Holiday Travel Survival Guide

Holiday Travel Survival Guide

by Monica Sanders, December 2009

'Tis the season for holiday travel. With this time comes long lines, surly airport employees, and from time to time lost luggage... all enough to sap your holiday cheer. Add to those, the security checkpoint experience and you may wonder why you left home to begin with. Though the lines can be tedious, there are ways to make things go more smoothly in the airport. Understanding the restrictions is the biggest part.

Do you know the 3-1-1?

Not knowing what to carry-on and what to check is one of the major sources of security delays. The Transportation Safety Administration came up with an easy rule for carry-ons called "3-1-1 For Carry-Ons." Simply, you may carry liquids and gels in containers of three ounces or less. Those containers must be placed in a clear, plastic resealable bag of no more than a quart in size. Think of putting everything in a Ziploc sandwich bag. Only one of these bags is allowed per person.

The easiest way to deal with this is to buy travel-sized containers of what you need and pack your bag at home. Most manufacturers and retailers have wised up to the new security restrictions and often have abundant supplies of shampoos, lotions and other products on hand in small sizes. For those of you who use higher-end salon products, check ahead with your stylist. Sometimes, they can get sample-sized versions of your product from their distributor. The same goes for medicines, ask your doctor for samples if your regular container is larger than three ounces.

Carry-on vs. Checked, and Unwrapped

Some things have to go into your carry-on. Contact lense solution rarely comes in smaller containers, so put that in your checked luggage and wear glasses while on the flight. Hand sanitizer cannot be placed in carry-ons, nor can most liquid makeup removers. An alternative is to get hand wipes and makeup remover wipes to use during the flight. These frequently come in small or travel size containers that can be placed in the aforementioned clear plastic bag.

Now you can carry-on full-sized versions of your electronics (laptops, portable DVD players, MP3s), but remember to have them out of their case and ready to go on the conveyer belt during security checks. In fact, many airlines recommend that you carry these with you as they limit or exclude liability for items stolen out of checked luggage. Electronics and jewelry are among those items for which most airlines will not compensate...

If you purchase any of these as gifts, pack them in their own bag and carry them on. However, do not wrap them ahead of time. You may have to take them out in the security checkpoint and suffer the frustration of having an airport employee rip away the wrapping paper. This is particularly true of the foil type, which can distort scanner images.

"What Not To Wear" at a security checkpoint

Shoes, coats, and bulky clothes that could conceivably hide a weapon or explosives will have to be removed for scanning. If you haven't learned by now, know that the best way to handle this is to dress simply and wear socks.

Some clothing items can cause you problems, namely an additional search. While the phrase "Are you gellin'?" seems like fun in those commercials, those insoles will cause you nothing but grief in an airport. They are not allowed. You should removed them and put them in your checked luggage. If you forget and wear them to the airport, you should take them out and declare them before going through security. Otherwise, they will be confiscated and you could be subjected to a separate search.

If you can, leave your head bare. While you may be tempted to be festive and wear a Santa or Elf hat, TSA agents may not be charmed. Hats and other head coverings will be removed and possibly searched. However, if you cover your head for religious reasons, agents must conduct any searches in private.

Print the Card, Call your airline

In what could be an early gift, The Transportation Safety Administration has tried to simplify the security process by posting information travel cards on its website ( The cards are printable and tailored to different types of travelers. There is one for business travelers, another for people with children and one for women. Because additional security measures may be in place for different airlines, it is worth the time to call your carrier. In other words, "know before you go."