Flying to the USA: need some advice please

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londonlad888 | 11:48 Mon 18th Aug 2008 | Travel
8 Answers
Will be flying to New York next week on a week long vacation with the family.
Basically a few friends have warned be that after 9/11 and tightened security that I am required by US law to leave my luggage unlocked??!!

Is this still the case? and if so, what precautions can I take to protect myself from theft etc?

I am not too worried about depature from London as I will be travelling light anyway, but I'm sure once in New York I will buy a few things, plus I will be travelling to Las Vegas for a few days too so am worried about items I may have purchased in NYC.

Anyone travelled to the USA recently? Did you leave your luggage unlocked?


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My sister had to leave her suitcase unlocked. I also seem to remember her saying at the time something about a special padlock that you could buy which would be acceptable to the US customs as they had the means to open it. Can't remember the exact details I'm afraid.
Haven't been to the US since 2004 but the same applied then. Don't remember being told about it on the way out but when we checked in for return flight there were signs up saying leave cases unlocked. We didn't leave our cases unlocked and they were fine. If US officials want to look in your case and it is locked they can break the lock to examine the contents. If you use a padlock, you can buy ones that US officials can lock/unlock, but our cases you cannot use padlocks. I wouldn't leave my case unlocked.
You can buy special locks which the US authorities can open (look for them on the travel stands in places like Debenhams or Matalan, they have the US flag on them). But I have flown to the US 5 times since 2005 and have left my case unlocked each time (even when flying within the States to Chicago and then on to Britain) and have not had anything stolen. As a family though we have had two cases opened, you find a leaflet inside explaining that they have opened it.
I went to New York 18 months ago, left suitcase unlocked and had no problems. Just be prepared for a long queue in customs as everyone now has their finger print and photo taken.
You need to buy TSA approved locks if you have a case with a zip closure.
Boots sell these too. They work in the way that airport security staff have keys that open these locks, whilst still giving you the security of locking against theft from handlers / public etc.

If you have a hard case with a combination lock there is't much you can do.

LAst time I went to New York (April 08) I was able to watch my case go through the scanner machine (you have to take your case to them, not leave cases when you check in as you usually do), I was then able to speak to staff at the scanner who said that it would be at that point that the case would be opened, if necessary, so I could wait and then lock the case if it didn't need to be opened.
I've got a hard combi lock case.

Hope this makes sense and is useful.
About 18 months ago we were required to leave our combination lock, hard shell cases unlocked (set the lock to open). I think it was on the return to Europe that produced evidence that they had looked inside one - there was a slip inside it saying so. I have not come across any suggestion that the system leads to pilfering. If you don't leave your case unlocked and they want to look into it then they will break it open and tape it up afterwards - you will have no claim on insurance because you didn't follow known rules. I am assuming the requirement is unchanged.
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As said, the padlocks are no use to my hard suitcase, but I'm looking to get a TSA luggage strap with combi lock to give me at least some security. -28.html?osCsid=67f56ffbbeac2ccda4957bdab6750a c8

Are these any good?

Also what are the implications should you arrive at your destination having left your suitcase unlocked and there being "unwanted" items being planted in there?
i always worried about leaving my case unlocked but i have flown from and to chicago quite a few times and only once was my bag checked. there was a slip inside telling me they had looked in it but it was dead weird cos nothing was out of place, everything exactly how i packed it, very odd. the time they checked it was when i took some candy bones in plastic jars over for halloween to some friends kids in the uk. im gathering that they may have thought they were real bones!!
my partner has a tsa luggage strap and says it does the job. as for things being planted in your case, a good point and how could you disprove it was you, the only thing i can think of is that it wouldnt have your finger prints on it, scent yes as it would be next to your own stuff in the case. think this is a long shot to happen, wouldnt worry about it londonlad888.

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