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Old 04-03-2005, 06:19 PM   #1
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Navigating the airport and security - tips

I have often thought of a post like this, and I believe that someone did post some hints a while back. Since I fly every two weeks, I see a lot of things at airports.... I thought that this might be helpful. Not everyone flies as often as some of us do, so for the amateur travellers, here are some tips.


- most airlines post their restrictions on their websites, and allowances do vary. check out the site before you pack. Note that if you use vacuum bags or similar to pack, you may get extra space but go over the weight limit. Going over the weight limit will cost you - usually $25 and up

- to check or not to check: if you truly can do with 2 pieces per person as carryon, go for it. Note that this means one carryon case and one personal item such as laptop, purse etc. Be considerate - many airlines are cracking down on extra carryons as the bins seem to be jammed full on every flight these days.

- prohibited items: remember to check the list if you are unsure. If you do have 'contraband' in your suitcase, you can drop it at the airport, but don't expect to get it back. TSA and CATSA (Canada) find too much contraband every day to arrange to have it sent back to you. I've been guilty of forgetting nail scissors in my carryon, and once had CATSA remove them right when I was boarding

Check in:

- most airlines now have electronic check in. You can use these self service kiosks to check in, upgrade, stand by, check luggage, etc. Some airports (O'Hare United terminal) use kiosks almost exclusively, so you may need to use the machine. Don't worry - they are simple to use, and much faster.

- please don't mill around the check in area if you are not going to stand in line or use the kiosks. Yesterday I had to maneouver around 20-30 people who were just milling. I missed a flight two weeks ago in Chicago since nobody wanted to use the kiosks, and I couldn't coax people to move ahead

- online check in: this is another option - the front desk at your resort will usually do it for you if they are not busy, or you can use the business center to check in and print out your boarding pass

- arrive early if you have luggage to check - many airlines close check in 45 minutes to departure if you have luggage to check


- have your boarding passes and ID out to show at the security line. A ticket wallet is a great option to keep your boarding passes, passports, frequent travel cards, etc handy. I see so many people hunting and hunting for their boarding passes, which they put away 'somewhere safe' after check in. You may also need to show it when you get to the scanner - this varies

- plan to remove your coat or jacket and put it in a bin. That means that you should dress to be prepared. I have sometimes seen women wearing a tank top and jacket refuse to remove their jackets, which usually results in a secondary check. If you're not comfortable taking off your jacket, wear a different outfit

- at most airports, you will need to remove your laptop from it's case, and your video camera. Most places in the US don't require that you turn on the laptop, some places in Canada still require it.

- plan to remove your shoes. Consider NOT wearing lace ups or boots. I usually wear mules when I fly. I did see something neat the other day - a shoe store in Chicago had a machine to test your shoes to see if the shanks would set off the airport scanner (I think that it was a Rockports store)

- on the day of your flight, consider your outfit. This is the day to wear simple clothes with little metal. I usually wear a knit top and knit skirt or similar, and the only thing which ever sets off the metal detector is my Mickey Mouse watch. Ask yourself if you need to wear your jewelry that day. Ditto to studs on your body or clothing. They will set off the machine. The snap on your jeans will do the same.

- don't panic about underwire bras: I always wear one, and have been through almost every state and province in North America. Not once did my undergarments set off a metal detector

- one way or same day purchase: realize that if you buy a one way or same day ticket, you will probably be marked for an extra search. I do this quite often, and it's usually no big deal (except when they think that I have something around my midriff - it's just my little belly! )

- remove everything from your pockets before you get into line, and put it in your carryon. I am often behind people who go through the machine 4 or 5 times, because they forget to remove coins, keys, etc etc etc. This is not the day to wear cargo pants loaded with items in each pocket (the exception to this is service people - I was once behind a Canadian military member who had to remove at least a dozen items from his uniform in order to pass - I felt so bad for him, as he was really embarassed)

- children: explain to your kids in advance what will happen at security. Their blankets and toys will need to go through the screening, which can traumatize kids. Consider their clothing and shoes as well.

