Getting to the interview

So I’ve seen a number of threads and discussion about what to do at interviews, how to dress, etc. but for my life I can’t find details on what’s involved on actually getting there beforehand. A lot of that might be obvious to most, but my overly analytical mind coupled with being a neophyte when it comes to travel has me freaking out a little bit at the moment.

I got my second interview request today and so it seemed like a good idea to start booking flights and making hotel reservations and I quickly discovered that I don’t have any idea what I’m doing.

While the actual process of making these arrangements online is simple and straightforward enough, I’m not experienced enough with air travel/traveling out of state to really know everything that is involved here. My mother used to work for the airlines, and I went to NYC as part of choir tour in high school, so while I’m familiar with air travel in that I’ve been on a plane several times, I’ve never been responsible for having to get around or even worry about what was going to happen when I arrived. Furthermore, the last time I flew (with a group of 80 friends) was 2003, the time before that was 1992, and I imagine it’s safe to say things have changed since then.

Things that I’m trying to get a handle on, but cannot seem to find resources online that actually make coherent sense:

  1. I’m working under the assumption that I want to fly in the night before. Both my interviews thus far start in the early morning (8am or earlier) and tempting fate by flying out the same day doesn’t seem like a good idea.

  2. I’m fairly certain I want to avoid having to check luggage if I can avoid it (again, the nightmare scenario where the bag with anything I might need for the interview gets lost or something), and it’s my understanding that I don’t want to fly in my suit…especially if I’m going in the night before. This would seem to necessitate a garment bag, but they’re not great and holding much of anything else, and I have heard that you can safely somehow pack a suit into more traditional carry-on luggage. Not having had to fly in the last decade, I don’t actually own any luggage so advice on that front would be appreciated as well.

  3. I want to avoid renting a car if at all possible…right? Besides the additional expense, driving around and having to deal with parking in a city that I have never previously set foot in does not sound like it will do anything but add to the stress of the interview itself. As much as I loathe to be dependent on the alternatives for transportation, I’m not sure what best practice is in this regard.

  4. Hotels, for reasons passing understanding, seem to have check out times around noon or earlier. My interviews will likely have me on campus until 2pm or later. My current theory is to call the hotel a little closer to the day of and see if I can swing a late checkout or something like that, but if I’m flying out the evening of the interview, am I just screwed into paying for another night if they don’t give me the option for a late checkout?

  5. My laptop and it’s bag don’t count as my carry-on right? I’ve heard so many different sets of guidelines from different people about luggage I don’t know which way is up anymore. If I bring it (as I’m not sure I’ll survive with just my iPad) is it abnormal to bring it with me in a shoulder bag to the med school? Not that I’m going to need or even have the opportunity to use it while I’m on campus, but it’s a fairly expensive piece of hardware that I’m not sure I want to leave in a hotel room.

    I’m sure there was something else but at the moment it escapes me. My apologies if this is overly basic or obvious, but I like to as much as I can for certain in advance before I go diving off into the unknown.

    Thanks in advance for any tips, tricks, advice, thoughts, jokes, or anything else that I might find useful
  1. ABSOLUTELY fly in the night before, no matter what. Give yourself plenty of time to relax and eat a good dinner, AND get a good night’s rest.

  2. You are allowed one carry-on and one ‘personal item’ (think purse, laptop, backpack, or in my case most of the time, because I travel for music…guitar case. We ALWAYS travel Southwest Airlines if at all possible, because they don’t charge you bag fees, and you can check up to two bags for free AND have your carry on and personal item.

    *Your carry on can be a small rolling suitcase, and you can fit interview attire and personal items easily. Your hotel should have an iron and ironing board–call ahead to make sure.

  3. Most hotels offer a shuttle service to/from the airport in large cities. Check the school website for recommendations on where to stay, as they will point you to somewhere close to campus. Then, just ask the hotel to use their courtesy shuttle to drop you off at school. Worst case scenario re: airport travel, you can always take a cab…if your hotel doesn’t have a shuttle or the city doesn’t have a train, etc. Avoid the rental car. Too much hassle!

  4. Hotels are extremely accomodating. If you have a day meeting that runs past checkout time, you check out when you leave for your meeting, and they should allow you to store your bags in a courtesy area near the lobby where you can access them easily. No worries there–just communicate what you need and see what your options are.

  5. Laptop is a personal item, not a carry on. And I don’t know a school on the planet that would bat an eye at you having it with you. I wouldn’t worry about it or think too hard about it!

    NO such thing as too basic or obvious… trust me. I travel a ton, but lots of people DONT. We pool our resources and knowledge, and we are ALL better prepared!!
  1. I would most definitely fly in the night before. You’ll likely be done early afternoon, and I see no reason you couldn’t fly back the same day. Unless you want to spend some non-interview time in the area to check it out. Might be a good idea. Alternatively, get there an extra day early.

  2. There are ways to pack a suit small. I always travel small and light. Years of backpacking and travel via motorcycle will do that to you. Lots of Youtube videos on packing suits.

  3. I know for my last one, I looked online, and found a hotel a stones throw from the main school building where we checked in. I could stand in the parking lot and see the school, so I paid a little bit more for knowing that no matter what, I was going to get there when I needed to be. Even if you can’t quite walk there, get close, so there are fewer possible problems with traffic in the morning.

