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I have received a new laptop as a gift. I'd rather not open the package and carry the laptop onto the plane, so it seems I have two reasonable options:

  1. Checking the package in as luggage.

    People often believe that it's a terrible idea because thieves can easily steal checked luggage (even though a TSA lock is used), and it may get damaged due to the careless transfer of bags.

  2. Bringing the laptop into the plane as carry-on.

    In this case, I'm wondering whether security personnel will make me unpack the laptop to scan it or if I can bring the package untouched as my carry-on. Furthermore, I have a backpack including another laptop, so I have to carry (the package of) the new laptop in another bag (with the standard carry-on size associated with the airline). All in all, I don't know whether or not this plan is promising.

Which of these choices would be preferable? Are there others? Does anybody have a related experience?

  • Where are you flying from/through? Many jurisdictions will require that laptops go through security screening separately, and if that's the case where you are traveling, they would make you open the package. You might also be required to turn the laptop on in some places. – Zach Lipton Sep 3 '17 at 4:59
  • @ZachLipton: I'm going to Iran from Canada. – Roboticist Sep 3 '17 at 5:01
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    Also, keys to TSA locks are trivially available on eBay so they offer little real security. – David Richerby Sep 3 '17 at 10:29
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    Solution that works for me: travel insurance with the laptop specified. – Lamar Latrell Sep 3 '17 at 18:34
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Checking in your laptop is a terrible idea, as mentioned: the risks are just too great, both in terms of loss and breakage.

Moreover, option 2 isn't going to work in most places: you have to put laptops (and often tablets and phones) in trays. So you'd have to open the package anyway. Just take the laptop with you, and, if you really must, the empty packaging in your checked luggage.

Note also that arriving with a brand new laptop in its original packaging is going to get noticed by the Customs officers, who might very well ask you to pay taxes on that.

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    You mostly have to put laptops out of your bag so that they lay flat and unobstructed by other objects on the operator's screen. A slim sleeve or specially designed bag is usually allowed and a mostly empty cardboard/polystyrene packaging might be too. – Relaxed Sep 3 '17 at 11:08
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    Emphasis on might ☺ I travel a lot for work, and the zillions airport rentacops I've seen so far have shown a very wide range of behaviour, even in the same airports. – user67108 Sep 3 '17 at 11:14
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    Still worth a try IMO (your answer seems to imply otherwise). Worse case, you can still open the package right there. – Relaxed Sep 3 '17 at 11:23
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Bringing the laptop into the plane as carry-on:

Personal experience here - myself and my wife picked up two Macbook Airs in Schiphol during transit from the UK to Uganda.

No one batted an eyelid at security at the gate - they were just x-rayed in their boxes, with shrink wrap undamaged, along with everything else.

No one batted an eyelid at Customs in Uganda.

However, your mileage may vary - there is no single golden answer to this question, it entirely depends on the individuals handling the security gate you go through on that particular day, and the Customs officials watching arriving passengers.

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    What do you mean by "No one batted an eyelist at Customs in Uganda"? Nobody reacted at all, or nobody reacted by being surprised? If you'd been importing the laptops into the UK (from outside the EU), you'd have been required to declare them at customs and pay import duty on them. I doubt they'd be surprised by people bringing new laptops into the country, but they would have reacted. – David Richerby Sep 3 '17 at 10:26
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    @DavidRicherby no one reacted at all, and as I bought it in Schiphol I didn't need to declare them when I returned to the UK. The Ugandan Customs officials really couldn't have cared less, and I even walked through with one of the laptops under my arm. The answer is not supposed to be about where I should have expected legitimate issues based on provenance of goods, but rather to show that in my case, I didn't even have trouble where I expected it (Ugandan border). – Moo Sep 3 '17 at 10:45
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I've cleared security with a new, boxed laptop--although they were free to open it if they wanted to. They didn't look. (This was a timing issue. While synching files in preparation for the trip my laptop utterly died. I burned what I could to CDs, stopped by the computer store on the way to the airport and grabbed the most suitable thing they had. I hadn't had time to unbox it.)

I would not expect this to be possible these days, however, as it's normally laptops out at security.

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