- family line: MCO has a family line for security - it's there to help families deal with the extra time needed. I suggest that you use it - it will be much easier


- preboarding: don't expect to preboard in Orlando just because you have children - most airlines there don't preboard families since there are so many of them. Preboarding is usually for medical reasons and for frequent travellers

- strollers: you will need to gate check your stroller and get a tag from the gate agent - do this before the flight starts boarding if you can

- storing your stuff: when you get to your aisle, move into the aisle and get settled so that others can pass. Store your carryon in the overhead bin, wheels to the window. Other items can go beneath your feet. If you will need your bag during the flight, or before takeoff (ie kids stuff, etc) then keep that bag underneath your seat so that you can access it. Consider puttings essentials into the seat pocket so that you can access them

- sky check: if you are on a small plane (ie a CRJ or a Dash 8, for instance) you will need to check your carryons (except for laptops, purses, and other small items) This means that you leave them on a cart outside the plane, and pick them up outside the plane on arrival. In this case, you WILL NOT be allowed to take your carryon suitcase onto the plane - it just won't fit

- in flight entertainment: this is a touchy one for me - I like to sleep on every flight. It amazes me how many people turn their headphones on so loud that I can hear it several rows back. Be considerate on red eye flights - Air Canada has a nasty habit of showing comedies on these flights, and I am often surrounded by people roaring with laughter at 3am. Don't expect the film to be kid friendly every time - consider renting a DVD player for your kids instead


- you will need to take a monorail from your gate to baggage claim at MCO. Note if your baggage claim area will be A or B - there are two sides to the airport, and you will want to be on the same side as your luggage!

- please don't let your kids use the luggage carousel as a toy - I have been terrified on several occasions that there will be a bad accident as I see kids playing on the machines

- rental car: at MCO it's fairly simple for one member of the party to go down one extra flight to arrange for the car, then go back up and meet the rest of the party. Since luggage at MCO takes a little longer to arrive than at some airports, I usually go get my car taken care of before getting my luggage - timing usually works perfectly

- directions: ask the rental car company for directions and a map. I recommend the 417 over the 528 to get to WDW, but be aware that both are toll roads. Have small bills handy (My first trip to WDW was also one of my first to the US, and I only had a $100 bill at the toll booth!!) The 417 is scenic, the 528 is more exciting with billboards, etc but sometimes can be croweded.

Last piece of advice - have fun! Don't stress too much over the travel part of your trip. Things will go wrong, but that's ok - most things are fixable, and you are on your way to VACATION!!!

Last edited by bavaria; 05-14-2005 at 09:56 PM.
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Old 04-03-2005, 06:46 PM   #2
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I would check in from home and print your boarding pass. Then you wouldn't have to worry about check in.

Also the luggage arrival at MCO is very quick compared to some airports. I also fly a lot and almost always the luggage is going around when I get to the area.

If you are renting a car and one wants to get the car while the other gets the luggage be aware that you can't wait at the curb for your party to come outside. The police will send you around again.

I agree about being organized when you go through security. Don't wait until you are up at the table to start taking off your coat, shoes, dig out your laptop. You can always tell in line who travels a lot because they have slipped off their coat, gotten their laptop out of the case. Be sure to empty your pockets of change. Also be sure to hold on to your boarding passes because if you are pulled for extra screening and you go one way and your bag goes the other people sometimes take the wrong bags.
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Old 04-03-2005, 06:53 PM   #3
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I'm the one who gets off the plane first and walks very very fast to baggage claim - I have never had the luggage beat me in that race at MCO! (Actually, I do that race at almost every airport, but at MCO I'm just a little faster than normal to get in more mouse time)
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Old 04-03-2005, 06:55 PM   #4
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I also fly in the very front of the plane and my luggage is almost always waiting for me. I fly out of MCO very often.
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Old 04-03-2005, 07:01 PM   #5
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Excellent post, Bavaria!



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Old 04-03-2005, 09:10 PM   #6
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This is probably a stupid question, but I have to ask. My ds is autistic and ALWAYS has to carry his rope with him. Sometimes it's just shoe string, sometimes it's a piece of fabric, sometimes it's a tie. Will this have to be placed through security screening, or can I have him just put it in his pocket?

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Old 04-03-2005, 09:19 PM   #7
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I would think that it's ok in his pocket... Screeners are usually pretty empathetic. I never had to take my coat off when I had my arm strapped up for a very long time, and it was shortly after the new rules post 9/11.
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Old 04-03-2005, 09:25 PM   #8
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Great info Bavaria!

I plan on sharing this with DH after the Yankee game!

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Old 04-03-2005, 09:42 PM   #9
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Gotta say that this was inpsired by the extended family at BNA yesterday who milled at check in blocking all the kiosks, lost their boarding passes at security, let their screaming 3 yo run around for about an hour at the gate, took all their luggage on board the CRJ, and banged me in the face numerous times with their backpacks. (sorry, hope that doesn't offend anyone, including that family if they read the boards!)

