Thank you for this interesting project! As a semi-regular business
traveller, I can definitely appreciate your desire to help your
mother-in-law be fully prepared for her journey. I hope that this
Answer helps you with this.
This Answer is structured as follows:
1. Preparations required before your mother-in-law begins her journey
2. Suggestions for materials that you should send to your
mother-in-law before her journey
3. Step-by-step instructions for your mother-in-law to take her
through each portion of the journey
As you indicated that your mother-in-law should be able to make her
way to Prague and onto the Czech Airlines' flight to Newark (airport
code: EWR) without any major problems, I will focus this Answer on the
portion of the journey that starts with the Prague-Newark flight, and
concludes with your meeting her in Houston (airport code: IAH).
Unfortunately, Continental Airlines does not offer a concierge service
to assist with getting your mother-in-law from the arrivals area to
the departure gate at Newark. So, the steps that I have outlined are
designed to allow your mother-in-law to make this transfer on her own.
There are several items that need to be looked after before your
mother-in-law's journey begins:
There are several travel documents required, as outlined on the
following US Dept. of State website:
1. Passport - I will presume that your mother-in-law has a valid
Russian passport, valid for the entire period that she will be outside
of Russia, plus an additional six months; if not, she will need to
renew/obtain her passport, or else the trip will be over before it
2. US Visa - citizens of Russia require a visitor's visa in order to
enter the US. In Russia, visas are issued by the US Embassy in Moscow
or one of the Consulates in other cities; since your mother-in-law is
in Moscow anyway, it is best to obtain the visa straight from the
Visa Application Forms: http://moscow.usembassy.gov/consular/wwwhcn6.html
(DS-156 and DS-157)
Visa Application Requirements:
- the aforementioned passport
- the aforementioned application forms
- a 2in x 2in photo
- application fee of US$100
- a letter from you inviting your mother-in-law to visit
On the flight from Prague to EWR, your mother-in-law will receive
several forms to complete. These forms may be only available in
English, depending on what forms are carried by Czech Airlines on that
particular flight. To help your mother-in-law be prepared for this, I
suggest that you provide her with print-outs of the following online
versions, annotated with the proper instructions in Russian:
Arrival-Departure Record (I-94)
(note: if this sample link does not work, the link can be located on
the first link page)
U.S. Customs and Border Protection Declaration Form 6059B
Please remind your mother-in-law NOT to attempt to bring any banned or
controlled substances into the US with her. This includes fruit,
meats, animals, soil, and just about anything else that can possibly
carry diseases. Oh, and no Cuban cigars of course. If she wants to
bring any sharp objects, it MUST be in her check-in luggage, or it
will be confiscated and disposed of at the airport.
Also, if at all possible, your mother-in-law should take a picture of
each of the suitcases that she will be bringing on this trip, and
should bring copies of these pictures in her purse. This serves two
purposes: if the baggage is lost in transit, a picture is worth
several thousand words when speaking with a baggage agent; secondly,
if she needs help with her baggage in Newark, a picture will make it
much easier to communicate with her helper.
While I'm on the topic of suitcases, given that she will need to take
her baggage through US Customs in Newark on her own, I strongly
recommend that she limit herself to one check-in suitcase, and that
this suitcase have its own wheels. Baggage carts in Newark require
money to be rented, and she only needs to take the suitcase from the
carousel, through Customs, and to the "Connecting Flights" baggage
check-in located immediately outside the Customs area.
Baggage size limits are found here:
MATERIALS TO SEND TO YOUR MOTHER-IN-LAW:
Helpful things to send to your mother-in-law as a pre-trip care package include:
- "Flash cards" with necessary Russian/English phrases specific to her
journey (see summary at end of this Answer)
- American coins (for the payphones, just in case)
- American money (for food in EWR, tips if necessary)
- Airport maps for EWR and IAH:
- EWR: http://www.continental.com/travel/airport/maps/ewr.asp
- IAH: http://www.continental.com/travel/airport/maps/iah.asp
- annotated printouts of the Arrival-Departure Record and the
Declaration Form (as noted above)
STEP-BY-STEP JOURNEY PLAN:
01) As the Czech Airlines flight from Prague to Newark approaches the
US, the cabin crew will hand out the Arrival-Departure Record and the
Declaration Form to all passengers. Using the annotated print-outs
that you provide her, your mother-in-law should have no problem
filling out the forms.
02) The Czech Airlines flight will land at Newark Liberty Airport
(EWR) at Terminal B. More specifically, international flights use a
series of gates located between the B-2 and B-3 'pylons' of Terminal
B, as described here:
(see INTERNATIONAL PASSENGER FACILITY section)
03) Czech Airlines should have a representative at the gate in the
terminal area to direct all deplaning passengers to the International
Arrivals Hall; your mother-in-law should just follow the flow of
passengers and crew as all passengers and crew must go through the
International Arrivals Hall to pass through Immigration and Customs.
04) From the information on the link provided in step 02, you will
note that the Immigration desks are located on the 'upper' level of
the Hall (the same level that the deplaning passengers will enter as
they leave the gate), while the baggage carousels and the US Customs
areas are on the 'lower' level. Again, your mother-in-law should just
follow the general flow of traffic.
05) Upon arriving at the first section, ie. the Immigration counters,
your mother-in-law will need to join the lineup for visitors. As long
as she has her passport and forms ready, the Immigration and/or
airport security staff at the entrance to the Immigration area will be
able to direct her to the appropriate line-up. To be absolutely safe,
please consider providing her with a flash card that asks "Which
lineup for visitors with visas?"
