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Latest Airport Safety & Security Tips

by Courtney Caldwell

The rules change from week to week depending on the terror alert status. Imagine that. In such a short period of time travel planning has gone from what to pack so you’re not without, to what not to pack or else. I see a whole new cottage industry springing up here on disposable everything. Pack nothing now. Buy it while you’re there. Throw it away before leaving. Travel with only your toothbrush and the clothes on your back. But what about the souvenirs? Is this what it’s coming to?

Recently, as I stood a long security line at our local airport I watched as everyone in front of me had to remove their belts, jackets, shoes, laptops from their briefcases, and empty pockets. If a button, bobby pin or ring sets off the alarm you’re sent back through the metal detector, and just in case, still searched by security for double insurance. So is your carry-on.

By the time I got to the front of the line I quipped that I would start showing up in nothing but a bikini and flip-flops. The women in line giggled with a sigh of relief that someone else felt their frustration at the disrobing...and of course, the men laughed with relief at such a vision. Little did they know that it was my thighs that put the word cottage in cheese.

As uncomfortable as all these rules are, they are now a fact of life. They’re not going to change or go away so we need to get used to them and learn to properly prepare. When all is said and done, I am very happy that such extreme measures are being taken to protect the public. This is how it should have always been, but because it wasn’t, terrorists had easy access to airplanes and innocent lives. Flying today has never been safer.

The most important thing to remember is that airports and airlines vary in rules and not just based on the most recent terror alert. Some still check IDs at every checkpoint; others no longer check it at boarding. All still expect to see ID with boarding passes before or while passing through security. So it’s best to always have your ID and boarding pass ready to show at all times. Many people hold up lines because they’ve put these things back in their briefcase or purse, which means they have to put everything down so they can search for the items. You get enough people doing this and lines are delayed even longer.

The best thing to do just days before you leave on a trip is to check the latest security rules with the airlines on which you’re flying and how they apply at your departing and arriving airports. You don’t want to be blindsided with any surprises. Don’t assume, for example, that whatever Northwest rules are in Detroit the same apply to Miami. Each airline has their own set of rules and restrictions tailored to meet the regulations and requirements at each airport, which may slightly vary from state to state, airport to airport. So be sure to check on your airlines and their applicable procedures at each airport through which you’ll be flying.

This is easy enough to do online. In fact, http://www.roadandtravel.com/airlines/airlinerules.htm has an extensive listing of all airlines and their current rules. If you don’t find the answers you’re looking for, there’s a link to each airline and an 800 number for additional information. Make this part of your travel planning in advance.

While some airlines have relaxed a little on arriving two hours in advance, don’t take any chances. There are so many unexpected things that can delay you getting to your gate on time. It just takes one nutcase in the security line that forgot he had a knife on him or someone who makes a now-against-the-law comment or joke about terrorism or weapons, to hold things up for hours. Give yourself plenty of advance time to get through check-in, security and to your gate.

Bring a book, or some work, and plenty to do for the kids. Many airports are now so modernized that they’ve become more like malls than airports. You can always get a head start on your Christmas or birthday shopping. Some, like Detroit Metropolitan Airport, even have massage parlors for weary travelers. And of course most have a good variety of restaurants so perhaps you might even plan one of your meals around your wait.

It used to take all day to fly from Los Angeles to New York. Now, with all the new security rules, it can take all day just to fly from Boston to New York, so don’t get your knickers in a knot. Understand and accept that travel days are now going to be an all day event no matter where you’re going -- you need to plan accordingly. Once you build that time into your travel schedule you’ll find that it’s far less stressful to get there and much more fun to arrive at your destination.

The last thing you want to do is show up at an airport late to catch a flight then get delayed even further at security. Missing a flight is upsetting for anyone, however, any yelling or arguing with agents or security will get you detained or perhaps even arrested. So, arrive early, know the rules, and most of all be prepared to practice your patience. You will need it.

Traveling is not what it used to be, for sure. But it can still be a lot of fun if planned properly. The busy summer travel season is upon us. Travel wise, travel safe.

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