locking suitcases

Jul 14th, 2003, 07:54 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 34
locking suitcases

I've been told not to lock suitcases when traveling to Costa Rica (or anywhere for that matter) because customs will break them open.
Does anyone have RECENT experience with this? Thanks
Laureen is offline  
Jul 15th, 2003, 03:20 AM
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I flew Continental through NJ and checked an unlocked bag SPECIFICALLY so I could take my leatherman and swiss army knife. Both were stolen by Continental staff because the bag was never out of my sight (except when it was in the possession of Continental). Next time I would carry on everything or pack nothing sentimental or expensive.
carolc is offline  
Jul 15th, 2003, 08:16 AM
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It's not Customs, but the TSA. They often open bags for inspection without the owner being present. I, too, have had problems in the past with airline baggage handlers stealing stuff outof my luggage. (Your bags may be insprected at Customs, but that will be done in your presence, since you'll be held accountable for anything illegal they find!)
ChristieP is offline  
Jul 15th, 2003, 10:46 AM
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I recently travelled and observed TSA employees use a bolt cutter to open a locked suitcase. I personally use a carry on when I travel if possible.
koa is offline  
Jul 15th, 2003, 11:09 AM
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When flying in or from the U.S., and checking bags, you must leave suitcases unlocked. If the TSA opens and inspects them, they leave a little flyer in the suitcase explaining what they did.

--Lan Sluder
LanSluder is offline  
Jul 15th, 2003, 02:20 PM
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My husband and I just returned from Costa Rica a week ago. We took a direct Continental flight from Newark Liberty to San Jose. When we retrieved our suitcases from the baggage claim area in Costa Rica I immediately noticed that the locks on our bags had been removed. So much for that.
YQT is offline  
Jul 15th, 2003, 03:39 PM
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It's TSA requirements to leave checked luggage UNLOCKED when flying to, from, or within the US. On a recent flight from Chicago to Rome, we did not lock our bags, but after inspection they put some sort of wire lock on our bags that we had to try to cut open with a key (had no scissors or access to anything else sharp). From then on, I put a pair of nail clippers in a front pocket in the checked bag so I can open the 'wire locks'. There are some wire or plastic locks that you can buy at a luggage shop. If TSA cuts them, then no big deal. Just make sure YOU have access to something to cut them with when you get to your destination.

Shopgirl is offline  
Jul 15th, 2003, 07:27 PM
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Wow, what an education! Thank you all! Laureen
Laureen is offline  
Jul 16th, 2003, 04:53 AM
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I am very concerned with what I have read here.

I will be travelling from Glasgow in Scotland to Costa Rica in October via Newark with Continental.

We will be classed as transit passengers at Newark and will also check our luggage through direct to San Jose from Glasgow.

Is our luggage still liable to be open? I am concerned at leaving it un-locked as one of our bags will contain all of my scuba diving equipment

Any advise ?
pjd is offline  
Jul 16th, 2003, 04:56 AM
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If you want to "lock" your luggage without a lock, buy cable ties. They are plastic things about 5 inches long that you can hook through the zipper ends of the suitcase and snap together. You can buy them in packages of 10 or 20 or 100 (try Home Depot or a travel store).

The TSA can cut these off, and since you can carry extra ones with you, you can "re-lock" your suitcase on the way back. I have done this twice this year with no problems (actually - they never cut the ties off!).

kaudrey is offline  
Jul 16th, 2003, 10:20 AM
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Perfect answer Kaudrey. This is what we do & even have had the inspectors put the tie wraps on for us after inspection. Then put the scissors or cutting device to get them off in an outside unlocked (but mostly empty) pocket. We've had no problems with this anywhere so far.
PeggyE is offline  
Jul 16th, 2003, 10:35 AM
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This is all true and has been going on for almost a year now. As the bags go through their X ray machines and the X ray techs spot something that may look like an explosive device they will open the bags for further inspection. I guess you can minimize your expousure of this happenning by not putting things in your bags that to an X ray machine looks like an explosive when it is not and believe it or not one of those things is chocolate. This will happen like a prev post said in the US but not when leaving another country to come into the US. I was told in Brazil that if they want to inspect my bags as a result of an X ray detection they will call me to open my bags not open it themselves. A few years ago I bought a hard shell bag with 3 locks on it to protect my belongings from the baggage handlers and now that was all for nothing but I guess security comes first doesn't it.
Dondiega is offline  
Jul 18th, 2003, 02:03 PM
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Thanks again everyone. Yes, security IS first. Laureen
Laureen is offline  
Jul 20th, 2003, 02:52 PM
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In addition to the TSA locked/unlocked requirements in the good old US I encountered the same at the Liberia airport.When leaving Costa Rica last Feburary we had a long line for 100% inspection of all checked luggage.I would guess that the airport isn't large enough for a checked luggage xray machine so it's all hand inspected as you check in.Any/all locks were removed, I had used the cable ties and the inspectors didn't have anything to cut them with, so after a delay looking for scissors,the line continued to move on(I was a popular guy).
Charlie is offline  
Jul 22nd, 2003, 06:23 AM
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Packing tips for TSA inspections of checked baggage:

Don't overpack. Stuffed bags slow down screeners. Belongings may fall out.
Carry on valuables. Keep prescription drugs, jewelry and other valuables with you.
Don't lock bags. The TSA will break locks on bags chosen for inspection. Use wire or cable ties instead.
Clean golf clubs before traveling. Fertilizers can leave residue on outdoor equipment that can set off bomb detectors.
Dondiega is offline  
Jul 22nd, 2003, 06:24 AM
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Packing tips for TSA inspections of checked baggage:

Pack dense objects on top. Books, hairdryers and shoes that could trigger alarms should go in your bag last so that screeners can find them quickly.
Don't pack banned items. Check the TSA's Web site, www.tsa.gov, for a list of items banned from checked bags or carry-ons.
Use plastic bags. Store toiletries and other small items inside plastic bags to help prevent spillage, breakage or loss in case your bag has to be searched.
If you have a complaint about your baggage:
Contact the airline. Most airlines recommend reporting missing bags at the airport within 24 hours and filling out a claim report within 30 to 45 days.
Contact the TSA. If your bag contains a notice that it was inspected by the TSA, you'll find a contact number (866-289-9673) and e-mail address (Tell [email protected]) inside.
Dondiega is offline  
Aug 17th, 2003, 04:14 AM
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A couple of folks stated that it is a TSA requirement that bags be left unlocked. This is not true. You can lock your bags if you want to. But if they do need to get into your bag, they will break the lock if they can't get it open with a master key or a hairpin (most suitcase locks can easily be opened with a piece of thin metal). Of course, some TSA employees will just go ahead and break it open without bothering to try another method first.

However, there is NO requirement that you not lock your suitcase.
RufusTFirefly is offline  
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