(eTN) – Shuffling through security in airports is a bigger drag than going to the dentist.
After all, you made it to the departures terminal within six or seven minutes of the scheduled take-off time, so why are all these people wearing rubber gloves hassling you?
Weary travelers, I hate to break it to you, but you brought much of the misery on yourself. Your MacBook Pro is locked away at the bottom of your Longchamp roller duffel. The Swiss-made manicure set in your purse makes the metal detector go haywire. And your knee-high Sergio Rossi lace-up boots take a lifetime to remove.
No wonder the couple behind you with the screaming baby hates you.
Help is on the way. Here are the 10 ways travelers mess up big-time, and how they can mend their ways.
1.) Mindlessly Stuffing Your Toiletries Kit in Your Carry-On
From now on, write this on your forehead: 3-1-1 for liquids and gels.
If your toiletry kit contains a family-size bottle of mouthwash and an oversize canister of shave cream, you can say goodbye to both at the security checkpoint.
No one bottle of liquid bigger than three ounces is allowed, and all the liquid bottles must fit into a one-quart clear, plastic zip-top bag. This is the most important rule to think about in advance, because it’s the least intuitive one, and can cause your sundries to be tossed in the garbage bin if it’s not followed.
The Transportation Security Administration maintains a Web site devoted to outlining this rule.
There are just a few exceptions to the 3-1-1 rule, according to the TSA Web site: Medications, breast milk, baby formula, baby food and juice can be brought past security in amounts larger than three ounces, but they must be declared for inspection at the security checkpoint. “You just need to say it’s for a child” if you bring those things, says TSA spokesperson Sterling Payne.
Companies, meanwhile, are starting to make products designed to ease the difficulty of complying with the 3-1-1 rule. Businesses such as Easy Traveler, Tamperseal, Alltravelsizes.com and Family On Board, among others, offer products that can help make packing and traveling easier.
2.) Forgetting That Your Baby Is a Suspect as Well
When you’re wheeling up to Checkpoint Charlie, you’d be sadly mistaken to think that your little one is going to get a free pass just because he’s cute. Out of the stroller, Junior, and put down that metal Slinky.
Pay attention to pets, too. Ms. Payne says “we’ve had many animals go through the X-ray screening” because people don’t know what to do with them. (“The amount of exposure isn’t harmful,” she adds, “but we obviously don’t want it to happen.”) Fido and Fifi should come out of their carriers, and can simply walk through the screening with you.
And don’t expect any sympathy from the impatient travelers behind you — they want to don their shoes again just as quickly as you want to get your child’s booties and your pet’s collar back on.
3.) Dressing Like a Rapper (If You’re Not a Rapper)
Jackets and other baggy clothes, such as oversize sweatshirts, are more likely to need to be removed during the screening process. If you wear anything baggy, make sure you wear more than a muscle T-shirt underneath, especially if you aren’t a bodybuilder.
4.) Sporting Lace-Ups When Loafers Will Do
You don’t need to wear your father’s slippers, but you shouldn’t wear his army boots either. Nowadays, everyone — and that means you, Your Honor — has to take off their shoes for X-ray inspection. So wear shoes that can be easily put on and taken off. And if you don’t want to walk through the security area in bare feet, wear socks. Clean socks. Socks with no holes.
5.) Wearing a Welterweight Championship Belt
Minimizing metal has been the airport-screening stereotype for ages, but it seems even to this day as though there’s always someone who has to go through the screening process over and over again, the system beeping each time, the person emptying wallets and taking off belts each time.
It’s best to have keys, loose change and other items in a bag that will go through the X-ray machine, rather than carrying them with you. Even underwire bras can set off the metal detector, if it’s ramped up to more sensitive settings.
6.) Leaving Your X-Rays at the Doctor’s Office
Anything unusual about your body may require evidence. If you have a metal plate in your head or metal pins in your ankle, for example, it might be best to bring evidence like X-rays to demonstrate that, just in case those things trigger the alarm. And if it does mean you get picked for secondary screening, “just tell them as much as you can up front” about your pacemaker, insulin pump or other medical device, Payne says.
7.) Keeping Your Laptop Under Wraps
You know this one but you keep ignoring it. Laptops need to be in an easy-to-reach spot because they absolutely must come out during screening, and run through the X-ray machine in a separate bucket.
The best option is leave the laptop at home if the boss lets you. But if it must come along, keep it in a place where it can easily be taken out and put back in.
8.) Running Late — and Running Into a Long Line
If you’re tardy time and again, at least check in advance to see how long the security lines are at the airport. The TSA provides wait times online, as well. Individual airports often post wait-time information; the Denver and Boston airports, for example, have information about wait times on their homepages.
9.) Being Unprepared for a Patdown
Not everyone gets patted down, but if you’re selected for the extra security screening, it can be a little creepy.
Patdown searches are supposed to be done by someone of the same gender “except in extraordinary circumstances,” the TSA says, and you can request to be taken into a private area for the procedure if you prefer.
10.) Playing Santa Before You Get to Grandma’s House
The TSA can inspect anything it wants in your bags, so if you wrap gifts first you run the risk of having that hard work undone by security personnel.
Some people take the risk and do it anyway, but don’t be surprised, especially if the gifts look unusual in the X-ray machine, when the security workers want to unwrap them.