How to Prep for the TSA

by Crystal R. Mendoza Paulin

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has been frustrating and bewildering travelers for over a decade now. Whether you're a first-time flyer or a seasoned veteran, reviewing TSA regulations and policies is always a good idea. We've compiled a quick guide to zip you through the TSA line!

1. Packing Dos and Donts

The TSA has an easy visual guide on what is and is not allowed on luggage. Firearms and other flammable objects are never allowed on flights but other seemingly innocuous items may raise a red flag for security reasons. Familiarize yourself with the list to avoid mailing things back home.

2. Separate your items

Specifically, designate what belongs in checked or carry on luggage. For example, liquids over 100 ml are allowed in checked luggage but not in carry on luggage. As you pack each bag try to keep similar items together: clothes, shoes, food, and gifts should all be in separate areas. Both checked and carry on luggage are screened so keeping things plainly organized makes it easier for TSA agents to determine you have nothing dangerous in your luggage. If you decide to include liquids in your carry on, make sure you follow the 3-1-1 rule as outlined here.

3. Dress like a traveler

Now that your luggage is ready for the TSA, it's time to get you ready for the safety inspection. Wear easily removable shoes and jacket/outerwear. Many airports use metal detectors to screen for dangerous items so store any metal jewelry in your carry on while you travel. Avoid belts if you can, and don't forget to remove any loose change from your pockets!

4. Familiarize yourself with exceptions

The TSA has special procedures and exceptions for children, seniors, and individuals with medical conditions. You can read more about special procedures here. The TSA recommends you turn in a TSA Notification Card stating your medical condition to a TSA officer to receive alternative screening methods. It never hurts to call ahead to ask questions about these alternative methods so you know what to expect.

5. Double check everything!

I can't tell you how many times I forgot one simple thing in my rush to get things ready for traveling. Whether it was forgetting to bag all of my 3-1-1 liquids or taking out the hair clip from my hair before screening, little things like that can make a big difference in your TSA experience! The TSA's Travel Checklist helps to make sure you have everything ready! Happy flying!