The migration of single cells and epithelial sheets is of great importance for gastrulation and organ formation in developing embryos and, if misregulated, can have dire consequences e.g. during cancer metastasis. A keystone of cell migration is the regulation of adhesive contacts, which are dynamically assembled and disassembled via endocytosis. Here, we discuss some of the basic concepts about the function of endocytic trafficking during cell migration: transport of integrins from the cell rear to the leading edge in fibroblasts; confinement of signalling to the front of single cells by endocytic transport of growth factors; regulation of movement coherence in multicellular sheets by cadherin turnover; and shaping of extracellular chemokine gradients. Taken together, endocytosis enables migrating cells and tissues to dynamically modulate their adhesion and signalling, allowing them to efficiently migrate through their extracellular environment.