So you are thinking, "Three hours early? Really? You must be joking!" Well, keep thinking that it is a joke and you very well may find yourself missing your next flight home from Aruba.
--Check in at your airline
Departing from Queen Beatrix International Airport, Aeropuerto Internacional Reina Beatrix, it is important to keep in mind that there will be a list of procedures much longer than you are used to when departing on a domestic flight.
Peak days of departure from Aruba are Saturday, Sunday and Friday, in that order, even more so, the Saturday and Sunday prior to, and immediately following holidays such as Christmas and New Years. For these super peak days, add at least an
additional half hour to an hour. Peak times at the airport for departure
everyday, are 11 am to 4 pm.
Upon arriving to check in for your flight, you will enter the hall for U.S. bound departures. Welcome to the maze of long lines for each separate airline. This is only the first of quite a few lines. The only way in which you can skip this line is if your airline has a self check-in kiosk (check with your individual airline) or if you have carry-on only AND have a printed boarding pass in hand. You can normally print out a boarding pass at your resort. If you have luggage, even with a printed boarding pass in hand, unless you have used the kiosk,
and drop off your luggage at the appropriate line, you must check in with your airline.
Upon being greeted by the airline agent, they will check your passport as well as ticket, issue seats if they have not been assigned already, print a boarding pass if you do not have one already and take your luggage after weighing it. Remember to check your airlines luggage weight limits.
Once you have checked in with your airline you will exit the departure hall and queue to enter the main airport building where you will present your U.S. passport and boarding pass for pre-screening. This is identical to the first step departing the U.S. when you present the same info to the TSA before you stand in line to queue for security screening when departing Aruba.
In this line you will fan out into a queue of lines to be processed through Aruban Immigration (Departamento di Integracion, Maneho y Admision di Stranhero or DIMAS). You will need that little stub they stuck back into your passport upon arrival in Aruba.
Following DIMAS, the next screening is Aruba security screening. Same as the U.S. departure screening:
x-ray machine for all carry-on's and walk through x-ray scanner for your person. From here you will continue into the terminal.
Once past that checkpoint you will find duty free shopping and food courts. There is much more variety here, but should you wish to skip the lines here, or are running short on time, you will have the ability to purchase food and souvenirs, though on a smaller scale, once you have finished all of your screenings and you have arrived at the gate area.
From the shopping and food area you will proceed to U.S. Customs. U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) offers Pre-clearance for US Customs and Immigrations while still in Aruba. The pre-inspection is performed at Aruba's Reina Beatrix International Airport for all passengers returning to the United States from Aruba.
The first step is entering the luggage hall where you will find your luggage either on the carousel or waiting lined up on the floor, grouped by airline. Locate your bag(s) and then take it to the line for U.S. Customs and Immigration processing. After wishing a fond farewell to the Customs agent you will proceed with your luggage to place it onto the conveyor belt to be placed on the airplane.
Once you have cleared customs, congratulations, you are back in the United Sates, though yes, technically on Aruban soil. There will be no customs or immigration upon arrival in the U.S. you arrive at your home or connecting U.S. airport and stroll off the plane as if you were coming home from a trip to Florida. This screening eliminates the need for inspection and clearance upon arrival in the U.S.
But wait, one more step before you arrive at the gate area. You must first go through United States security screening. It will be the same as the Aruban security screening. Your carry-on will go through the x-ray conveyor belt and you will walk through the x-ray scanner.
By this time you will have probably worked up an appetite and are thirsty. There are a number of food outlets in the gate area as well as two bars, souvenir shopping and restrooms. You did not spend all of your money on the island? There is a casino in the gate area to take that off your hands as well.
A summary of the procedure for Aruba departures to the United States from Aruba's Queen Reina Beatrix Airport:
--Enter the main building and go through Aruba immigration
--Go through Aruba Security/x-ray checkpoint
--Duty free shopping
--Retrieve you luggage
--Take your luggage and go through US Immigration
--US Customs- may or may not approach you to examine luggage
--Once cleared by US Customs, you will place your luggage onto the conveyor belt to be placed on the airplane
--Then proceed through the second security/x-ray checkpoint which is the US TSA checkpoint
--Finally arrive at the gate area