Mistake #1: Wearing complicated shoes
Laces and buckles and straps that take time to undo and re-do will not win you friends in the security line. Unless you’re 12 or younger, or 75 or older, or a TSA Pre traveler—in which cases you needn’t remove your shoes—think slip-on footwear.
Mistake #2: Wearing anything metal
Big jewelry, belts with metal clasps, even under-wire bras and body piercings can set off the machine. Be prepared to remove them or else get patted down by TSA officials.
Mistake #3: Dressing in bulky, loose-fitting garments or head coverings
You might as well just ask for a pat-down. Those wearing head coverings for religious or cultural reasons may be asked to remove them in a private screening area.
Mistake #4: Not wearing socks
Walking barefoot on a dirty airport floor—a floor already trod by hundreds of other bare feet and thousands of germ-covered shoe bottoms—can leave you with a contagious fungus, like the kind that causes athlete’s foot, or a staph infection.
Mistake #5: Wrapping gifts beforehand
TSA officials could make you unwrap a gift—if they need to inspect it—so either ship gifts ahead or wait till you’re at your destination to wrap them.
Mistake #6: Toting potentially perilous sporting gear
No baseball bats, golf clubs, lacrosse sticks, or ski poles are allowed through security, nor are any tools that are greater than seven inches in length. Here are other prohibited items.
Mistake #7: Carrying foods that aren’t solid.
You can bring a homemade pumpkin pie through security—and perhaps even a figgy pudding (it’s not on the TSA’s list of prohibited items)— but cranberry sauce, jams, and the like are allowed only in amounts of less than 3.4 fluid ounces and only in a clear, quart-size, zip-top bag. Baby formula, breast milk, and liquid medications are allowed through security.
Mistake #8: Packing the wrong toys
So you got little Johnny a toy knife or gun for Christmas? Or a brass trumpet? Do not try to bring it through security. (Yes, musical instruments must undergo screening too—and brass must go in checked luggage.) Don’t even try to bring a snowglobe through unless it’s small: Snowglobes containing less than 3.4 fluid ounces are allowed only if the entire snowglobe can fit inside a quart-size zip-top bag.
Mistake #9: Choosing the wrong lane
There’s often a priority lane (for those with elite status or the right credit card) and a family lane (for those with youngsters) in addition to the regular lane. If you’re wrangling tots, strollers, and diaper bags, do the right thing and choose the family lane.
Mistake #10: Taking out all your electronic devices
Small electronics—cell phones, tablets, e-readers—do not need to be removed from your carry-on. It’s only large items such as your laptop that must be removed and placed in the bin (unless you’ve got TSA Pre).
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