Let me start by saying what needs to be said:
Flying through America at Christmas time is a nightmarish experience.
If you’re flying to Jamaica from Europe, you’ll likely be passing through Miami, which is probably the worst airport of them all! Lines are never-ending, and the security checks take what seem like forever! It’s guaranteed that you’ll see at least one person running to catch their connecting flight (boy haven’t I been in those shoes!)
If you’re flying through America you need to be prepared (both mentally and physically :P)
Don’t panic though!
I’ve written this post to arm you with the proper ammunition for surviving your connection flights through America in the Christmas rush.
Book Flights with Long Connections
My NUMBER ONE TIP when flying through America in the Christmas season is to book flights that have long connection times. Flights are frequently delayed and getting through American security control can take up A LOT of time. Lines tend to be extremely long as there are many more travellers in the Christmas season. Give yourself a minimum of 1.5 hours between connecting flights so that you can avoid missing your connection.
Apply for your ESTA
All European travellers (whose country falls under the Visa Waiver Program-insertlink-) are REQUIRED to have an Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) to enter the U.S.A. You will not be permitted to enter the country without one, even if you’re just passing through the airports. Application for the ESTA is relatively hassle-free and comes with a cost of $14 USD (if bought directly from the ESTA website). Ensure that you apply for it at least 72 hours before your trip.
European Airports tend to be quite busy in the Christmas season, so an online check-in is quite convenient to do. It will save time and stress. If you are unable to do so, try to get to the airport at least 3 hours ahead of your flight time.
If you’re just visiting Jamaica for an easy vacation, it’s probably best to travel with just a carry-on luggage. Check-on luggage tends to slow down your ability to get through the chaotic Christmas time crowd as you’ll spend more time trying to identify your luggage at the carousel. You’ll be able to skip the crowds if you travel light.
Ensure You Receive the Tracking Code for Your Check-On Luggage
This is very important for all travellers as quite often check-on luggage can get lost in transit. No one wants to spend time trying to find their luggage while trying to catch their connecting flights!
Flights from Europe to the USA are quite often delayed. Don’t be too surprised if you find yourself crunched for time trying to catch your connecting flight!
Pass through the APC Line
Once you’ve arrived in America you’ll be required to pass through the Automated Passport Control (APC) line. You’ll be asked to find a kiosk where you’ll then have to digitally fill-out a customs declaration form. Additionally, the kiosk will ask for a scan of your fingers on the right hand before snapping your picture. This photo and information will then be printed by the kiosk. You’ll then be able to proceed to speak with a customs officer.
Use the Express Card to Your Advantage
American airports typically give passengers who are late for their connecting flights express cards. These definitely come in handy since they allow you to jump to the front of security check lines. Don’t be afraid to skip the people in front of you, just remember to be polite as you do so!
Re-Check-in Check-On Luggage
Flights that have two connections within the USA tend to require passengers to collect their check-on luggage from their first flight (at least in Jamaica). You will then have tor re-check your luggage at the first airport where the connection is to be made. This can be quite a hassle when trying to hurry to catch your connecting flight. In the case of missing luggage this is where your check-on luggage numbers can come in handy. You’ll be able to inquire the whereabouts of your luggage if you need to forego finding your luggage to catch your connection.
Double Check the Status of your Check-On Luggage (in Jamaica)
As pointless as this may sound, it’s useful to double check whether or not your check-on luggage will be transferred all the way through to your final destination. Sometimes you are required to re-check in check-on luggage, especially when flying through multiple destinations in the USA. Avoid the horror of missing your flight (like I did for this simple failure) by ensuring you know the procedure you should take for your check-on luggage.
Insert Alcohol in Check-On Luggage if You’re going through Two American Airports
Typically, when you buy alcohol at the duty-free store in Jamaica you can carry it along with you through all your connecting destinations (make sure its placed in a sealed plastic bag!). However, when flying through multiple destinations in the USA, you’ll be required to place your alcohol in your check-on luggage once you’ve collected them for re-check in at your first American airport destination.
Do you have any other tips? Let us know in the comments below!
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