Debbie Jacobs, founder and president of Explorations in Travel, www.exploretravel.com, offers some valuable tips for lowering stress levels and keeping those airport security check lines moving along as smoothly as possible.
Longer waits at airport security are inevitable. However, while packing for any trip, there are ways to make the check-in experience less irritating and lengthy for you and your fellow travelers. Security search equipment is more sensitive than ever before, so there is no point in thinking that a particular item which passed the test before will do so again. We are in a new era of travel.
Consider it a challenge to avoid setting off the step-through metal detector or the hand wand device. Every person who triggers these devices slows down the flow of passengers and ties up security personnel who must search for what set off the alarm. Ditch metal belt buckles and metal buttons, and anything, however small, that could be perceived as a potential weapon within the cabin will be confiscated … permanently! Inform yourself about the airline policy as recently as last week. Presume nothing and don’t look for logical explanations.
Wear easy slip-on shoes so that security personnel may quickly check your footwear. You might also consider carrying an extra pair of socks in case your original pair gets wet from standing on damp carpet while your shoes are examined for explosives or weapons. This is unlikely to happen, but you might as well anticipate the worst and protect your comfort.
Just when I was successfully streamlining my luggage to carry-on bags only so that I wouldn’t have to cool my heels at the luggage carousels, I’m now moving back to taking as little as possible into the plane’s cabin. Still be sure to have your valuables and necessary medications packed in your carry-on luggage.
However, current realities mean it makes more sense to consolidate in your checked luggage most metal devices and containers (extra inhalers, aerosol spray cans, hair curling irons, cosmetics, jewelry boxes, etc), all of which may arouse suspicion going through an x-ray machine. Nothing sucks up time like having someone rummaging through your case looking for an illusive shape that showed up on the screen.
Active travelers who plan to do some holiday hiking with their favorite adjustable metal walking stick should pack it into their checked luggage. Otherwise, it will likely be confiscated as a potential weapon or you will be redirected back to having it labeled as a separate piece of checked luggage.
[Editor: With some trepidation, I traveled home with a handsomely carved wooden walking stick with a dragon’s head handle, acquired and well used while hiking the Great Wall of China. It would not fit in my suitcase so I had no choice but to “use” it through various airports. Both at security and disembarking from the planes, attentive staff noticed me walking with the stick (not carrying it) and asked if I required a wheelchair. To my great relief, there was never any question of it being removed, though I did have my nail scissors confiscated on the same trip.]
Bringing someone a gift? Don’t wrap it in advance. Instead, use an open-top gift bag or bring along the gift wrap and bow separately. If its contents cannot be determined by x-ray, a wrapped gift may be opened at security.
Most important, relax and keep perspective. In the past few decades, we’ve become accustomed to being able to leave our homes in the morning and go to bed that night in a country hundreds, if not thousands of miles away. Not too long ago a journey of this dimension would have taken days or weeks. While it’s no fun to stand in line or hang around an airport, it may only mean that we are inconvenienced by hours.
Get to the airport early if you can, bring a good book or splurge on some magazines, keep an upbeat attitude, strike up a conversation with the people next to you, have a pocketful of hard candies to share, and remember that it will all work out in the end!
The increase of discount flights around the world has made flying to the privileged a thing of the past; however, this has also increased security risks and challenges. Cities such as New York face security threats daily and with so many cheap flights to New York, the airports around Manhattan take security very seriously.
Debbie Jacobs’s tips come out of her considerable experience organizing outdoor and cultural adventures for women over 40, with both domestic and international destinations, as well as individual volunteer placements in Latin America, the South Pacific and Nepal. From her home base in Vermont, U.S.A., she manages Explorations in Travel, www.exploretravel.com.