How the hell do I fly to the US?

So, I haven’t actually flown into the US since about 1998, and I know that things have changed somewhat.

I need info and suggestions to make getting through security as fast and painless as possible.

So - some specific questions:

  1. Perscription medication in original packaging, right? I take synthroid which I can’t imagine is going to be a problem, a topical cream for my face, and Tylenol #3’s - if the tylenol is in its original Rx bottle, will it be an issue?

What about vitamins, iron, calcium etc - can I just chuck all that stuff in a baggie, or does it have to be in original packaging as well?

  1. I’m not planning on checking any luggage - am I going to be able to bring my tweezers? They’re just standard tweezers, but they are metal and sort of pointy, so I’ll just leave them at home if that’s an issue.

  2. I have my new and updated passport, my drivers licence and my birth certificate - I shouldn’t need any other ID, right? Also, I’m bringing travelers cheques - am I going to have to prove that I have enough $$ for the duration of my trip or anything?

  3. Cell phone - I can bring it, right?

  4. I’m dropping my dog off at the kennel at 9:00am and my flight is at 11:10 so I’ll probably only have about 1.75 - 2 hours to check in and make it through security - I don’t think I look particularly threatening, but is there anything I can do to expidite things? Things not to wear/say/do, that kind of thing?

Any thing else?


Anything else anyone can think of?

On question 3, your current passport should be adequate ID for all purposes – in almost every case. (One exception would be if you are a permanent resident of the US, in which case you need your green card as well as your passport to go through immigration).

I’ve never used travellers’ cheques while visiting about 6 different countries. Having a normal credit card should be proof that you can support yourself. The best way to get the local currency anywhere in the developed world is to get it out of an ATM using a debit card.

Just curious, where are you coming from and what airport would you be leaving from/entering through? If you don’t mind saying.

The TSA has a list (the link is a PDF) of prohibited items for both carry-on and checked bags. It looks like your tweezers are okay. Heck, they’ll even let you carry on a safety razor, or a pair of scissors with blades less than 4" long. It doesn’t have anything about over-the-counter meds.

I wouldn’t worry too much about the whole security thing. You sound sensible, just pay attention to the signs, take off your shoes if they tell you to (it seems to vary from airport to airport), and don’t make any loud jokes about bombs or drugs.

You usually see recommendations to get to the airport 2 hours before an international flight, but as you’re not planning on checking any bags, I doubt if 15 minutes will cause you to miss your flight. I’m the type that always allows extra time, and I usually have an hour or so to shop on the concourse, get a snack, and read a magazine before boarding.

Have fun!

Yeah, sounds like you have nothing to worry about. I’ve never even thought about the pill stuff! Tweezers should be a-okay. If you’re just visiting, they shouldn’t ask you anything about finances - at least, I’ve never seen it happen or heard of it happening.

Are you flying out of Calgary?
That time shouldn’t be too bad to get through security (it’s awful if you’ve got an early morning flight - folks line up for what seems like blocks for when security opens at 6 am)
I’ve never been asked about meds but it certainly can’t hurt to keep the prescriptions in their correct packaging. I always just toss my vitamins in a baggie.
I’ve never been asked about cash, but I haven’t made a trip longer than a week or so.
You most certainly can bring your cell phone - they don’t even ask about it anymore.
They always want to check laptops rather carefully.
Before going through the metal detector make sure you’ve taken off anything that might beep (watch, belt, coins in pocket). Not all those things will set it off, but it doesn’t hurt to toss them in the tray just in case.
Your passport will be more than adequate ID - for right now even your drivers licence and birth certificate are enough. If you’ve got all three pieces you are definitely covered.
Make sure and have all the forms you need filled in before you hit the security desk; (there should just be one if you are a Canadian going on a vacation to the US) they get rather cranky if you don’t.
And the biggest thing? A nice, happy smile. Never hurts.

I’m flying from Calgary to LA. I’ve never had any trouble at the Calgary airport - they always seem very friendly, so hopefully that will be true this trip as well.

What forms do I have to fill out? I’ve never filled out forms before.

Do NOT tell them you met online when they ask how you know the person you’re going to visit. Tell them it’s a school friend or something. When I brought back BrattiAtti and Tripler (from Glacier up to Mom’s in Barons), they were interrogated. The next day when I returned them, I happened to meet up with the Immigration officer who had done so. He told me that there have been quite a few border crossings of people who meet online and just conveniently forget to leave after coming to visit.

Good thing we didn’t meet online. :wink:

Deep breath, Alice, all will be fine! You’ll probably be handed a green form on the plane that’s used when people are entering without a visa, it’s very simple and you should have no trouble. Unless you check the box that says you’re planning on overthrowing the government… :wink:

A recent thread just had a link to the form but for the life of me, I can’t remember what the thread was.

I despise flying with the hatred of a thousand burning suns. I get really, really worked up so I’m just trying to make sure that I have everything covered.

As far as I’m concerned, the only thing I want to be worrying about is flaming death which no amount of pep talks can make me not worry about. :slight_smile:

The form is no problem. Just name, address, address of where you are going, whether the trip is business or pleasure, and if you are bringing anything contraband in. (you aren’t)

Security at the airport last week was unusually pleasant and swift - here’s hoping it stays that way.

Enjoy your trip! (once the dreaded flying is over, that is)

Shouldn’t be. I wouldn’t bring massive quantities of it if you could avoid it, though.

