your travel documents at least three times during your journey: when you check-in to your flight, when you board, and when you pass through U.S. Customs. You should have your:

  1. Passport
  2. Student Visa

Packed within easy reach. Do not put them in your checked baggage. Keep them in a backpack, personal bag, or purse that stays with you at all times.

While on your flight, you’ll also be asked to complete a customs form. Answer the questions to the best of your ability. Put the customs form with your passport and student visa so you can easily access it at your point of entry.

2. Carry-on Bag

Your carry-on bag should be smaller than 22 x 35 x 56 cm, including handles and wheels. While a hard suitcase is more durable, a soft duffel bag might fit more easily into overhead compartments.

When packing your carry-on bag and personal bag, remember that the United States has special rules about liquids, aerosols, and gels. To meet U.S. airline regulations, these types of items need to be 3 oz or smaller and packed in a clear zip top bag. You should pack larger liquids, aerosols, and gels in your checked luggage. Remember to wrap them in plastic to keep them from damaging other items if they explode in transit.

3. Personal Bag

A small backpack, laptop bag, or handbag will count as a personal item. It should be smaller than 20 x 35 x 45 cm. This bag is the perfect place to pack important travel documents, money, and prescription medicine. If you are carrying medicine, make sure you bring along your doctor’s prescription as well.

Remember, the same rules for liquids, aerosols, and gels apply to your personal bag as your carry-on bag.

4. Checked Bags

U.S. airline regulations for the number of checked bags you can bring varies by airline. Check with your airline to be sure you are meeting their specific requirements. A checked bag should weigh less than 22.86 kg. Measure your bag. Usually, the combined length + width + height should not be more than 62 cm.

You will need to pack with care to make all of your items fit in the baggage allowed to you. Keep in mind that you can purchase many of your everyday items, like sheets, towels, toiletries and food at local stores upon your arrival.

Do not lock your bags. U.S. airline regulations require bags to be unlocked in case airline officials need to search or inspect bags. At the very least, expect your bags to be opened and inspected at customs. Airline officials may inspect your bags at other times too.

This student checklist for moving to U.S. colleges should take some of the stress out of moving day. Still have questions? Connect with a counselor.