10 Tips to Help You Deal with Airport Security

Most days I really love my job. 

It’s not glamorous, like you see in the movies, but it provides me a great deal of flexibility, variety, and personal enjoyment while meeting my needs to make a living.  While I occasionally have a lousy flight (or trip, or sometimes even a month), the good still overwhelmingly outweighs the bad.

That’s part of the reason why a day like today is so difficult.

I know that all the passengers on the plane have been through hell ““just to get to the plane.  It may not make you feel any better, but we had to go through the same thing.  We know what it feels like.  The security lines are long, and tempers are short, and patience is in short supply.  There are a lot of people who didn’t make their flights today, because the wait in the security line was over three hours. 

When I got home from my trip today, I had lots of emails from friends, and some readers, too, expressing fond thoughts and empathy, and also asking for suggestions about what to do if they have travel plans. 

Here’s what I would do if I had to travel today.  Wait, what am I talking about, I already did travel today — but you know what I mean:

  1. Plan to check your luggage, and pack accordingly.  By minimizing what you have to take through security, you will speed up the process.  Currently, no liquids, gels, lotions, etc., are being allowed in carry on baggage.  When I was re-packing my bags this morning, I didn’t think that I had many liquids, but by the time I completed the process, I realized how many things fell into this category:  Hair products (shampoo, conditioner, gel, mousse, etc.), toiletries (shaving gel, deodorant, toothpaste, etc.), cosmetic items (creams, lotions, perfume, nail polish and remover, etc.), and personal care items (contact solution, eye drops, nasal spray, room freshener, antibacterial wash, etc.).
  2. Arrive at the airport early.  And I mean really, really, early.  The wait times at Sea-Tac today were around 3 hours.  Of course, it will depend on the airport, so check your airport’s website for the estimated wait time.  Remember, that things can change very quickly, and that means the process could easily be longer or shorter.
  3. Have a plan for your children.  If you the wait times are frustrating for adults, think of how it must be for a child.  Currently, a small juice box is being allowed through security for children.  That could change, but it’s a start for right now.  Also make sure you bring toys, books, or something to entertain then.
  4. Keep a sense of humor.  This is just good advice for life, I think.  We are all in this together, and no one likes it.  You can diffuse a lot of tension with a laugh, and sometimes that means laughing at yourself.  No jokes, however, about contraband, weapons, or any security issue.  That’s not funny, it is serious business, and may very well be a felony.
  5. If you need coffee, plan to drink it right down.  After you get through security, you may be able to purchase coffee and beverages, but currently they are not being allowed on the plane at all.  You just can’t bring it with you.
  6. When you are given instructions by the TSA, airport workers, customer service agents, or flight attendants (and probably others that I’m forgetting), it’s best to just go along.  These people are not trying to make your life difficult.  They are responding to directives that sometimes change very quickly, and may take awhile to filter down to all levels of the industry.  Don’t get bogged down in making this a personal power struggle.  In situations like this, you may find yourself not be allowed to board, or being removed from a flight.  Decide whether you need to be right, or get to your destination.
  7. Don’t ask if there are air marshals onboard the flight.  This is confidential security information, and we can’t tell you.  If you need this information to feel safe, you should probably fly another day.
  8. Be aware.  If you see suspicious activity let someone know.  This is just a good idea any day of the year.
  9. Bring along as much patience, graciousness, politeness and understanding as you can possibly muster.  Of course it’s not fair, and yes, you are being put out tremendously.  By being a pleasant person to be around, you diffuse tension, change the dynamics of a group situation, and probably live longer, too.
  10. Refuse to be a victim.  I’m not afraid to fly.  I do it nearly every day of my life, and while it can sometimes be a big pain in a spot in the lower part of my body, I refuse to give in to bullies.  I use common sense, exercise good judgment, and remain vigilant ““ and I travel, both for business and enjoyment.  Because life is about enjoying things, and for me that’s travel.

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Mary Jo Manzanares is a traveler, travel blogger, and podcaster. In addition to her blog, Traveling with MJ, she hosts the Where Else to Go podcast, and is the founder and the editor-in-chief of The Traveler’s Way, an online travel magazine. Her travel ethos is value luxury - luxury for real people - and her goal is to help travelers know when to splurge and when to save. Mary Jo has been a speaker at various industry events around the world. When she’s not traveling, Mary Jo likes lingering over a cup of coffee, wandering in a museum, sipping wine at a cafe, and sharing it all with friends and readers. Her most recent travels were to Stockholm, a Baltic cruise, and Universal Orlando Resort.

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