I have a close friend who told me that he had to travel by air to attend a funeral in another state. He had not traveled by air in some 20 years. Since then, lots of changes have happened with getting through check-in and to the gate, and also on board an aircraft.
Here are some thoughts I shared with my friend, based on having over two million miles on thousands of airline flights during my lifetime….
…First-off, air travel these days is nothing like it was before the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States. Security being #1.
There are no longer local contractors running bags through an x-ray and cursorily inspecting passengers.
But before you get to a security screening station, you should think about what you are bringing with you, and whether it will be all carry-on or if you will have a checked bag. Unfortunately, most airlines charge fees for checked baggage (one major airline is a notable exception). Generally, airlines nickel-and-dime passengers to death for everything from baggage fees to seating preferences to meals.
Be thoughtful about what you are bringing with you. Here is a list from the U.S. Transportation Security Administration on what is allowable to be in a carry-on bag and in a checked bag.
As a frequent flier, nothing bothers me more than people who try to avoid checking a bag because they don’t want to pay the baggage fee, then try to bring everything with them in carry-on bags. A small roll-aboard is fine. An enormous trunk or duffle bag, not so much.
Most airlines are pretty good about sorting that out with passengers at the check-in counter, but sometimes the “I need everything with me” passenger gets through to the gate, then slows the boarding while arguing with the gate agent about carry-on limits.
You can bring liquids with you on the plane — mouthwash, shaving cream, sunscreen, perfume, cologne, inhaled nose spray, nasal rinse, contact lens solution, etc. You can have them all. The only limit is that you can only bring 3-oz or less of each one. Not all totaled — each one. So yes, you can have 10 bottles of liquids if you want.
You must place these liquids in a clear quart-sized resealable plastic bag and place that bag on the x-ray belt fully open and disclosed. If you put it in a carry-on, they’ll see it and set your bag aside for more thorough inspection which will delay you 5 – 10 more minutes.
One thing that frequently trips up a lot of people is “what is a liquid?” Well… toothpaste falls into that category. No, you can’t bring your 6-oz tube of toothpaste in your carry-on. Spend US$1 and get a 2-oz travel size, or buy it when you get to your destination.
Speaking of liquids: don’t be stupid and bring poppers or other recreational drugs with you. Also, don’t bring vaping liquids, either. They really screen for those kinds of things. If they find vaping liquids, then they tear apart your carry-on to see if you are carrying e-cigs or supplies, which have been known to cause fires in baggage. Just keep that crap at home and if you feel you must have it, buy more at your destination.
What to wear?
I suggest wearing loose, light-fitting clothing that is comfortable. Airlines do not regulate on-board temperature that well, and blankets for passengers are a thing of the past (mostly). So wear layers. T-shirt, regular shirt, and perhaps a sweatshirt or jacket if you are subject to feeling cold.
Jacket? If you like to wear leather, wear your jacket instead of checking it. You can wear it on the plane and not have it counted as carry-on. So for guys like me who may want to have a heavyweight motorcycle jacket — wear it. Then take it off when you get to your seat and place it under the seat in front of you or in the bin above if there is room.
Leather pants? My friend likes to wear leather jeans. So do I. However, generally I suggest not to wear leather when going through security. Some of those TSA boys don’t get it and possibly delay you with “being selected for random extra screening.” Generally these days, I just wear a pair of cargo pants or jeans and bring the leather with me in my bag to wear at my destination.
Boots? Sure! Wear boots at the airport. However, make sure the boots you select are easy and fast to slip off with one hand at the security screening station. Nothing drives me more nuts at security than to be delayed by being behind someone who has to use both hands (one for balance) to remove footwear and other clothing (belt) that may trip an alarm at the magnetometer.
Another thing to remember about boots — on long flights, boots can get kinda hot and possibly can reduce blood flow in the lower legs and feet. As one ages, you have to be more careful about a DVT (blood clot) in the legs that can happen while on long-duration flights.
What do I do? I wear comfortable short tactical boots. They have no metal in them, and as a TSA-PreCheck flyer, I can keep them on whilst going through security. I can also remove them on the plane (if my seatmates don’t complain). I also stretch my legs, wiggle my feet and ankles, and on really long flights, get up and walk all the way to the latrines in the back of the plane at least once or twice, even if I don’t have to pee. Nothing like walking “thinly” down the aisle to get blood flowing and prevent clotting.
One last tip: get to the airport about 90 minutes to 2 hours before departure for a domestic flight, or 3 hours before departure for an international flight. Don’t be “the guy” running through the airport and whining like mad in the security line about being late for a flight. You will not get priority screening or priority boarding if you are late. Your self-imposed emergency (being worried about missing your flight) is not the airline’s emergency. Plan ahead and think!
Here are some other tips that I shared with my friend:
If you do not have or randomly get TSA pre-check and you have to go through regular security, I suggest:
* Make sure your photo ID is Real ID compliant. If in doubt, bring your passport or passport card. They really will stop you from getting past security if you do not have Real ID-compliant identification.
* Belt: wear pants that either do not require a belt or a fabric belt — no metal buckle.
* leather jeans often have metal grommets holding the pockets and perhaps some seams. Is it worth it to be hassled about what you are wearing just for the thrill of seeing other people’s reactions? I really suggest wearing regular denim jeans for the flights. Honestly, they get no thrill wanding men in leather and it really slows you down (and everyone else behind you who glares at you with contempt.)
* you can wear a leather jacket, just will have to take it off and run it through the x-ray. Then wear it on the plane to avoid having it counted as a carry-on.
* wear a regular shirt, too — not a leather shirt. Trust me on this one. Leather shirts and TSA agents don’t mix. They will think it is a jacket and tell you to take it off. Unless you are wearing a t-shirt underneath, then uh-oh!
* boots — because regular security screening requires removal of footwear, wear boots that are really easy and fast to slip off, run through the x-ray, then put back on again. Nothing is more annoying that being behind someone struggling with their footwear at security.
* since you said that you would use carry-on only, then get travel size toothpaste and any other liquids or semi-liquids you use (sunscreen, shampoo, shave cream, etc.) They really watch the liquids in the carry on and stop lots of people about those items. Remember to put your liquids and toothpaste in a 1-qt size transparent food storage bag and keep that bag outside your carry-on to run it through the x-ray in a plastic container (with your cell phone, coins, car keys, and any other metal). Do not put liquids in a Dopp kit inside your carry-on.
* a wedding ring is fine, but remove any other jewelry — watch, necklace, etc.
* Plan for time to get through security. It really varies on the airport and time of day, but if you plan for 30 minutes waiting in line at security and it takes less time, you can treat yourself to something to eat/drink on the other side while waiting for your flight.
There is more — always more — but as a frequent and high-mileage flyer, these tips are easy to implement and follow, yet are sometimes forgotten or caught unaware.
Life is short: Fly safely and have fun!