What to Expect During International Flights

It’s been said of vacations that half the fun is in getting there, and although I’m not sure I’d use the word fun, an international flight is a bit of an adventure. When I flew to and from Germany this spring, I was a bit nervous about the flights because I wasn’t sure what to expect and couldn’t find much online on the subject. Would I be interrogated at security checkpoints? Would there be pillows on the plane? Based on my experiences flying to Germany and back with Delta, here’s what to expect, along with some advice.


Arrive at the airport earlier than you normally would, and expect to go through a full-body scanner. When you fly back to the United States and then make a connecting flight, expect to pick up your luggage, drop it off somewhere else, and go through security again. Otherwise, I didn’t have to go through any additional procedures. Keep your boarding pass and passport handy but not so handy that they’re easy to steal.

The Flight

I took an overnight flight, which was a good idea because sleeping is a good way to pass the long time. Even though I wasn’t in first class, I found a small plastic-wrapped pillow and blanket on my seat when boarding. Free earbuds were also available for listening to music or watching movies. When I wasn’t sleeping, I was reading or eating the meal and two snacks served.

Sleeping on a plane isn’t easy because the space is so cramped and loud, even with earplugs. The seats don’t recline much, and if you’re long-legged, your knees will touch the seat in front of you. Fasten your seatbelt over your blanket so that flight attendants don’t wake you to see if your seatbelt is fastened. After trying every sleeping position, except for putting my head on the shoulder of the person next to me, I slept with the doughnut pillow I’d bought wrapped around the back of my head, covering my ears, with the free pillow cushioning my neck.

Border Patrol and Customs

After getting off the plane, follow the crowd to the border patrol station. There will be a line for citizens and for noncitizens. After I showed the agent my passport, all he asked was why I was in the country and how long I’d be there. I could pass the customs station in Germany because I hadn’t brought anything worth hundreds of dollars or anything to sell. When returning to the United States, I filled out a customs form and gave it to the border agent, but he wasn’t that concerned about the small amount of chocolate and cheese I’d brought back. Customs wasn’t the hassle that I’d thought it’d be.


The hardest part of flying internationally is probably sleeping on the plane. Don’t worry as much about security or customs. Have a great trip!

Photo: Tim RT, Flickr Creative Commons


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Darla Word

About Darla Word

I'm a writing tutor and editor from Michigan. My favorite subject to write about is writing because making better writers is my calling. I also enjoy reading, singing, swimming, and cardmaking.

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