En el aeropuerto – vuelos internacionales

I have been traveling between Spain and the USA for more than ten years. Plus, many more trips to other countries in the world. By now, I have gone through security at the airport more than a hundred times. I know what to expect. What am I (most likely) going to be asked. What to put on my carry on luggage, what not. I know every single line of the security tape/performance that the aeromozs/azafats do at the beginning of the flight.

However, for a first traveler it might be a bit overwhelming.

Here you have a few tips, ideas that I believe would help you navigate your first international flight!

At the Airport.

  1. Plan to arrive to the airport 2 hours and a half to 3 hours before the departure time of your flight.
  1. Check your luggage and go through the security point. (no liquids, laptops out of the bag, if you have one, no shoes, etc). You want to go through the security points as soon as possible (more than an hour before the boarding time of your flight). Boarding time for an international flight tends to be between 40 mins to an hour before departure. You can find all this info in your boarding pass.Why You Shouldn't Post Your Boarding Pass on Social Media
  1. Be at the departure gate about an hour before departure time. Boarding will start around that time. If you do not have a lot of carry on baggage I would suggest boarding towards the end. You already have your seat (no one is going to take it). However the sit does not come with ¨reserved space¨on the overhead compartments. You might not be able to put your carry on baggage just over your seat. However, boarding towards the end will make the flight a bit shorter. If you board towards the beginning you will be seated for almost one more hour. 
  1. Your flight is a passport controlled flight which means that you will have to walk to the podium at the gate and show your passport before they allow you on the plane. To save time, this is done before boarding starts (therefore, stop by the gate 1 hour before departure time).


  1. Neither US citizens nor Mexican citizens need a visa to visit Spain (Europe) when staying for less than three months (90 days) in Spain/Europe. The person checking your passport might ask “how long are you going to be in XX? Are you going to visit other countries, if so, which ones? Or when is your flight back?” Easy questions. These will most likely be the questions you will also get when going through the immigration post at  Barajas Airport.


  1. Get in the plane and enjoy the 8:30ish hour flight, the entertainment system will have a few movies, games and what not. (I highly recommend bringing some water into the plane to stay hydrated).

7. You will be served food during the flight. However, If you are a picky eater, you might
want to bring some snacks.


Upon arrival into Madrid – Adolfo Suarez (Barajas) airport

  1. Everyone in the plane will have to go through the immigration booth, so follow the group 😀
  2. Once you get to the immigration area chose one of the open lines for “non-european members”.
  3. Show your passport to the officer. It is quite likely that he/she will just stamp your passport. If they ask just tell them that you are going to be in Spain for a month studying in Alcalá de Henares. They might want to check that you do have a return ticket (if they ask, show them your reservation for the return flight. If are not asked about this, then don´t).
  4. Continue walking (again there are a lot of signs but, there will also be about a 100 people going in the same direction, so… follow the crowd).
  5. Take the train to go to the main terminal.( this only applies if you are landing at Terminal 4).
  6. Look in the monitors to find out what baggage
    carousel you need. It might be a good idea to put something distinctive in your check luggage so you can identify it easily! (More on baggage? see this link http://www.airsafe.com/issues/baggage/baggage-claim.htm.

Waiting for luggage     7. Once you have ALL your luggage walk through the exit. I will be there waiting for you
for your first, very needed at that point, cafe con leche! 😀 

8. Do not leave the luggage area without your belongings you will not be able to go back in.



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