06) When your mother-in-law finally gets to an Immigration officer,
she will need to present all of her forms, her passport (with visa),
and a flash card that says: "Sorry, I can only speak Russian. Is a
Russian translator available?". An airport the size of Newark should
have a Russian translator on duty for Immigration.
07) Please let your mother-in-law know that all visitors to the US
(except those from Canada and a small number of "friendly" nations)
are required to have their digital photo taken at the Immigration
counter. Each counter has a Logitech Quickcam set up for this purpose,
so assure your mother-in-law that this is standard practice.
08) After your mother-in-law has made it through Immigration, she will
need to make her way to the baggage carousel for her flight. Another
flash card will help here: "Where is the baggage carousel for flight
XX####?" (where XX#### is the flight number)
09) Upon retrieving her luggage from the carousel, your mother-in-law
will need to take her luggage, along with the Declaration Form, to the
Customs area where she hopefully will be waved through after handing
over the Form (again, this is assuming that she did not attempt to
bring in any contraband, and did not have anything else to declare).
10) Immediately beyond the Customs area, she will exit into the public
part of the terminal (Welcome to the USA!). Immediately to her left,
she should see some check-in counters for connecting flights. As Czech
Airlines and Continental Airlines are both members of SkyTeam, she
should be able to locate the Continental counter and should be able to
check her bag in there. She will also receive her boarding pass for
the EWR-IAH flight at this time. She will need to present her ticket,
and her passport (for identification). The agent may ask her the
standard luggage questions ("Has anyone unknown to you asked you to
carry an item on this flight?" and "Have any of the items you are
traveling with been out of your immediate control since you packed
them?"), so you might want to include a flash card for that as well.
11) After checking her luggage in at the connecting flights counter
and obtaining her boarding pass, your mother-in-law will need to
locate the AirTrain station to travel to Terminal C (which is where
the Houston flight will depart). The AirTrain station is located on
the concourse level, so another flash card will help here: "Which way
to the AirTrain station?"
12) Upon finding the AirTrain station in Terminal B, your
mother-in-law will need to shuttle in the correct direction to reach
Terminal C. On the page in the above link, you will notice that
Terminal C is represented by a C on a green field in a
triangular-shaped symbol. That's what she'll need to look for. To be
safe, another flash card: "Which train to get to Terminal C?"
13) Terminal C is exactly one station away from Terminal B. The
station in Terminal C is located between pylons C3 and C2; the
Continental gates are in pylon C1, so your mother-in-law will need to
walk to the other end of Terminal C to get to C1.
14) To enter pylon C1, your mother-in-law will need to pass through
security. American airport security requirements may differ from what
she has been exposed to in Russia and/or Europe, so please advise her
that she will need to place any carry-ons on the X-ray machine
conveyor belt, any jacket she may be wearing also needs to go through
the conveyor, and in some cases even shoes will need to go through the
Xray machine. She may also be subject to a metal-detecting wand scan
after passing through the metal detector doorway, before she is
allowed to collect all of her belongings. Any sharp objects detected
during this inspection will be seized and disposed of.
15) After passing through security, she will need to proceed to the
gate indicated on her boarding pass. A sampling of the gates used by
the EWR-IAH flight shows that it does not have a fixed gate (this week
alone it has already used at least C77, C82, C88, and C92). Depending
on when she arrives at her gate, she should have time to find
something to eat from one of the food concessions in the gate area. US
Dollars required here.
16) The cabin crew on board the EWR-IAH flight is almost guaranteed to
not understand Russian, so a few flash cards for this flight segment
are suggested, such as "Water please", stuff like that.
17) Upon arriving in Houston, the aircraft will use a gate in either
the C concourse, or the E concourse. Regardless, the baggage will come
out in the same baggage area (which is where you can meet her). Again,
the best thing for her to do is to follow either a family from the
same flight, or at least another older woman from the same flight, in
order to get to the baggage area without any wrong turns. The IAH
airport map from the link up in the MATERIALS section may help her
here. As a safeguard, another flashcard: "Which way to the baggage
carousel for flight XX####", customized for this flight.
18) If all has gone well, you should be able to help her with her
luggage, and celebrate a successful journey!
SUMMARY OF FLASH CARDS:
"Which lineup for visitors with visas?"
"Sorry, I can only speak Russian. Is a Russian translator available?"
"Where is the baggage carousel for flight XX####?" (one for each flight)
"Has anyone unknown to you asked you to carry an item on this flight?
(YES / NO)" and "Have any of the items you are traveling with been
out of your immediate control since you packed them? (YES / NO)"
"Which way to the AirTrain station?"
"Which train to get to Terminal C?"
"Water please" and other refreshment related cards
You can get information about Prague-Ruzyne Airport here:
Information about Newark Liberty Airport can be found here:
You can track the progress of the Czech Airlines flight using the
tracking tool here:
You can track the progress of the Continental Airlines flight (add
confirm the arrival gate) here:
If your mother-in-law's bag doesn't make it to Newark:
If your mother-in-law's bag doesn't make it to Houston, best to speak
directly to the Continental baggage office at the airport.
There's a lot of reading here, so please let me know if there is any
part of this Answer that you would like me to clarify. The majority of
this Answer is based on my own experience, and the resources available
through airline and government websites.
I hope that this helps, and that your mother-in-law has an enjoyable trip!
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