Here are five things that travelers can do to improve their Transportation Security Administration experience when they are flying this year.
- Enroll in TSA Pre✓®. You’ve heard it before, but if you haven’t yet taken the leap, go online, make an appointment and fork over $85 to enroll in TSA Pre✓®. It’s worth it and it’s good for five years, which comes to about $17 a year—the cost of a few lattes. Why enroll? TSA Pre✓® allows members to leave on their shoes, light outerwear and belts when going through designated TSA Pre✓® lanes at the major U.S. airports. It also allows members to leave their 3-1-1- liquids bag (typically your travel-size toiletries) and small personal electronics in their carry-on bag when going through the checkpoint. So not only is it convenient, it’s faster because you don’t have to divest all of those items from your carry-on bag or your body.
Reduce the chance that you will need a pat-down. The advanced image technology scanner (the one where you raise your arms and the glass spins), is designed to detect items between the skin and clothing and uses an algorithm that triggers an alarm on a shape that does not fit the algorithm. How to reduce that possibility is key. First of all, remove everything from your pockets, including tissues, mints, keys, wallets and the like. If you are wearing something that could create the impression that there is something additional on your body, consider removing it. For example, a bulky necklace or a knotted scarf doesn’t fit the algorithm and the machine could trigger an alarm because it identifies that bulky necklace or knotted scarf as something concealed in the area of your chest. If you wear glasses, keep them on your face and don’t have them flipped up on the top of your head. After all, the machine knows the shape of a head and could identify the glasses on your head as something concealed in your hair.
Wear slip-on shoes. If you’re going through the checkpoint and you’re not enrolled in TSA Pre✓®, you will need to remove your shoes. Wearing slip-ons saves you time on both sides of the checkpoint—at the conveyor belt when you have to remove your shoes, and at the bench when you have to sit down to lace them back up. If you’ve ever seen someone hopping around trying to pull off boots at a checkpoint, or unlace a designer shoe that has laces that go up the calf, you get the idea. Slip on, slip off.
Keep those carry-on liquids, gels, pastes and aerosols less than 3.4 ounces. By far the most common mistake travelers make in a checkpoint is that they bring oversize liquids, gels, pastes and aerosols in their carry-on bag. The result? A TSA officer needs to open your carry-on and remove the item at which point you have the choice to put the item in a checked bag, hand it off to a non-traveling companion or let TSA throw it away. Any substance that exceeds 3.4 ounces (that’s the equivalent of 100 ml, which is the international standard), that can be spilled, sprayed, spread, pumped or poured is considered a liquid, gel, paste or aerosol. If it’s 3.4 ounces or smaller, put it in your 3-1-1 toiletries bag. If it’s larger, pack it in your checked bag. Don’t let your oversized items slow you down.
Invest in a TSA-compatible lock. Lock your checked bag using a TSA-compatible lock to help ensure your belongings will reach your destination. You can get one for less than $5. What is a TSA-compatible lock? Most packages are labeled as such, but you can also look at the lock. It will have TSA printed on it with a number. That number corresponds to the key that TSA officers will use to unlock and open the luggage if your checked bag alarms the baggage scanner. If you use a lock that isn’t TSA compatible, TSA will pull out the bolt cutters to remove the lock because the officers can’t risk that there is something dangerous inside without inspecting the interior of the luggage if it triggered an alarm.