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First time international flyer question

Eureka, California
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8 posts
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First time international flyer question

We are flying from San Francisco to Atlanta to Cancun, when do we go through customs? If we don't go through customs before Cancun, can I just put our passports in our luggage or will I need to show them before customs? Sorry for all the questions but we have never been out of the us before lol.

Mississauga, Canada
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1. Re: First time international flyer question

Keep your passport with you at all times, never put it in your luggage!

You will clear Mexican customs when you arrive in Cancun

Minneapolis...
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2. Re: First time international flyer question

You will also need your passport to board your flight from Atlanta to CUN.

Dallas, Texas
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3. Re: First time international flyer question

You'll use your passport for ID on each flight. I just keep ours in my purse where it's easy to get to. I have a small travel billfold type thing I keep our passports, boarding passes, hotel info, etc in that is easy to grab. I have this that I keep all of our travel documents in. http://tinyurl.com/jwn4stl

Calgary
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for Akumal, Riviera Maya, Cancun
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4. Re: First time international flyer question

Never, ever, EVER put anything essential (e.g. prescription meds, passports, etc.) or valuable (cameras, laptops, jewellery) in your CHECKED luggage. Thankfully, it doesn't happen often but checked luggage can go astray - sometimes never to be seen again - so you should pack accordingly. In addition to essentials and valuables, my carry on always contains:

- 1 bathing suit and cover up and maybe a pair of flip flops (depends on what footwear I'm wearing on the plane);

- t shirt or top

- undies

That way if my checked bag does go astray, I can at least put on a clean shirt AND I don't have to face the prospect of bathing suit shopping under duress. FWIW, on one trip to Mexico, we ended up spending an unscheduled night in Houston and did not have access to our checked bags. My husband and I sure were grateful for the clean shirts and undies the next day!

If you're not already familiar with the TSA rules regarding liquids in your carry-on, then here's an excerpt from the TSA website - tsa.gov/traveler-information/3-1-1-carry-ons

<<When processing through a screening checkpoint, each traveler is allowed one bag in order to limit the total volume of liquids, aerosols and gels. Consolidating products into one bag and X-raying them separately from the carry-on bag enables security officers to quickly clear all items.

3-1-1 for carry-ons = 3.4 ounce (100ml) bottle or less (by volume); 1 quart-sized, clear, plastic, zip-top bag; 1 bag per passenger placed in screening bin. One-quart bag per person limits the total liquid volume each traveler can bring. 3.4 ounce (100ml) container size is a security measure.

Be prepared. Each time TSA searches a carry-on it slows down the line. Practicing 3-1-1 will ensure a faster and easier checkpoint experience.

3-1-1 is for short trips. If in doubt, consider putting your liquids in checked luggage.

Declare larger liquids. Medications, baby formula and food, and breast milk are allowed in reasonable quantities exceeding three ounces and are not required to be in the zip-top bag. Declare these items for inspection at the checkpoint. Officers may need to open these items to conduct additional screening.>>

When you arrive in Cancun, just follow the throngs of people. Here's another thread that gives a [very] detailed breakdown of the arrivals process and gives a couple of cautions about things you should watch out for - tripadvisor.ca/ShowTopic-g3198845-i27741-k71…

If you are booking a package trip, ground transfers may already be included. If they are not, you are better off to book your own as handling that sort of thing through a third party usually works out more expensive than if you'd done it yourself. For more info on ground transfers, check out this thread - tripadvisor.ca/…0

On the journey home, you will pass through US Customs & Immigration in Atlanta and will have to collect and re-check your bag. If you have purchased any duty free booze at Cancun and thus have liquids exceeding 100ml in your hand luggage, you will have to put that booze into your CHECKED bags. If you do not do this, your booze will be confiscated when you try to go through security (after Customs & Immigration but en route to the gate where you will board your flight to San Francisco). The TSA website talks about allowing such liquids if they're "STEB" sealed. So far as I know, that is NOT available at Cancun (I'm sure someone will correct me if I'm mistaken on that).

Other than that, my advice to you as a newbie would be to read the Top Questions box to the right (you need the full website, not the mobile app, in order to see the TQs). If you have any questions that this post and the TQs don't address, then please come back and ask away.

Hope this helps and happy travels!

Colo Spgs
Destination Expert
for Cozumel
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5. Re: First time international flyer question

You will fill out two forms. The customs form is one per family.

The immigration form is one per person and you keep part of it. Do not lose it. You turn it in when you check in to come home.

If you lose it, read the top question about that.

Take two pens with you.

Edited: 08 April 2014, 16:36
Eureka, California
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8 posts
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6. Re: First time international flyer question

Thank you all, Biscuitandhanksmommy, those are really cute! I wish I had time to order one but we're leaving in a few hrs. lol.

St. Lucia
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for St. Lucia
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7. Re: First time international flyer question

On the way TO Cancun: you will check in at SFO and show your passport, receive boarding passes and go through security where you will need to show your passport/ID to the TSA person before going through metal detector. You may or may not have to show again at boarding, both in SFO and Atlanta. On the flight from Atlanta to CUN, you will receive a tourist card which will need to be filled out w/personal info and hotel inf - you'll need your passport & hotel info.

Once in CUN you will go through Immigration first: show your passport and tourist card to agent, they will scan and do what they do. Once passed by them, on to baggage claim, the customs. You will (usually) have to have your luggage rescanned by MX customs officials - all bags (including handbag) go through X-Ray machine. Once through there, you may or may not have to play red light/green light. Often you have to hand off your customs form and push a button. If green light comes up, you're on your way. If red light comes up, there is a quick hand search of your bags. Generally, it's one button push per family - procedure can vary.

