Travel Planning

There are many things to think about when preparing to travel on your own, whether it's your first time or you’ve traveled many times before. Check out these important resources and tips for preparing your travel documents, travel websites, booking flights and planning travel during your program.

Travel Documents

There are several important documents you will need to obtain and bring with you during your travels. Remember to pack all of your important travel documents in your carry-on (and remember where they are!) so you will have everything ready at the security checkpoints. Make copies of your documents and leave a set with your family.

Identification: Passport and/or Driver’s License/State ID

Make sure you have the proper identification with you to travel to your destination, whether that is a passport for international programs or driver’s license/state ID (REAL ID) for domestic programs.

If you need to travel with a passport, you must have a passport that is valid for the entire length of your stay abroad. Some countries require you to hold a passport that is valid (not expired) for at least 6 months after the date you enter the country (regardless of the intended length of stay) or for at least 6 months from the last day of travel. You will also need to enter your passport information and upload a copy of your valid passport in your Spartans Abroad Portal account prior to your departure. If you do not already have a passport, make sure to apply for one early, as processing can take at least 6-8 weeks (not including time in the mail). Make sure to look up the applicable passport fees; costs can vary depending whether you are applying for a new passport or renewing one and expedited services have an additional fee. For any questions about passports, including how to travel if you have dual citizenship, consult the U.S. Department of State.


Depending on your citizenship, the country you are traveling to and the length and nature of your program, country-specific student visas may or may not be required. For most programs that take place only in the summer or winter sessions, visas are not often required. For many semester or year-long programs, you will have to apply for a student visa. The process of obtaining a visa varies highly by country; check your study abroad program’s information, along with the U.S. Department of State’s country-specific information for entry, exit, and visa requirements.  Students must obtain their own visas for programs and follow all of the required steps mandated by the destination country. Visa processing can take several months, so it is important to plan ahead!

Vaccination Card/QR Code or Exemption

Some programs may require proof of COVID-19 vaccination (the physical card and/or the QR code) or proof of an exemption from the COVID-19 vaccine. Please refer to the Study Abroad & Away COVID-19 Protocols for more information on program policies. If you are studying on an SJSU Exchange, please follow the instructions from your host university, the Study Abroad and Away office, and the U.S. Department of State. If you are studying on a CSU IP program, please follow instructions from your host university, CSU IP, and the U.S. Department of State.  If you are studying on an ISEP program, please follow instructions from your host university, ISEP, and the U.S. Department of State. If you are studying on a Faculty-Led Program, please follow the instructions from your faculty leader(s), the Study Abroad and Away office, and the U.S. Department of State


For International Students in F-1 status Participating in Study Abroad Programs:

Before departing for the program, you are required to contact International Student and Scholar Services ( to obtain required I-20 travel signatures, and to obtain important visa and re-entry information.

Travel Websites

Before departing for your program, please visit the websites below to learn more about:

  • Your destination
  • Travel alerts and warnings
  • Sustainability in travel
  • Special considerations - it is important to do additional research for health and safety if you identify yourself with one of the following categories as listed on the U.S. Department of State website: women travelers, LGBTQIA+ travelers, older travelers, or travelers with disabilities. Visit Identity Abroad to learn more and find resources.

The Center for Disease Control

The CDC provides information regarding health and travel. Visit their section on Traveler’s Health to learn about medical issues in your host country, which vaccines are suggested, and to discover additional health advice worth knowing before you go.

The World Health Organization

The WHO is another great resource for you to learn about health considerations and risks while you are abroad.

The World Factbook

The World Factbook will provide information on the country’s history, people and society, government, economy, energy, geography, communications, transportation, military, and transnational issues.

Country Reports

Country Reports will provide information on culture, news, politics, travel advice, and more!

U.S. Department of State

The U.S. Department of State: U.S. Students Abroad website will provide information to prepare you for your study abroad or away experience. Make sure to check out their Travel pages, including: “Before you Go,” “Country Information,” “While Abroad,” “Emergencies,” “U.S. Students Abroad” and “Traveler’s Checklist.”

The U.S. Department of State: Safety and Security Messaging will provide important health and safety information. Please review the information regarding travel advisories, alerts, and staying connected.

Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP)

STEP is a free service from the U.S. Department of State to allow U.S. citizens and nationals traveling and living abroad to enroll their trip with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. You are required to enroll in STEP for the duration of your program.* You will receive important information from the Embassy about safety conditions in your destination country, helping you make informed decisions about your travel plans. STEP can also help the U.S. Embassy contact you in an emergency, whether natural disaster, civil unrest, or family emergency. If you plan to travel before or after your program dates, please make sure to note this in your STEP registration.**

Booking Flights

Students are responsible for booking their own flights to and from their program destination. For Faculty-Led Programs, you will have to wait for the cohort to pay their fees in full before booking your flights; you will be notified by your faculty leader(s) and the Study Abroad and Away office when you can book. 

Here are some general tips when it comes to searching for and booking flights:

  • Search for flights on multiple search engines/websites to compare rates. Some examples include Google Flights, Expedia, Kayak and Skyscanner.
  • Consider using a search engine to find the cheapest date/time to fly and then go to the airline's own website to book the actual tickets. Many times airlines will match or beat other prices listed online and the service/security you receive with the purchase is better when purchasing directly from the airline.
  • Sign up for price drop notifications on travel booking websites, which alert you when a fare for your chosen destination drops below a specified price threshold.
  • When booking your flights, be careful to note any restrictions associated with your ticket, particularly if you think you might need to make changes. These can include whether the ticket is refundable, what change penalties exist, re-routing options, etc.
  • Pay attention to baggage fees and how many bags (checked vs. carry-on) may be included in the fare that you purchase. Most basic economy fares or other cheapest fares do not include baggage, and bag fees can add up depending on the airline. 

Travel During the Program

We encourage students to take advantage of their time away and explore other destinations and cultures as their schedule and budget allows. Below are some guidelines to keep in mind when it comes to planning additional travel.

  • We recommend students looking to travel do so through authentic engagement with locals, rather than visiting touristy spots. Being abroad isn’t a checklist, it’s a journey of learning and discovery. Absorb the sights and smells. Don’t be afraid to put down the phone camera and talk to a local. Interact with them, learn from them, and grow with them. The best parts of being abroad aren’t scheduled events, but authentic and spontaneous happenings. By all means, follow your passion, but do so in a safe and genuine way. Here are some ideas on how to respectfully engage with locals and respect local cultures.
  • If you are participating in a program during summer or winter session, you will only be enrolled in health insurance for the dates of your program. You will need to secure additional health insurance coverage for any personal travel you are planning before or after the program. 
  • Participants in Faculty-Led Programs should not travel more than 3-4 hours from the program site within the host country and should not travel outside of their host country during the program. This is to ensure that we can have participants gather together on short notice if an emergency were to occur in the region (ex: terrorism; natural disaster). If you wish to travel to other countries, plan to do so before or after the program.
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