Monday, December 10, 2012

How to avoid TSA hassles

2012-12-10 09.34.15Many Americans will soon head to the airport to take off on a holiday journey. As these passengers head for their flights, they will have to pass through Transportation Security Administration checkpoints for security screening. For many travelers, the prospect of a TSA screening is daunting, but the process can be made quick and stress free with a little preparation.

Making your TSA experience stress free begins with packing correctly. The TSA website contains a list of prohibited items. In general, anything with a blade or anything that can be considered a weapon cannot be in a carryon bag. Many items, from knives to guns, can be placed in checked baggage, but some items, such as flammable products, cannot be carried on aircraft at all. If in doubt, the TSA website offers a search engine where travelers can search for information on specific items.

Most liquids are still not permitted to be carried through security. To carry liquids, gels or aerosols, passengers must adhere to the 3-1-1 rule. Containers must be 3.4 ounces or less and stored in a one quart or liter zip-top bag. Only bag is allowed per person.

If a greater amount of a liquid is required for medical reasons, just tell the TSA officer. Extra medical liquids can be carried but will be subject to additional screening. The TSA recommends that these medications be labeled to assist in the screening process. Many airports have special lanes for passengers that require special assistance.

If you are carrying gifts, leave them unwrapped until you reach your destination. If they need to be inspected by a TSA officer, they might have to be unwrapped otherwise.

On the day of your flight, be sure to allow adequate time for check-in and screening. Lines can be long during the holidays. Plan to arrive at the gate at least 30 minutes prior to the flight’s departure time. This may require arriving at the airport at least two hours early. Be sure that you have your identification and boarding pass handy when you arrive at the screening checkpoint.

When you arrive at the checkpoint, remove your shoes and place them in one of the plastic bins to be screened. If you have on outer clothing such as a jacket, that must also be removed. Items from your pockets should also be placed in the bin. Belt buckles, cell phones, keys, change and other metal items can cause the alarm to go off when you step through the metal detector.

Some airports now have Advanced Imaging Technology scanners. The TSA recommends that you remove all items from your pockets if you are screened by one of these devices. If you don’t want to go through the body scanner, you can opt for a pat down. Travelers might also be subjected to a pat down if they set off an alarm.

If you are traveling with children who cannot walk through the detector without assistance or animals, you should carry them through the metal detector. Strollers, child seats and pet carriers must be scanned by the X-ray machine with your baggage. Children under 12 can leave their shoes on. Children will not be separated from their parents.

The TSA website contains many other tips for travelers. There is also a My TSA app for smart phones that contains guides to TSA policies as well as information on current TSA wait times. Your airline’s website also contains information about baggage policies. The holiday travel season is a hectic and busy time, but, with a little planning and preparation, at least the trip through the TSA checkpoint can be quick and easy.

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