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Best choice for clearing customs when you have a connection

Naples, Florida
posts: 577
reviews: 4
Best choice for clearing customs when you have a connection

DH and I are in the process of booking a trip to London next year. We will be flying United out of Fort Myers and connecting at either Chicago, Houston, or Newark. I know we have to clear customs on the return flight, so out of my three options for connecting, is there an advantage to choosing one over the others? I was thinking Houston might be the best choice for clearing customs especially since we will have to recheck out luggage for the flight to Fort Myers. Any feedback would be appreciated. Thanks!

Fortaleza, CE
posts: 6,880
reviews: 348
1. Re: Best choice for clearing customs when you have a connection

Immigration and Customs, of course. You'll get anecdotal data, but I think the main concerns would be transportation between terminals (maybe equal) and number of flights to FM after you arrive. One possibility i9s really flying all the way to IAH and then backtracking to Florida? Might be better in the winter but otehrwise I think I'd probably go for EWR.

Seattle, Washington
posts: 6,781
reviews: 85
2. Re: Best choice for clearing customs when you have a connection

Rechecking your bag is easy at any of these airports; there is a belt on which you simply drop it off as you exit customs. I don't know that one is better than the other for clearing immigration. I would probably pick by price and flight convenience and maybe by the number of frequent flyer miles earned.

Bangkok
Destination Expert
for Bangkok, Air Travel, Thailand
posts: 13,656
reviews: 71
3. Re: Best choice for clearing customs when you have a connection

Hi,

For me, I'd look at it from the other end.. What is, how many are there, and what times are *other* flights to RSW *if* i miss mine?

You can't really control the CBP issue, but yes some airports are better set-up process-wise and distances.. but to me, the wild card tends to be how many other people are in the FIS when you get there and how long does it take you to clear.

So, from that basis, I look to protect myself on the down-side/worst-case scenario and try to find flight whereby I have at least the possibility of one or more same-day flight options to get me home.

Travel Safe,

London, United...
posts: 15,156
reviews: 23
4. Re: Best choice for clearing customs when you have a connection

Sound advice, I do the same, it's not about how long will it take me, it's what's plan b.

Naples, Florida
posts: 577
reviews: 4
5. Re: Best choice for clearing customs when you have a connection

I want to thank everyone for the advice, it really does help. The two best choices to get back to Fort Myers are Newark and Houston since we are flying United (using FF points).

I lived in NJ for most of my life, so I was spoiled having three airports to travel from. Getting direct flights was easy, so always having to connect is new to me.

It's so true about the plan B option, and thanks for point it out. The last thing I would want is to be stuck somewhere and have to wait until the next day.

The only time issue I am concerned about is having enough time to make the connection. For some reason 1 1/2 hours doesn't seem long to me if you have to go through customs, but both options offer a 4 hour time for clearing customs and making the connection. That seems like more than enough.

Again, thanks for the help!

Houston, Texas
Destination Expert
for Air Travel, Business Travel
posts: 6,940
reviews: 77
6. Re: Best choice for clearing customs when you have a connection

If it is a weather delay or some other reason why you are stuck overnight, you will find IAH to have cheaper options. IAH also has the longest flight on the first leg. This would allow a greater chance of being able to catch up to be close to on time, plus, you can rest longer before the connection hassle.

Detroit, MI
Destination Expert
for Detroit, Travel Gadgets and Gear
posts: 5,065
7. Re: Best choice for clearing customs when you have a connection

Nobody can predict what customs will be like sometime next year at any airport. Flying to Texas from Florida to get to Europe is adds 3-4 hours to your flight time. Pick the cheapest option with the shortest flight time. 15 extra minutes in Newark is better than flying three extra hours via IAH.

Fortaleza, CE
posts: 6,880
reviews: 348
8. Re: Best choice for clearing customs when you have a connection

If you miss your connection, which airport has more later flights to Ft. Myers? Of course, even if UA puts you on the next flight with available seats, that may not be the very next flight. Would connecing in IAH involve more flying? What time of year? If winter, I'd probably avoid EWR.

Naples, Florida
posts: 577
reviews: 4
9. Re: Best choice for clearing customs when you have a connection

Thanks everyone for the advice. We were trying to use FF miles for this trip, but it is a bit of a hassle.

We would probably be going either late spring or summer. The only weather concerns we have is the thunderstorms we get daily in SWF that time of the year.

There really isn't a good choice, but choosing the best scenario. Part of me is thinking of paying for the tickets and using FF miles for some other travel plans. The flights become so much easier. lol. I do like saving the money on the flight, but I'm beginning to wonder if the hassle is worth it.

Everyone has given good ideas, and I do appreciate it! I miss living near a major international airport, flying was just easier back then. Thanks again!

Houston, Texas
Destination Expert
for Air Travel, Business Travel
posts: 6,940
reviews: 77
10. Re: Best choice for clearing customs when you have a connection

Air time via EWR is about two hours shorter than that of IAH as the connector. There are 4 flights a day to RSW from both EWR and IAH. This is really a multi-dimensional decision problem with competing objectives. It really does depend on what "best" means.

EWR has a higher number of international flight arrivals than IAH, so you are likely to run into longer busy times than at IAH, but it isn't always the case. Re-clearing security at EWR after customs can be a significant delay, but if you have to wait three hours anyway, no big deal. I'd look at the connect times and total trip length as back-up flights are about equal.

One thing I do know is that the flight outbound should go through IAH as the shorter EWR to LHR flight is less likely to allow you semi-decent rest period.