They were flying BNA - ORD - Tokyo - Bangkok.... thankfully I got off at ORD...
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Old 04-03-2005, 10:08 PM   #10
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Thanks for such a helpful post! I've only flown once since 9/11 and that was in October 2001 so I wondered how things had changed.
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Old 04-03-2005, 11:06 PM   #11
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Be aware that most airports now make you take your boarding pass through the scanner with you, don't throw it in your carryon. Someone checks it in the line and then someone else checks it as you go through the scanner. They are looking for a "code" to see if you were flagged for special screening. Sometimes it's random, there was a lady in Orlando last week who was ranting because her 11 year old got the code for random extra screening.
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Old 04-04-2005, 01:01 AM   #12
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One thing I could add: when you are cleared and come through to the other side, don't stand at the belt to put yourself back together. It blocks all the other people coming behind you. Pick up your shoes and your bags and your jacket, etc., carry them well *away* from the security area, and then you can pause to put the shoes and jacket, etc. back on. (BTW, The buckles on men's belts, and also their larger metal watchbands, often set off scanners.)

I keep a child's clear school pencil pouch in the outer pocket of every carryon we own; and everyone is trained to pull it out and dump the pockets into it as soon as they get into the security line. The pouches then go back into the carryons before we reach the tables. No fumbling with pocket stuff while others are waiting; and no having to hope that you get back every item you put into the bowl.

For Nik's Mom, a piece of cloth in his pocket will be fine, paper would be OK, too. As long as it's not such a huge thing that it makes it look like his pockets are jammed full, it won't be an issue; and it is unlikely that the screeners will notice, as there is nothing in a piece of "rope" to set off a metal detector. My DH is essentially allergic to the world, and he carries 4 handerchiefs in his pockets at all times. He flies quite a lot, and he never needs to take the hankies out for security.

I travel a lot with children, mine and other people's, so here are a few more tips re: kids. Do a pocket check before you leave your vehicle (or your house if you take a cab); kids often grab just one more item on the way out the door of the house, or take something that was left in the car, and half the time, whatever it is will be metal. (Hot Wheels, jacks, etc.) Do NOT dress babies in overalls; the shoulder buckles will ding every time. Also, no light-up shoes on travel day.
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Old 04-04-2005, 07:43 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by DebbieB
They are looking for a "code" to see if you were flagged for special screening. Sometimes it's random, there was a lady in Orlando last week who was ranting because her 11 year old got the code for random extra screening.
I can top her, my 7 year old DS got flagged on BOTH legs of our trip in February. Not a big deal, the TSA agents were GREAT, and it maybe added 5 minutes to each trip through security.

bavaria--this is a GREAT post, thanks.
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Old 04-04-2005, 08:29 AM   #14

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If YOU cannot lift it into the overhead, it is not carryon. The airlines and your fellow passengers are NOT required to help you and don't want to. I am amazed when I see frial senior citizens lugging huge suitcases onto the plane. This is not a time to depend on the kindness of strangers. (We are tried of throwing our back out by lifting your lead weights!)

Regardless of what the lugagge salesman told you, if you expand the zipper compartment on the front and stuff EVERY pocket full your 22" carryon proabably won't fit in the overhead. It will fit if it is not overstuffed, but after that......

Carryons can be checked! I flew a CRJ yesterday. My laptop case was too big for the underseat or overhead storage and it went under the plane. That's just the way things work.
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Old 04-04-2005, 10:48 AM   #15
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At home when packing, it is a good idea to sometimes empty your suitcase completely and only put back what you want to bring. It is tooe asy for some contraband such as a plastic knife to get stuck inside, especially if you use the suitcase (or backpack) for toher purposes such as school.

I can empty my pockets and put the stuff espeically metal in a suitcase long before getting to the security line. I keep paper money and ID and ticket papers in my pockets and don't empty this out at the security stand.

Sometimes you need to squeeze through anyway, whether it is to get at the airport check in kiosks or to get past people at the mouth of the fast pass linie waitiint for their fast passes to mature. "Excuse me" is not a request, it is a warning. Although you may not cut in line, you may cut through a line any time.

Pre-boarding is a favor the airline is asking of you, not a favor you are asking of the airline. It is a strategy that airlines sometimes think will speed up overall boarding. You may take the extra time you need without saying a word, but at least ask the gate agent about preboarding so he will can have some choice in arranging the overall boarding.

If you have to gate check a suitcase, stop and remove valuables. medicine, keys, etc, then and there. The airline brochure overtly states that valuables should not be in checked luggage.

Don't put fragile items or food items in the overhead bins except when protected inside a sturdy case.

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Last edited by seashoreCM; 04-04-2005 at 11:09 AM.
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