TSA Travel Tips

I just completed my last business trip of the year. As I was standing in the line for the security screening I was pondering the various techniques I have adopted to smooth the process. Actually, I was just daydreaming since the line was moving pretty slow. It was the family of 5 in front of me that seemed to be clogging the system.

For the infrequent traveler, the most important thing is to read and follow the instructions from the TSA. The other day I saw a guy trying to take 6 quarts of bottled water through security. Then there was the guy with the GIANT belt buckle and a HUGE set of keys in his pocket. Not good.

Here are my tips for making it through TSA screening as easily as possible:

  • Before you enter the security line (or while you are waiting in line), clear your pockets of all things metal and put them into your carry on. Don’t dump all this stuff into the little bowls they have at the x-ray machine as it just slows you down.
  • Keep an eye on the various screening lines to see which ones are getting hosed up. In particular, look for infrequent travelers that don’t seem to know what they are doing and stay away from their line.
  • If you can, stay away from the new body scanners and steer towards the lines that have metal detectors. Be aware that the body scanners require you to take everything out of your pockets, not just metal objects.
  • If you have a jacket with you, there are two options: 1) before you get in line, stuff the jacket into your carry-on bag (one less thing to mess with) or 2) hang onto your jacket but put your metal items into a pocket (best if you have a zipper or other closure on the pocket so things don’t spill out). If you are really hardcore, check out the SCOTTEVEST products with a gazillion pockets.
  • Slip-on shoes are a little faster to get on and off.
  • The x-ray machines have a roller tray that feed carry-on items into the machines. Don’t be too quick to put your luggage onto this tray. First  focus on getting the special items into the tubs they provide. That is, pull your notebook computer, your 1 quart bag of fluids, your shoes, etc. and put them into a tub. Then, as you approach the x-ray machine plop your carry-on bag(s) onto the tray. This avoids juggling a cargo train of luggage on the tray.
  • What about ham radio gear you are carrying? (Yes, this is a ham radio blog.) Handheld transceivers are not much of an issue these days, since they look so much like mobile phones. Sometimes I will pull them out and put them in a tub for screening. For larger radios, treat them like a notebook computer….pull them out of the bag and put it in a tub so it is visible and can be easily x-ray’d.

Those are my thoughts….what do you say?

73, Bob K0NR

  1. #1 by Andy KE7YXZ on 19 December 2010 - 5:54 pm

    Good summary. A couple thoughts to add -
    * I have a “travel purse”. It is a manly thing (harrumph) from the REI story and I dump all my pocket stuff into that, including cell phone, coins, pens, camera, etc. Since it zips closed, it is a good carrier for use on the belt. I also keep ear plugs and a shoe-horn in it between trips.
    * I carry a water bottle and take the lid off. Clearly there are no liquids contained when the lid is off.
    * I have a plastic belt (REI, again), but some airports insist that I remove it. Others don’t. One less piece of metal to forget.
    Thanks, -andy

  2. #2 by K0NR on 19 December 2010 - 11:17 pm

    Thanks for the comments. It is called a “Man Bag”, never any kind of purse!

    I always worry about getting a pocket knife, Gerber or Leatherman tool, etc. into my bag when not flying and forgetting it is there.

    - Bob

  3. #3 by mark on 31 December 2010 - 3:26 pm

    “I always worry about getting a pocket knife, Gerber or Leatherman tool, etc.

    After driving Boeings for 30 years, I go through security as a retiree for the second time and I end up with a knife in my pocket!

    It happens.

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