11 Tips for Flying Internationally

I went on my first international trip in January 2016. My husband and I flew to New Zealand. I was a little nervous since I had never been on such a long flight.

Our flight itinerary: We flew from Seattle to San Francisco, San Francisco to Auckland, then Auckland to Christchurch. We flew Virgin Airlines and Air New Zealand and were pleased with both. NOTE: We had to pick up and re-check our bags at each destination. 

Customs: We received our arrival cards at the beginning of our flight to Auckland. Even though our final destination was Christchurch, we went through customs in Auckland and had to give them our arrival cards, passports and our one-year working holiday visas. They asked us where we were staying and made sure we understood that we had to leave after a year. That was it! I was prepared to show them proof of funds. After picking up our bags in Auckland, we went through another security checkpoint. You give them your arrival card. They asked us questions about used camping equipment and food, then we put our bags on a conveyor belt.


  1. Make sure you understand the visa requirements for the country you are traveling to. Keep this in mind when you have layovers as well! We flew from Auckland to Melbourne. We had an 11 hour layover in Melbourne before flying to Denpasar, Indonesia. Since our layover was longer than 8 hours we had to get Australian visas! We found this out at the airport. Thankfully we were able to get visas there.
  2. Check the CDC website for vaccine requirements. I kept a printout of my vaccine history. We went to New Zealand, Indonesia and Japan. No one every asked to see proof of vaccines. It is important to be up-to-date on routine vaccines before every trip.
  3. Be able to show evidence of your flights. We flew from Tokyo to Denver with layovers in Beijing and Vancouver. When we checked into Hainan airlines in Tokyo they wanted to see proof of an ongoing flight out of Beijing. I had not printed out the airline email so I had to get onto wifi on my Surface and show them. Once we were in Beijing, customs wanted to see proof on an ongoing flight. In order to get onto wifi to show them the email from the airline, we needed a mobile phone number. We did not have one. Thankfully a woman at a help desk used her personal cell phone to get the wifi code for us. FYI, the woman at Beijing customs was not very nice! Moral of the story: always print out your flight itineraries or have them on your device! I had always gotten away with just writing down the confirmation numbers, the airline, times, etc.
  4. I recommend getting to the airport 3 hours before an international flight. 
  5. Request a special meal if you eat a certain way. People with special meals get their food first! We had vegan meals on Air New Zealand and Air Canada.
  6. Wear comfortable clothing.
  7. Use an eye mask and ear plugs. It is so much easier to sleep if you have these items.
  8. Be prepared for customs. You will receive an arrival card on the flight. Fill it out before landing. They usually ask for your flight number, things you are bringing into the country, your personal information, passport number, purpose of trip and address in country. Research beforehand what you are not allowed to bring into the country.
  9. Stay hydrated. 
  10. Move around. 
  11. And of course, bring your passport. 

I have flown to Auckland, Christchurch, Melbourne, Denpasar, Kuala Lumpur, Tokyo, Beijing and Vancouver. I was never asked to show my vaccine history, proof of adequate funds or travel insurance. I was never asked many questions. The most common questions I was asked are: 1.What is the purpose for your trip? 2. How long do you intend to stay? 3. Where will you be staying? Each country is different when it comes to security. For example, Australia uses facial recognition technology to match travelers to their passports.

US residents can get into New Zealand without a visa if they stay less than 3 months. US residents can get into Indonesia without a visa if they stay less than 30 days. US residents can get into Japan without a visa if they stay less than 90 days.

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