Carry On and On and On
July 17, 2016 7:52 AM   Subscribe

Traveling to Cancun, connecting through DC on United. We need a lot of sunscreen plus would like to not check luggage. Can we buy sunscreen and aloe after the security checkpoint in our originating city and get through DC with them on the international flight?

On a direct flight we could buy liquids after the security checkpoint so I'd like to buy sunscreen and aloe in bottles bigger than 3.4 oz / 100 ml at Rite Aid and add them to our carry-ons. With a connection through DC for an international flight, do we have to go through a security checkpoint point again in DC where they'll scan our liquids? I imagine this might vary by airport and depend on the the airline and terminals.

We're trying to avoid the $25/bag and the extra time on either end to check bags and wait at baggage claim.

I already have solid sunscreen but really need the spray cans and would like a big bottle of aloe.

I'm sure the resort has sunscreen at inflated prices that might negate the savings of checking bags.

Another option may be to buy the sunscreen in DC if the United terminal has a drugstore.

Yes, we should have gotten the Global TSA pass ahead of time but did not.
posted by RoadScholar to Travel & Transportation (16 answers total)
Just Buy sunscreen in Cancun, it won't be more expensive than airport sunscreen.
posted by AlexiaSky at 7:57 AM on July 17, 2016 [8 favorites]

It's unlikely it will be more expensive at the resort than the airport, certainly unlikely to cost $50, and I'm not sure you'll find a full selection of sunscreen that isn't tiny bottles of high-end cosmetic sunscreen in any airport anyway.

You may not be able to find the giant bottle of aloe vera in Mexico, but then again there's nothing in aloe that you can't get along with actual moisturizing components in body lotion. You are very very unlikely to find it in an airport anyway, and probably have a better chance at a Cancun Walmart or tourist area pharmacia if you had to leave the property.

You could contact the resort in advance, too. If they don't have what you want, it would probably cost a trivial tip to have them arrange to get it from a store before you even arrive.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:10 AM on July 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

Buy it in Mexico. Any store you stop at will have a fine selection.
posted by fingersandtoes at 8:21 AM on July 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for your input. Really though my question is:
If I buy liquids over 100 ml after security in Pittsburgh can I take them through on to my connecting international flight at the United terminal in DC or will I have to go through security again?
posted by RoadScholar at 8:43 AM on July 17, 2016 [2 favorites]

Cancun is full of little grocieries, having been there myself I feel confident predicting you would save money waiting till you arrive to purchase sunscreen.

Have you ever seen anything for sale in airport that wasn't 40% more than every day prices? I sure haven't.
posted by Fupped Duck at 9:02 AM on July 17, 2016

Best answer: I go to Riviera Maya every year.
Sunscreen at the resorts is very expensive.
Aloe was not available, I've never found it.
Selection in pharmacies even in Mérida was pathetic.
If you are diving, you will need reef safe sunscreen which your guide will charge you for if you don't have it in some cases.
The best place to buy it is Chedraui, and you'll need transportation to get there, time and money.

What I'm saying is $25 to check a bag is a bargain. Also, buy at least one reef safe sunscreen marked with logos to show your guides if they try to force you to buy theirs.
posted by littlewater at 9:05 AM on July 17, 2016 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: Rite Aid in the Pittsburgh airport sells sunscreen and aloe.

littlewater, thank you for confirming that sunscreen at resorts is expensive and that even if we wanted to spend our vacation time shopping for sunscreen that finding it would not be simple. Also, good tip on the reef safe sunscreen!

We can check a bag but it would be great to just buy what we needed at Rite Aid if we can get it through DC ... ...
posted by RoadScholar at 9:16 AM on July 17, 2016

Since it's a domestic layover, you probably won't have to go through security again. However, since that can vary from airport to airport, I think your safest bet is to call someone from the airline you selected who works at your layover airport and ask.
posted by dinnerdance at 9:37 AM on July 17, 2016

Depending on your timeframe, you could buy some sunscreen and ship it to your hotel in your name. Most hotels will hold stuff for you. This probably isn't an option if you're flying out next week, but if you leave next month you should be able to ship a box pretty cheaply. Or even order it off of Amazon and send it to your hotel, they get better shipping rates than you can because of their size.