That stuff should be fine in a baggie.

Yes, but it may or may not work. You should find out if it will, and be aware that salespeople at cell phone stores have been known to either be misinformed on this subject, or to outright lie about whether your cell phone will work in a foreign country. Unfortunately, the US’s cell phones work on a different frequency than most of the rest of the world’s. This article might be helpful.

If it does work, beware of roaming charges- some phone companies’ roaming charges are sky-high.

Re: Cell phone - my Bell phone works just fine (in Arizona at least), and my dad’s Telus phone works occasionally (lousy reception though) and my stepmonsters Rogers phone works great.

Cell phone should be fine from Canada. Are they any interaction problems between US and Canadian systems?

Cell phones are fine, but you have to turn them off before the plane takes off. In my experience flying, airlines that I’ve traveled on will let you turn them back on while the plane is taxi’ing to the gate. Listen to the instructions for other portable electronics, like music players - most flights I’ve been on have said they have to be shut off until 10 minutes after takeoff, and shut down again 10 minutes before landing. Just listen to the announcements and you should be OK.

As for expediting the process, when you’re in line at security, take off any coat or bulky outer garment you might have on. Remove metal objects (watches, belts, coins, etc.), and take off your shoes right when you get up to the tables where you grab bins to put your stuff in. Most places don’t require shoe removal, but even ones that don’t will typically say that if your shoes make the metal detector beep, you might have to get the wand check, so might as well make it easier to deal with. After you’ve put everything on the conveyor belt, you should only be holding your boarding pass and ID(s). Wait until the security officer gives the OK, then step into the metal detector gate. He or she will probably double-check your ID versus your boarding pass at this time, then wave you through. Once you’ve gone through security, you (in my experience) shouldn’t have to show your ID again.

You need to relax. I mean, you’re seriously asking about whether you have to prove you’re bringing enough money? Calm down, it’s travel, not a grand jury.

It’s extremely unlikely they’ll ask any questions about any pills you bring - in fact, it’s likely they won’t look at anything you bring. The only inspection you’re likely to go through is airport security, who’re looking for weapons and explosives. So don’t bring any weapons or explosives. Tweezers are not a weapon.

You will have to fill out a blue and grey form before you go through U.S. customs, if you’re a Canadian citizen. (You don’t have to fill out the green form.) It’s just a declaration form, quite similar to the one you have to fill out when you come back into Canada, that asks if you’re bringing anything weird into the country, which you are not. There’s lots of forms at the airport; they will be prominently displayed near customs. I’m assuming Calgary has a U.s. customs in the airport; most big Canadian airports do.

There is nothing you can do to expedite getting through the airport except to relax and to, as Ferret Herder suggests, actually be ready to walk through the metal detector when you get to it.

Also - this has nothing to do with crossing borders, I’m just saying this as a frequent air traveller - please, if you are bringing a suitcase, check it. Please.

May depend on your provider but we had no trouble in Niagara Falls last week (we’re US-based and use Verizon). I had to update the phone’s programming to make sure it had the latest roaming codes (or something). IIRC, I was not roaming most of the time but when we ventured further away from the touristy areas my phone switched to roaming mode. I’m guessing I was getting a signal from the US side of the river when I was close to the waterfront. Most of my group (variety of providers) had no trouble connecting. I’d imagine CA-to-US would have a similar experience but it’s prolly best to check with your cell phone company beforehand. They may be able to switch your plan to one that allows roaming into the US.

No clue how much my roaming will cost me. The next cell bill should be, um, “interesting” :eek: :slight_smile:

Understatement of the year. :slight_smile: Did I mention that I loathe flying with the hatred of a thousand burning suns?

Humm - I’m bringing one of those little “small enough for the overhead bin” type suitcases. For me, I try to minimize the whole “flying experience” as much as possible - skipping having to check the baggage and potentially have it lost by the airline is one step I can take.

Have you seen Airplane, the movie? You know the screaming woman that everyone takes turns slapping? Well, I’m her. It’s probably better for everyone involved if I just stuff my little case up in the overhead, even if it does mean that your cowboy hat gets squished. :wink:

It’s pretty simple - airports have a little metal thingy that you can put your bag inside to see if you can take it on the plane with you. If it won’t fit inside that thing, then you have to check it. Please err on the side of caution on this, and think about checking it anyway.

Personally, I like checking luggage. I’ve never had any of it sent to Siberia by mistake, and it always seems to turn up at the carousel when I arrive. I also like just being free of the bloody stuff, and being able to wander about the terminal without having to carry it about, until it’s time to board. Remember, the root of “luggage” is “lug”.

Especially if you are nervous about the whole thing, checking baggage actually does minimise the airport experience for you. You’re checking yourself in anyway, so all you have to do is plonk the bag down on the conveyor and forget about it. When you get to the metal detector point, there is much less chance that you’ll set it off, and you won’t be asked to open your bag if you don’t have one. The guys there will likely just give you an easier time all round, sans bag. There is also the other point that international travellers with no checked luggage can attract unwanted attention by customs and immigration. It can make you look dodgy in their eyes.

The only downside of checking baggage is having to wait for the carousel when you arrive, but by that time, you’ve had your flight already, so the nerves should be much, much better.

So, I’d recommend checking it (in case you missed it), but of course it’s up to you.