Flying overseas? Pre-departure Tips on Baggage, Customs and More…

by Narelle Webber on Thursday, 12 September 2013

When it comes to flight connections ISV recommend at least three hours between your scheduled arrival and departure © all images from Google

Flying overseas can be daunting if you haven’t had the experience before. Here you will find some useful tips and important recommendations that we hope will be useful in preparing for your ISV program.

Connecting flights – Domestic to International and Vice Versa

If you need to take a domestic flight before your international departure, as a general rule, allow at least three hours in between the time your scheduled arrival and departure. This will allow for minor flight delays, check-in and transit between domestic and international terminals. Every airport is different and often you can’t just walk between one terminal and the other, you may need to take a train or bus! Depending on your circumstances and airlines, you may also have to re-check your bags, and even go through another security check (and line-up)! At some large airports, you might need to allow extra time to board a shuttle bus to board the plane because it is located a distance away from the actual gate. Whatever the case, when it comes to flight connections, having more time than you may need is definitely better and less stressful than not enough!

Carry-on baggage

Small containers of liquids should be in a clear plastic bag and each item should not exceed 100ml

Each passenger can only have one carry-on bag (small daypack/backpack recommended) plus a personal item such as a purse. Please be sure to pack away items such as Swiss Army knives, fingernail clippers, any other sharp item, and any liquids/gels/pastes into your checked luggage. Small containers of liquids (such as contact lens solution, makeup, deodorant, toothpaste, etc.) should be put in a clear plastic bag and the volume of each item should not exceed 100ml as a general rule). You CAN carry an empty, refillable water bottle through security and fill it once you are passed the screening point.  Carry-on baggage should not exceed 15 lbs (7kg). Please note: ensure any prescription and personal medication is in your carry-on baggage, not your checked-baggage, just in case your luggage is lost.  Medications should be carefully labeled. You may wish to bring phone chargers in your carry-on baggage too.

Checked Baggage

ISV requires all participants, regardless of host country, to limit themselves to ONLY 1 piece of checked baggage. Your baggage must not exceed 44 lbs (20 kg). Although the international baggage allowance might be higher, this is the standard weight limit for most domestic flights and you risk being charged by the airlines for each additional overweight and/or over-sized piece of luggage exceeding free allowance.

Need a sleeping bag for your project or planning to take a bag of donations?  A sleeping bag is usually okay to take separately. If you have an additional bag for donations for your project, check with your airline first to find out what their fees are as most airlines charge for extra bags and overweight items.

Consider attaching a brightly colored ribbon or something to easily identify your bag amongst others. Label your bag clearly with your full name and contact details (phone and email). Bags do sometimes get lost (a good reason to get Travel Insurance!). Note: Please put the address of your Project (or Spanish language school if doing this first) on your luggage tag when you check in at the airport. The address of the Project will be stated on the Project Overview which is sent to you 30 days prior to your departure.


If you’re vegetarian or have special dietary requirements (like gluten or lactose free), you can often request a special meal from your airline on long haul, international flights (don’t expect a meal on domestic flights unless you bring it on-board with you or purchase items during the flight). You should have your booking reference number in hand when you call, and make sure to call at least 72 hours prior to your departure.  Many airlines will accommodate certain dietary needs with advance notice, but just in case, you should pack suitable snacks as well.

Always print out a copy of your flight itinerary to have with your passport when you check in for your flight

Airline Tickets

These days most airline tickets are electronic, meaning you’ll receive an email of your confirmed flight itinerary from ISV, your travel agent or the airline directly. Sometimes all you need to do is to show up at check-in and present your passport and any other travel documentation (e.g. tourist visa, if required), but JUST TO BE SAFE, we recommend you always print out a copy of your flight itinerary and have this in hand when you go to check-in. This might save you huge headaches and stress if there are any questions about your booking.


Many countries have very strict laws prohibiting the importation of weapons, firearms, animal and food products (especially meat, dairy, seeds and vegetables). There are often heavy penalties for not declaring all potential quarantine items upon arrival.  It is very important to always fill out arrival documentation, including customs forms, 100% accurately. If you are unsure, be safe and declare it. You could incur large fines (or worse!) by misleading customs. Most bags these days are x-rayed and it’s just not worth the risk. Plus, there are good reasons (like biosecurity risks) as to why some things should not be taken from one country to another.  It’s important to think about this now, and remain knowledgeable about what you can/can’t take home, as you’ll want to go souvenir shopping in your host country and you may find that you can’t bring some things home safely and legally. Read more about customs in another ISV blog here.

Wishing you a safe and trouble-free air travel experience! (Note – don’t forget your Medical/Travel Insurance).

For more pre-departure blog information please use the following link:

To learn more about ISV’s programs in general, please visit our website:


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