Or just check a bag and revel in not having to drag a suitcase around the entire airport, find an overhead bin if you're boarding near the end, or wrestle it off the plane.
posted by egypturnash at 10:07 AM on July 17, 2016

That drug store in the Pittsburgh airport is great, isn't it? I always love being able to pick things up without a separate grocery store trip. That said, when flying INTO the US from London I was forced to ditch a soda I'd bought after security at Heathrow before they let me back into the US for my connecting flight. It was only a Diet Coke, but I was pretty pissed. So judging by that experience, yes you should wait to by liquids until your destination. (Oh, and this was at Dulles, btw.)
posted by MsMolly at 10:20 AM on July 17, 2016

Best answer: Sorry to not 100% answer your question, but I've never had to go through security a second time when the flight origin was in the US and it was outbound international travel. It's only come up 1. In other countries (mostly where they don't have the liquids rules, I guess) 2. Arriving in the US from abroad, going through customs, and then rechecking and making a connecting flight.

If you do get caught having to go through security again, it will likely not be at the gate and time permitting you can go out and check a small bag with the sunscreen etc. obviously that isn't ideal, but it's still cheaper than shipping and better than wasting time on vacation.

I hope someone else can speak to the specifics of your situation.
posted by raccoon409 at 10:22 AM on July 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Which DC airport are you connecting in? Are your incoming and outgoing flights from that DC airport both United? (

If you're flying through Dulles (IAD) then there is almost zero chance that you'd have to go through security there. There is centralized security at IAD and so no flight transfers require rescreening except international arrivals.

At DCA, there are separate security facilities for different sets of gates, so it would be possible, though not likely, that you'd have to re-enter through security there.
posted by mercredi at 10:24 AM on July 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Looking at the potential routing, it looks like you're probably going through Dulles. If you're flying PIT -> IAD -> CUN, then whatever you successfully get on the plane in Pittsburgh will not be rescreened in IAD.

If you're flying a puddle jumper from PIT -> IAD, and they make you gate check, just make sure it's checked through to Cancun, not just to IAD, or make sure that you can claim it plane side, not at baggage claim. The only possible scenario where you would have to go back through security would be if they made you gate check because of size or full bins in PIT and then sent to it the baggage claim in IAD.

That would be a screw up on their part, they should either check it to your final destination, or bring it out gate side, depending on how small the plane.

It looks like you might be on the ERJ-175 - they have full size overhead compartments, so you should be fine in the beginning of your boarding group.
posted by mercredi at 10:29 AM on July 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Yeah, this really depends on whether you are going through IAD or DCA. At IAD you won't have to go through security again, but DCA is set up weirdly and unless your connecting flight is right next to your arrival gate, you may have to go through security.

Paying the $25 checked luggage fee really isn't expensive for peace of mind that you won't have to dump your sunscreen in DC.
posted by joan_holloway at 10:36 AM on July 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

You can probably just call the airline and they'll tell you if you have to go through security again before boarding your connecting flight. For the record, I've never had to go through security between two US flights.

On the sunblock/aloe thing, I've been to Cancun and Riviera Maya lots of times. Yes, these things are super expensive if you buy them in your resort, but why would you unless it was an emergency. There are hundreds of pharmacies all over town that sell sunblock and of course aloe too. All supermarkets carry both, plus Farmacias del Ahorro, Farmacias Guadalajara, etc. If you want some sort of high end sunblock (from european labs instead of like Banana Boat or Coppertone) look for pharmacies called Derma, they are specialized in dermatological products and are not hard to find near commercial/touristy spots.
posted by CrazyLemonade at 11:25 AM on July 17, 2016

Best answer: As someone who had to ditch her special sunscreen last month while changing flights, I'd recommend either checking one piece of luggage for peace of mind or buying numerous 3 oz. tubes to take in your carry-on.
posted by smorgasbord at 12:03 PM on July 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

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