On your RETURN to the States: you will go through Immigration & Customs at your first port of entry in the US. If your flight is the same in reverse, this will be Atlanta. Simple. Fill in the Customs form you will receive on the plane (again - you'll need your passport handy). Exit plane, proceed to Immigration, hand form & passport to agent, they do their thing and hand forms back - keep passport and customs for handy still! Proceed to baggage claim, get your bags and line up for Customs. Once at the agent, hand over form. If they ask any questions, answer as clearly as possible. Once through customs, there will be a place to hand your bags over to airline agents to be forwarded to your next flight. Once you hand your bags off, proceed to security again just as you would for any domestic flight. Proceed through securrity (as above), and head to your gate for flight home!

One side note on this one: if you bought any duty free liquids at the CUN airport and carried them on the plane, they will need to be put in your checked bags before you hand them off - can't carry them through security.

Hope that helps, enjoy your trip!

Colo Spgs
Destination Expert
for Cozumel
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8. Re: First time international flyer question

Baggage x-raying in Terminal 3 may not happen. Just follow people ahead of you.

Southern California
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9. Re: First time international flyer question

Your airline will hand out Customs and Immigration forms on the flight from Atlanta to fill out so keep your passport on you and bring a ballpoint pen (blue or black).

Calgary
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for Akumal, Riviera Maya, Cancun
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10. Re: First time international flyer question

WOW! Leaving in a few hours .... OK, to save you clicking on my Cancun airport link, read this (cut-and-pasted):

Let’s start before you even get to Cancun. On the plane you will be given tourist cards and customs declaration forms to fill out. Here’s a link (thank you Mapchick!) to what those forms look like - http://www.mapchick.com/mexican-tourist-card/ and mapchick.com/mexican-customs-declaration-car…

NB - you CANNOT print these forms out and complete them ahead of time; you MUST use the actual cards supplied on the plane (or at the arrivals area of the airport).

The tourist cards are ONE PER PERSON and you should complete the entire thing, including the side portion. The customs declaration forms are ONE PER HOUSEHOLD.

Make sure you have a pen and your passport handy on the plane. The flight attendants don’t supply pens and you’ll need to put your passport number on the forms. Occasionally, they will run out of forms on the plane, in which case you’ll get them when you land and you’ll have to fill them out then.

OK, so now you’ve landed, deplaned and you’re inside Cancun airport. Your first stop is Immigration where you will present your passport in the usual fashion, along with the cards that you were given to fill out on the plane. Your passport will be stamped and part of the tourist card returned to you. Do not lose this little chit of paper as you will need it when it's time to leave Mexico. (If you do lose it, it's not the end of the world but you may want to allow some extra time at the airport when it's time to come home and be prepared for some additional cost.)

The line ups at Immigration can be anything from zero to two hours or more, so be prepared for that. There are washrooms in this area but no seating or waiting place.

After Immigration, you go through to the baggage hall where you'll retrieve your checked luggage from the carousel. One advantage (!) to long lines at Immigration is that your bags will already be waiting for you. If you’ve had a long wait at Immigration and your bags don’t appear to be on the carousel, check the bags that are standing off to the side.

Next is Customs. The exact procedure will depend upon which Terminal you’ve arrived at. They may change things up at anytime but as of today, here’s what you can expect:

Terminal 2 - ALL bags, including hand luggage (yes ladies, purses too) go on the conveyor belt and get x-rayed. After this, you'll press a button - get a green light and you're good to go; get a red light and you'll be directed to a side table where your bags will be subjected to a quick, cursory hand search. This search only takes a couple of minutes and is absolutely nothing to worry about. Stick together with the people you’re travelling with as couples and families with kids are generally directed to have one person push the button and you all go through together. If you're a larger group or family, you can expect to be split up into smaller units but the official will direct you as far as that is concerned.

Terminal 3 – you push the red light/green light button first and only if you get the red light do your bags get x-rayed.

I've only ever experienced the Terminal 2 procedure. X-raying everyone’s luggage takes time, so you may experience long lines here too. Other posters who've gone through Terminal 3 report that it's much faster.

If you want to find out which Terminal you’ll be arriving at, you can use the following link. Click on the “by airport” tab, fill in the appropriate info and ARRIVALS. flightstats.com/go/…flightStatusByFlight.do

After the Customs area (regardless of Terminal) you will pass through a set of doors and into the fun part - the shark tank! EVERYONE here is selling timeshare and they will try every trick in the book to engage you in conversation. They may tell you they're with your travel company or airline or even claim to be government officials (some of their uniforms do look “official”); I’ve even heard of them asking to see passports BUT IT’S ALL BOGUS! Just keep on walking towards the exit doors at the opposite end of where you came in.

Once you get OUTSIDE in the fresh air, you can look for your transportation. Tour companies will be over to the left holding signs with the various corporate logos on them. (Your documents should say what to look for – flowered shirts for Apple, teal shirts/white pants for Lomas/Funjet etc.) If you're taking a private transfer, then look over to the right for a company rep or your driver holding a sign with your name. If you don't see your transfer, then feel free to ask someone. (For obvious reasons, you want to avoid asking for help or talking to anyone at all inside the shark tank.)

Map of the airport - http://www.mapchick.com/cancun-airport-map/

Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that the foregoing is an amalgamation of information posted by some of the great folk who contribute regularly here on Trip Advisor. Many thanks to Mo, Nik, Vancouversundog and any others whom I have blatantly plagiarized and to Mapchick for making so much information freely available on her website (check out her maps; they are AWESOME!).

Happy and safe travels to all.