Travel Tip – Leaving Panama

PanamaI had an early morning flight out of Panama, to Miami and then connecting to come back across the US to Oregon. So it was definitely going to be a long day. As we were wrapping up class on Thursday, my conversations turned to my trip home, and my students assured me that I wanted to get to Tocumen Airport early. Just trust them. It’s recommended to get there 2 hours early for flights to the US and that’s no joke.

So I did, and after experiencing trying to get on board a US bound flight, I kind of get it now.

My Uber driver droped me off, and I proceeded to walk up to the American ticket counter to check in and drop my checked bag off. As a frequent flyer, with Executive Platinum status, that part usually isn’t too bad for me, and it wasn’t. Just a little bit of a wait to get checked in and head to security.

Here’s where things get interesting. Security at Tocumen is tight. As in, take your laptop, iPad, phone out of your bag, take off your shoes, belt, watch, and drop those in another tub, etc. So it’s not exactly a quick trip, and it tends to get backed up pretty easily. Still, I was there early, and there wasn’t too much of a crowd yet, so I got through, and had plenty of time to make it to my gate.

Then the reality of my situation hit home. For flights to the US, the gate is closed, and you have to go through that security check a second time! With the same rules. So everything I just pulled back together after my first security check, had to be undone again for the second.

Oh, and of course, once you go through the second check, you are in the roped off gated area. No leaving to use the restroom or get a coffee unless you want to go through security again. So maybe get there early enough to take care of that prior to heading to the gate.

So, yeah. Get there early because boarding a flight to the US is a process. 😉

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