*Travel and Airport Security Tips*
There are some tricks to making your travel through airports less stressful. First you need to plan ahead. You can confirm your flight before you get to the airport. This will tell you if the flight is on time. There are kiosks where you can check yourself in. These are very handy if you arenít checking any bags. You need to have your government issued identification accessible because you will have to show it a minimum of two times and as many as four times. You will often have to show your ID along with your boarding pass. Check the weather for all of your destinations and stopovers. Expect delays.
Security Screening - Once you have your ticket, you will proceed to your terminal/concourse and gate. You will have to pass through the Security Checkpoint. You will have to put all of your carry-on items onto a conveyor for x-ray screening. You will also need to remove your shoes, watch, cell phone, pager, and any change you have in your pockets.
If you have a laptop computer, you will have to remove it from your carry-on bag. You do not have to turn it on, it just needs to be out in the open so they can x-ray it separately. Any other electronic devices such as cell phones, pagers, PDAís, CD players, DVD players, cameras, etc. do not have to be removed from your carry-on bag.
Pocket knives are not allowed on-board (though you can check it through with your luggage) and scissors are not allowed unless they are safety scissors with the rounded edges (like the ones children use). Nail clippers with a nail file are usually confiscated. TSA now offers you the option of mailing items back to your home address for a $5.00 fee. But you are responsible for filling out the forms and this will take time.
Special Screening - If your boarding pass has "*****" on the lower right hand portion of each part, you have been selected to go through more rigorous screening. This will entail you being separated from your bag and taken to an area behind a privacy screen. You will be asked to remove your shoes and empty your pockets. You will also be asked to unbuckle your belt and you will have to hold each part away from your body when the TSA officer runs a handheld metal detector over you. You may be asked to remove your shoes. SUGGESTION: Remove your watch, belt and loose change, as well as your wallet, and put them in your carry-on bag. This will help you to get through the screening process quicker.
While you are being searched, you bag will be unzipped and manually checked. It can be uncomfortable if youíve packed some items of a personal nature. If you have a question on whether an item can be carried on a plane, check the TSA website for a list of approved items. Generally, items in a lingerie bag will be left in the bag, though the screener may feel it for any sharp objects. My recommendation is that you pack in a way that you would be comfortable with a stranger going through it.
Medications need to be left in their original container. They probably wonít go through a Tylenol bottle to see if there are multiple medications in there, but if you have different drugs and/or vitamins in a plastic bag, this will cause a problem.
Checked Baggage - You need to know if your bag is over 50 pounds. There is an extra charge for that. If you want to lock your bags, you need to have the new TSA-approved locks. These locks have an octagon on them and a special key slot on the bottom. These locks give TSA the ability to open your lock without cutting it. All locked bags are subject to search and you may not want your lock cut off.
It seems that everybody has a black suitcase with wheels and a pullout handle. It is often difficult to identify bags when they all look alike. You can attack a colorful ribbon or a plastic nametag to the handle to differentiate your bag from others. I use blue suitcases with red tags and red locks and Iíve found them to be easily identifiable.
If you are traveling for two to three days, I strongly suggest that you carry your bag onto the plane with you. There are size limitations to this, but it greatly saves the aggravation of having to wait up to 30 minutes for the luggage to be removed from the plane and then recovered in baggage claim. Also, if you travel on flights later in the afternoon they have a greater chance of being cancelled. It those instances you may have to stay overnight in the connecting city and you wonít have your bag. In the last three years Iíve spent 4 nights in Atlanta and one night in Cincinnati when my flights were cancelled.
Join the Airline Travel Club - Even if you donít fly enough to qualify for the frequent flyer perks of free seat upgrades or free air travel, there are benefits to joining the clubs such as Delta Skymiles. There have been times when the toll-free phone number for Delta said that my flight was on time, but the online website said that my flight was delayed. I have been able to rebook the first leg of a flight to catch the second leg. Had I stayed on my original flight I would have arrived late and missed the connecting flight. This would have caused me to spend another night in Atlanta as a guest of Delta Airlines.
Another benefit is that you can change your seat assignment. You can on Delta, Iím not sure of other airlines. You can see where all the empty seats are and find one where nobody is sitting next to you. Occasionally I will get booked into a middle seat. I would prefer to sit in the aisle. I can change my seat instantly.
And another benefit is that you can see how full your flight is. I have found that if flights are less than 20% booked (thatís my personal estimate) the airline may cancel your flight and book you on a later flight. This has happened to me more than once.
You can also see what gate your plane will be arriving and/or departing from. This is important in larger airports with multiple concourses. For instance, it is nice to know when your airplane is arriving at B25 and you have to catch your next plane at C2. There is a map of each airport the airline uses in the back of the airline magazine. These magazines are in the seatback in front of you.
Be Cheerful - The TSA agents seem to get mostly negative feedback from people. Nobody is happy to go through airport security. But the people who are obnoxious and impatient seem to get their carry-on bags more scrutinized than other peoples. One of TSAís annoying tricks is to select your bag for the explosives test. They pick people at random and then wipe a swab over your bagís pockets and zippers, then stick the swab into a machine to check for explosives. This process doesnít usually take more than a minute, but when you are running late for your plane it seems like forever.
Food & Drink - You donít have a good variety of healthy foods at the airport. Itís best to take a healthy snack from home. There are very few meals served on the flights anymore. There is usually a snack which is usually a tiny bag of miniature pretzels or a party mix. They will offer sodas and drinks most of the time, but on flights of less than 45 minutes, they flight attendants will walk down the aisle with a case of 10 ounce bottles of water, which have been stored at room temperature. Youíll have to ask for that soda with ice or else youíll just get water. On a recent trip from Atlanta to Los Angeles, the advertised meal that we got was a tossed salad. That was the meal. I was expecting a sandwich or something a little more substantial.
In Flight Entertainment - I strongly recommend getting a portable DVD player. It makes the time go by so much quicker and seems to cut down on the jet lag. You can usually use it from 10 minutes after takeoff to about 15 minutes before landing. Portable electronic devices can be used once the aircraft is over 10,000 feet. Flight attendants get really cranky when you turn them on before theyíve told you to do so, speaking from personal experience. You can rent movies and DVD players in many airports and then turn them in at a different airport.
Itís always a good idea to bring a pair of headphones. Some of the airplanes show movies or TV shows. If you donít have them you can buy them for two dollars. Just remember that you get what you pay for.
Recommended Carry-on Items
Earplugs - You never know when that cute baby in front of you is going to lose his/her mind. I donít think there is anything worse than listening to a baby cry for two hours. They donít know how to stabilize the pressure in their ears, and if they canít get the pressure right, theyíll be screaming until it feels better. They are also good to have when you get the seat next to the engines.
Breathmints - Might be for you or the person sitting next to you. Take one for yourself, then offer one to the guy with the dragon breath. After all, you are just being polite to share.
Visine or Eyedrops - The flight can really dry your eyes out.
Hand sanitizer - There are studies out now about how dirty the water on the airplane is. You will want to use this after visiting the lavatory.
Bottled water - I am never thirstier than when on an airplane and the flight attendant is never around when you need them.
Spare Batteries - It seems to be a rule that the CD player always gives out as soon as you turn it on when you are flying.
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