Wednesday, December 21, 2016

8 Tips to Turn Airport Security Into the Best Part of Your Vacation

On your way to the airport with a Samsung Galaxy Note7 in your pocket? If so, you need our travel tips on better packing and ever-changing security rules. Everyone needs them, because making the airport experience less painful means smoother travels, especially during the frantic holiday season.

Travel light and keep smiling, the best airport advice we have.

1. Research what the FAA considers Hazardous.

FAA forbidden hazardous materials include the rubber cement (banned) your kids will use to make glitter Christmas cards for grandma, the old camping stove (banned) you’re cooking the goose on, the aerosol spray starch (banned) for ironing your holiday outfits. But not the aerosol sunblock (approved) your teen bought for his Cancun tan. Go figure.

2. Research the TSA Rules and Remain Flexible.

The TSA Prohibited Items list is totally different than the FAA’s and ever-changing, so you’ll have to check it, too. Kids can carry their scooters aboard, but drones will be disapproved – even from checked luggage -- if their lithium ion battery is 100Wh (watt-hour rating) or more. At present, pies, cakes and turkeys are okay to carry on, but cranberry sauce, dips, jams, and gravy must be checked.

Note that at many airports, there are slow security lanes for families and infrequent travelers, where extra screening is available for infant formula, baby essentials and medications. For questions about other special needs, call TSA Passenger Cares (855/787-2227).

3. Don't giftwrap things.

With security level alerts changing all the time, your day will come when airport personnel want to hand inspect your belongings. During the holidays, several airports including Heathrow (London), La Guardia (New York), and San Diego International provide giftwrap after security, either free of charge or to benefit charity.  Or, carry decorative folding gift bags with you.

4. Pack lightly.

Study up on how to fit everything in with “How to Pack for Any Trip” (Lonely Planet, 2016.) Funny illustrations show how to best fold garments, with packing tips for every type of traveler, every climate and myriad situations.

Avoid packing hassles altogether with clothing full of pockets from; their men’s Off The Grid Jacket ($215) has 29 pockets to hold your laptop or iPad, an RFID-blocking pocket for a passport or other smart ID and space to fold in clothes. And, with the increase in extended stay hotel brands, Hawthorn Suites by Wyndham and other hotels now have on-site laundry facilities so you don't need to pack as much. That's true on cruise ships, too.

5. Carry on luggage.

In 2016, six checked bags were lost for every 1,000 passengers –- a number that’s declining thanks to self-checking bag kiosks, but a holiday nightmare nonetheless.

Buy yourself and the kids new rollaboards. Even the youngest children are able to carry their weight with Buddy Balls ($19.95), soft and cuddly stuffed teddy bear animals with a secret zippered pocket for storing toddler essentials. It also folds into itself to become a soft-sided ball that little ones can safely play with in a hotel.

6. Don’t bother locking checked luggage.

The TSA, Customs and Border Patrol, and any foreign customs officer will open whatever they want to inspect. Yes, things to get stolen, even when you check your bags at a hotel concierge because your room isn’t ready. Buy travel insurance to cover loss of any belongings.

7. If you do have to check more than one bag, ship your luggage.

Services like and the SHYP app can be much cheaper than paying a second bag fee.

8. And smile.

It's contagious.

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