My mileage run to Beijing and back was an interesting one. Returning from Beijing, I had a run in with a few different Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers that made me realize that mileage running comes across like a drug runner in their eyes.
Things started off poorly when all of the Global Entry kiosks were down. Global Entry would have allowed me to bypass much of the BS that is associated with the CBP. Since Global Entry wasn’t available, we needed to use the normal entry lanes, luckily much of that has been automated now too, so at least it moves faster now.
After checking in and making it past the first set of CBP officers, I made my way to the exit. This is where a CBP officer asks you about what you are carrying, if it needs to be declared and so on. I explained how long I was in China, why it was so short and he was very nice the entire time. He then sent me to another line, which he made sound like it was for connecting flights… he was playing me. He had actually sent me to an inspection area where I was asked all of these questions again. Again they balked at the short trip to China.
After asking about my background and job and who I worked with, they brought me to an area to search my belongings. After a few minutes of going through all of my crap, they found nothing and sent me on my way.
Here’s what triggers seemed to peak their interest. First, the short time in China, don’t tell them 1 full day, that sounds bad apparently. I was there for a total of 3 days from arrival date to departure date. That number is far more palatable to them, so I’ll stick with the full time frame in the future.
The other thing that they don’t seem to like, and there is nothing I can do about this, is that I travel light. My bags only get packed based on how long I am in a place and what planes I am travelling on. Since I knew I was on a small plane, I took a duffel bag, it’ll fit better in the overheads of small planes. However, this apparently looks suspicious, since I get surprised looks every damn time I go through with a duffel bag. No matter, this is something I’m not going to change. I travel light for a reason, and I will continue to do so.
Those of you that plan to travel quickly for mileage, because you have limited vacation, or whatever the reason, be aware the this is apparently suspicious to the CBP. You might get a few extra bag checks the next time through the airport.