Flying in the post-9/11 era can be stressful. Regardless of your airline or itinerary, you'll need to pass through airport security before you can go to your departure gate. Our handy tips will help you get ready for the airport security screening process.
- Metal is not your friend. Wear clothing without metallic embellishment and be ready to remove your belt if it has a metal buckle. Tuck your jewelry into your carry-on bag during the screening process. Put change and keys into your purse or empty your pockets into a plastic bin when you arrive at the screening checkpoint. If you have body piercings, either remove them before you go through security or resign yourself to a pat-down screening.
- Wear socks and choose easily-removable shoes. You will definitely have to take your shoes off at the security checkpoint and put them into a plastic bin for screening. Several thousand humans walk through the metal detectors each day, so you'll probably want to protect yourself by wearing socks. Take your time removing and putting on shoes; if you rush to complete this process, you are more likely to leave belongings behind.
- Put liquids and gels into a one-quart zip-top plastic bag. All liquid and gel items must be in 100 milliliter (3.4 ounces) or smaller containers. Every liquid and gel product you carry into the passenger compartment must meet this requirement and fit into a single, one-quart zip-closure clear plastic bag. If you must bring larger liquid or gel items, you will have to place them in your checked baggage, unless they are medically necessary (see below).
- Keep larger containers of medications, medical or assistive devices and other medically-necessary liquids and gels separated from your other carry-on items. You can bring prescription liquid medications through security. You can also bring water, juice and other "liquid nutrition" as well as frozen liquids or gels that you need to cool medical items. Prosthetics and medical items are also permitted. The catch? Everything must be screened in some way. Tell the security screeners what medical and disability-related items you have with you and ask them to screen them visually if X-rays will harm them. (Important: Never put prescription medications in checked baggage. Hand carry them or mail them ahead.)
- Prepare laptops and cameras for X-ray screening. You'll be asked to take your laptop out of its case unless it is in a TSA-approved laptop case. If you are carrying undeveloped film, ask your security screener to inspect it by hand. X-ray screening will damage undeveloped film.
- Plan ahead if you're wearing a coat or jacket. You will need to take off your coat or jacket and place it in a plastic bin at the security screening checkpoint. This will take extra time; you'll also need to remove your shoes and place them, carry-on items and metal items in bins for X-ray screening. Give yourself plenty of time to regroup after the screening process is complete.
- Don't worry about head coverings. You can keep your head covered during the screening process. However, if your head covering is too concealing, you will be asked to undergo a pat-down screening, which may or may not involve removal of your head covering. You may ask the screening official to conduct the pat-down and / or head covering removal in a screening area away from public view.
- Have ID handy. Be prepared to show screening officials your identification, whether it be driver's license or passport, and your boarding pass at any time.
- Wear pet-friendly clothing if you're traveling with your four-legged friends. You will need to take your pet out of its carrier, put the carrier through X-ray screening and hand-carry your pet through the metal detector. If you're bringing Fido or Fluffy onto your airplane, leave the expensive designer silk shirts at home, just in case the security screening process becomes stressful for your pet.
- Remember that duty-free items must still meet security requirements. Buying two bottles of rum at the duty-free shop may save you money, but may not save you time if you have to change planes after clearing customs. You'll need to stick those two bottles into a checked bag, as liquids in containers larger than 100 milliliters (3.4 ounces) cannot be carried into the passenger compartment of your aircraft.
Regardless of the hectic atmosphere at the security screening point, take your time and ask all the questions you wish. If you rush through the screening process, you may forget to take one of your personal items with you. Even worse, you could be a theft target, as pickpockets are known to frequent airport security screening areas. Pay attention to your surroundings and keep a hand on your purse or laptop case as you put your shoes and coat back on.
The airport security screening process, while annoying and time-consuming, does serve a purpose. TSA officials have confiscated guns, hand grenades and other bizarre items from would-be travelers. Planning ahead for your security screening will help minimize problems and speed up your security screening.