A frequent flyer’s tips for flights

After years of volunteering abroad and helping others do the same, we at UV have learned a few tips to save you money and make sure you’re prepared for the airport.

Save money

Most UV volunteers are on a budget and looking for ways to keep their volunteering costs at a minimum. One of the priciest pieces of volunteering abroad is the airfare. Here are a few tips to reduce the amount you may spend on a flight.

  1. Use technology, but know the details. Many websites let you search multiple airlines at once or set fare alerts based on your chosen itinerary. However, by going through a discount travel website (such as Expedia or Priceline), you may forfeit your option to accumulate air miles and you may have to travel exhausting routes. What we recommend is using these sites to find cost ranges for specific airlines, and then look into booking airfare directly through your airline of choice.
  2. Book your flight early. Airfare is generally less expensive when booked at least six weeks in advance. Make sure that we’ve confirmed your volunteer project and dates, and that you’ve left enough time to get your visa, but be sure to book your flight early for the best deal.
  3. Plan ahead. It is often costly and complicated to change your flights after booking them, especially after departing to your destination country. Make sure to know the rules and costs involved to change your flight beforehand, just in case you decide to extend your stay or if a problem arises and you need to alter your plans.
  4. Get the perks! If you have travel reward points, consider using them to help offset the cost of your flight. And, make sure to sign up for air miles. It won’t take many flights to earn a free flight (which may come in handy for a future volunteer trip!).

Be prepared

Some people love to fly and some people don’t. Regardless of if you enjoy in-flight meals and small toiletry bags or not, these tips on being prepared for your flight will help you have a better experience in the air.

  1. Pack smart. Make sure to check your airline’s baggage requirements including number of pieces allowed and any weight restrictions. Pack less than you think you need, and weigh your bags beforehand if you’re approaching the weight limit. Also, pack a change of clothes in your carry-on and bring a few simple snacks to keep you comfortable (and save you money during airport layovers).
  2. Arrive early. When flying from the U.S. to a UV destination country, make sure to arrive at the airport at least two hours early. This ensures you’ll have enough time to check in and get situated before your flight.
  3. Check your seat assignment. You may be able to ask for an exit row seat at no extra charge when you check in, or ask to switch seats if there are open spaces after the gate has closed. If there’s a way to be more comfortable, don’t hesitate to ask politely.
  4. Complete your customs form. Bring a pen with you and make sure to have your passport, flight, and destination details accessible on the plane. You’ll save time by filling out your customs forms on the plane before you land.

If you’d like any additional tips on finding a flight or preparing for departure, let us know! We’re here to help.