It's no secret that one of the most stressful parts of traveling is dealing with the airport, especially if you're not a frequent flyer. If you haven't been staying on top of all of the TSA rules and you've got a trip coming up, you need to know how to pack your carry-on bag so it won’t get flagged by airport security. Even if you check your luggage, you likely still have a carry-on bag that includes things like your personal items and your computer. Depending on which airport you're leaving from, the simple act of getting to your gate can take well over an hour.
Being prepared up front so you don't get pulled out of line to have your bag searched can help ensure your trip starts off on the right foot. Aside from the shoes-off, laptop-out, liquids-in-a-bag rules, TSA is introducing even more protective measures on a rolling basis. If it's been a while since you've flown, head to the TSA website where you can use the feature "Can I bring my _______?" While the ultimate goal is to keep you safe, that doesn't mean getting through airport security isn't a huge pain in the butt.
Even the most patient person can get annoyed when stuck behind a slew of people who don't know what they're doing and hold up the security line. Don't be one of these people. I was in a security line in Tahiti earlier this year that took more than two hours because no one seemed to be aware of the TSA rules. Keep in mind that if you're traveling back to the U.S. from another country things will take longer because those visiting the U.S. aren't as well-versed in TSA rules as those who live here. Make sure you get to the airport early.
Once you get to the TSA checkpoint: "Be ready when you enter the checkpoint line: Have an acceptable ID and boarding pass out of your wallet and ready to hand to the TSA officer," TSA said in a press release. "Once you get to the divesting tables, remove laptops, any electronics larger than a cell phone and the 3-1-1 compliant liquids bag, from carry-on baggage and place those items in a checkpoint bin."
If you're carrying on your main bag, make sure it's packed neatly and not overstuffed. If you had to sit on it to close it, it's probably too full. Reader's Digest noted that over-packed bags can make it hard for the TSA X-ray machine to see what's inside. This could lead to your getting your bag searched. If this does happen, and your bag is bursting at the seams, you're going to have to re-pack it before heading to the gate.
Make sure all liquids, aerosols, gels, creams and pastes you bring through the TSA checkpoint fit into a quart-sized plastic bag and are no larger than 3.4 ounces each. Most drug stores sell kits in the travel aisle that take the guess work out of packing your liquids. When deciding what to bring through the TSA security checkpoint, remember that less is best.
"Consider minimizing items that you wear to the airport such as bulky jewelry, scarves, hair accessories, large belts and other bulky items as these articles are likely to require additional screening," TSA recommended. "Remove all items from your pockets and put them into one of your carry-on bags so you won’t lose them."
In addition, it's a good idea to pull out items that could be misconstrued and put them in a clear plastic bag. I was stopped once because I had an amethyst crystal shaped like an arrow the size of my hand in my bag. Because TSA was backed up it took more than a half hour for someone to become available to search my bag, and I almost missed my flight.
Remember to check your purse or backpack before you go through security to make sure you don't have a bottle of water or any other large liquids. Overall, knowing what to expect up front can go a long way toward making your experience less stressful. Even if you do everything right, there's still a chance you could get pulled out for random screening. If you want to avoid the lengthy security ordeal altogether, consider getting approved for TSA Precheck or Global Entry. Once you have this status you'll be able to breeze through security in a special line without taking off your shoes or taking apart your bag. #TheMoreYouKnow