Traveling Around America by Plane

America is a very large country. It’s size is often difficult for international students to comprehend. U.S. States are the size of most European countries, and major destinations can be anywhere from a couple hours to days of car travel away from each other. New York City and Los Angeles are more than 2,000 miles away from each other. Using the complex system of high ways, it would take more than a day and a half of straight driving to get from one city to another. On a plane, it takes a little under six hours flight time.

Plane over LA Airport CC License by stevelyon

Plane over LA Airport CC License by stevelyon

Traveling around the United States via airplanes is not as easy as it once was. Like much of life in America, there is pre- and post- 9/11 air travel standards. Despite the annoyance of heightened security measures, air travel is still the fastest, most reliable, easiest to find tickets for, and can be the least expensive way to get around the United States.  Below is a quick and easy guide to buying, packing, and traveling via air in the U.S. The key, as in all travel,  is to plan in advance.

Buying A  Ticket

There are two main places to buy a ticket. One is to simply go to the airlines website and purchase the ticket online.  A list of major American airlines, along with links to their websites are below. This is the simplest, but also generally more expensive option. Often tickets found on airline websites can also be found on other travel websites for a cheaper price. Major travel websites( a list of which is below) will offer tickets from a variety of air carriers at a discounted price.

Major travel websites offer discounted airplane tickets. The basic concept behind these websites, is that a scheduled airplane will travel from point A to point B, whether or not it is booked full. The airline will make more money if it is booked full, even if tickets were purchased at a lower price, than if the seats were left empty. For tips on how to best find a cheap air-ticket check out:

If you have an International Student Identity Card (ISIC) card, you can buy tickets at a student rate from the Student Travel Authority (STA). When traveling with a ticket bough from STA, be sure to have your ISIC card on you. The airline reserves the right to make sure a person traveling with this ticket, really is a student.


Once you have your ticket purchased, check the website of the airline you are flying with to see the specific weight and size restrictions. Until recently, airlines allowed for one checked bag weighing up to 50pounds and two carry ons (such as a laptop case and another bag/purse). Recently most airlines (with some exceptions) have instituted a checked luggage fee of $15-50 per bag. The allowance may varies from airline to airline, this website has a great comprehensive list of each US airline and their charges.

Chicago Airport photo -CC License by humanedesign

Chicago Airport photo -CC License by humanedesign

In the age of global terrorism, there are many restrictions on what is allowed to be carried on, and what must be checked. Check out the Transportation Security Administration’s information page, for a more detailed description of these requirements.

Also, make sure you pack your passport so it is easy to get to, and not in your checked baggage. You will need it to claim your ticket at the ticket counter, and also to get on the plane.

Getting to and from  the Airport

Most airports have various airport taxi companies and shuttles, which will, for a fee, haul you and your luggage from your apartment to the airport. Airport websites will often have links and phone numbers for the taxis, public transportation, and car rental places available at the airport. It is strongly recommended that a person arrive at the airport at least one hour before the scheduled flight departure for a flight within the United States.

When you arrive at your destination, your hotel might offer a free airport shuttle, but be sure to check with the hotel beforehand. You might have to let them know when you are arriving, in order to get a seat on one.

Most airports are also connected to the local public transportation system. There should be signs guiding passengers to the bus stop or other transportation. Make sure you know how to get where you are going, via the transportation method you’ve chosen. Without this information, you may be stuck at the airport, hauling your luggage around, over-pay for a taxi, or miss the hotel shuttle.


Here are some useful links to use while planning your trips within the U.S.

Major American domestic carriers include:


American Airlines:

South West Airlines:


United Airlines:

US Air:

Jet Blue Airlines:

Major Travel Websites:

Student Travel Authority(STA) Cheap Airfare, Hostels, Rail and More


Cheap Tickets:



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