Getting to China

This is a sample trip to China using common airports. You may go through Chicago, Shanghai, Beijing, or another airport. The basics of customs and check-in should still apply.

Your Airport

Because this is ultimately an international flight, you won't be able to check-in online. When you get to your home airport you will scan your passport to print off your ticket as usual, but then you might also have to report to the counter, to a real person, so that they can see your passport and visa. Do check online before you leave, however, because your airline may have some information you can fill in preflight to speed up the check-in process once you get there.

Sometimes your luggage will ticket through to China and you will pick it up at your first Chinese layover to take it through customs. Sometimes it will only ticket at Los Angeles or your other American layover. Make sure to ask the desk worker where you should pick up your baggage next. Or you can check your luggage receipt sticker. They will stick this receipt sticker for your luggage somewhere, either on your ticket holder or your passport. KEEP THIS RECEIPT. KEEP IT SAFE. YOU WILL NEED IT LATER.

Tips for American Security

  • Your shoes will have to come off. Wear something that's not glued to your feet.
  • Your laptop will have to come out of your bag. Put it somewhere it's easy to get to.
  • Your liquids must be in containers no more than 3 oz each and stored together in a one quart Ziploc bag. They must also come out of your carry-on. Any other liquids must be thrown away before entering security.
  • Your pockets will have to be emptied.

  • You may have to go through the full body scanner. You may have to have a complete pat-down. Don't freak out about it. Just nod and smile and wonder what America's coming to, but in your head, not out loud. Please.
  • See this page for further restrictions.

In other words, be prepared to feel totally violated. Unless you're a camera, cameras do not have to come out of their bags.


The last few years the team has met in Las Angeles (LAX) after flying in from their home states. (See this page for a printable map of LAX.) You will fly into the continental side of the airport and then you will leave security, go outside, turn left (usually), and walk around a curved sidewalk until you reach the Tom Bradley International Terminal. Go in the first door downstairs. The China Southern check-in is on the right side of the left most aisle and at the last few counters before the upstairs food court.

You will have to check in again at the China Southern counter. You should get two tickets. One for GuangZhou (or whatever airport you're flying into) and one for Haikou. If you don't get both tickets, ask why. They may have forgotten the second ticket.

If you have time, wait for the rest of the group here. They should all be leaving on the same flight as you.

Security is nearby. You will have to go through security again. Plan for long lines.

You will not have to pick up your luggage in the LAX airport on the way to China. Your airline should transfer it for you. You will have to pick up your luggage and take it through customs on your way home.


The last few years the team has flown into the GuangZhou airport. Don't worry. Just keep following the signs.

On your way into China, you will have to go through an entry process and customs. On the airplane, they will give you a yellow form. To make the entry process quicker when you land, fill out the form on the plane. If you don't get a form on the plane, get one before you go through the entry process. Once you land you will go through an entry process. Give them your form and your passport. They will take a picture and then let you through. If they tell you to go to a particular line, go to the line even if it says "Chinese Nationals Only" or something like that; don't question it. Wait for your group at the bottom of the escalator.

You will all have to pick up your luggage. There are very handy carts. Push down on the handle to move them. You will push your luggage through customs. Have your passport ready to show. You don't have anything to declare so nothing else will happen.

Follow the signs for baggage transfer. (Note: In Shanghai you will probably have to check your bag in at the check-in counter for your next airline. That will be in the departure hall. Check the signs for which terminal [1 or 2] your counter is in before you start on an epic journey.) At the baggage transfer counter, have your baggage receipt sticker ready. (KEEP THIS STICKER! YOU WILL NEED IT AGAIN!) They will scan your sticker and take your luggage. It's just that easy! (Unless you didn't get your ticket for Haikou when you checked in at LAX. Then you'll have to get your ticket here. This may be less easy.)

Turn around and go upstairs. You will go through security (again.) This time you won't need to take off your shoes, but you will need to take out your laptop. If you're lucky there will be a trolley to take you to your next flight. If you're unlucky, you'll have to walk.


Follow the signs. Pick up your luggage. You need your luggage claim sticker again to leave the airport with your luggage. Just outside the luggage claim, you should find Mr. Mills, smiling and looking far more cheerful than you and your jet lag.

Congratulations! You have made it to China!