  4. I see no reason to need this. If you have a bag, you can either lock in the trunk of a rental car, or sans car, take it with you in the morning to the school. The school will likely be extremely accommodating as someone watching it for you during the day. I would trust them more than I would the hotel staff.

  5. #4. Pack super light, and you shouldn’t have an issue. No reason to bring a laptop to be honest IMHO. It might be nice in the hotel, but many have public use computers in their lobby or business center. It’ll be one less thing you’re carrying through the airport and worrying about. You have looking around the town, thinking about your interview, and travel hassles to deal with. When would you be web surfing?

Good luck Prodigal. We’re rooting for you!

Personally, I would not bring a laptop to the interview site. Most interviews are long, and carrying a laptop along just seems too cumbersome. I also read from an interview prep book that it is fine to bring your luggage with you to your interview site and ask the school to store it for you temporarily. If you are not sure, you might want to call the school and find out if it is acceptable.

Congrats and good luck on your interview.

Hey Prodigal.

I just flew to my previous interview and this is what I can tell you and lot has been said. Here is my experience.

1- Fly the night before

2- Get a small suitcase and a zipper bag for your suit. You can get both items in the cabin with you(at least with southwest). Your laptop will have to be in the suitcase though. And know that during security checks, you have to take the laptop out and place it in its own bin. No liquids or anything like that (gel, lotions etc.) They won’t get through

3- I did rent a car last time around. It made sense financially. I limited my travels to airport, hotel and school. I had a GPS (on my phone, and an extra one in my suitcase). All addresses were pre-programmed (like the day before). If you decide to rent a car make sure you have your insurance card and your driver license.

4- The hotel should be very close to the school, like walking distance, just in case. You should also figure out how to go from the hotel to the school the day before the interview. That’s the thing I do right after checking in usually.

No need to bother with late check out because it forces you to go back to your hotel while you can head up straight to the airport, either by car, cab or shuttle. Schools have places for luggage during interview day and some have shuttle services back to the airport. If you rent a car, leave the luggage in the trunk.

5- Leave the laptop with the luggage.

My best advice is to prepare everything you can ahead of time (maps, transportation, timing, paperwork, ID cards and so on). Then you will have a pleasant experience (or at least a less stressful one).

Good luck.

I will just put in my 2 cents.

I like leaving the luggage at the hotel. Most places will lock it up for you to claim later in the day on your way back to the airport. I’d rather have less to worry about at the interview itself.

Second, if you interviewed in a very rural town (like at WVSOM) there might not be an actual taxi service. I personally like to rent a car and have transportation under my control. But that’s just me and I realize it’s personal preference. Getting a hotel closer to the school makes lots of sense.

Google the hotel (click maps), and the school and you can see what is close.

I book by searching Cheapoair first - put in the date and approximate time I want to fly in and out and search - from my closest airport and also other nearby airports - to try to get a good deal. They will often offer flights NOT at the times you specify so you have to look closely. Also make sure that if you have to switch planes there is a good time interval between (at least an hour) so you don’t miss a connection. More important going than coming back.

I’d suggest buying a rolling suitcase that fits carryon size. If you want to take your laptop, slip it in a bag over your rolling handle so you can pull both of them.

I always roll my suit tightly- it doesn’t wrinkle that way AND packs in a small space, and as others said, most hotels have irons if needed for touchups.


  1. YES. Consider the town to plan times to allow for dinner (ie: everything closes pretty early in small towns) and plenty of time to sleep. Do not assume you will get restful sleep on the plane. Guaranteed you won’t.

  2. Don’t check. Google “how to fold a suit for carry on wrinkle free” or somesuch. I used big trash bags for suit pants/jacket, and no-iron, wrinkle resistant button-up shirts.

  3. RENT A CAR. You are agreeing to live in this place for 4 years. You need to KNOW WHAT THE AREA IS LIKE. Also, depending on other people to get you there on time is crazy. Finally, if you rent a car you can drive to the school the night before and not have the nervous fear of getting lost the next day. (At my 2nd interview I spent 20 mins driving in the wrong direction the MORNING OF THE INTERVIEW and almost arrived late. Didn’t drive the night before.)

  4. Lots of schools have relationships with nearby hotels, and will allow you to put your luggage at the front desk the morning of your checkout, so you don’t have to worry about it. Call school if they didn’t give you a hotel list. (if you have a flight shortly after the interview ends leave comfy clothes at the top of your bag, and change in the airport bathroom, no big deal)

  5. Yes, you get one carry-on and one personal bag (purse or laptop). I left both my laptop and iPad in my hotel, but they were both small enough to fit in the in-room safes, and easily hidden within my carry-on bag when I was wearing my suit. Also, don’t stay at the $30 a night places and you should be fine.

Yes, let my add my own horror story to Pixie’s - in my first interview I drove to the school the night before the check the directions and STILL got lost the next morning, planned to arrive 15 minutes early and arrived instead 5 minutes late. Pretty sure that despite an otherwise favorable interview, THAT got me rejected. Continued to drive the night before to check out the spot and planned on THIRTY minutes early at future interviews, then used time to drink coffee, review my application and questions, etc in the partking lot and walked in 15 minutes early.