Friday, May 25, 2012

Summer Travel Tips & News!

Summer travel tips banner. Summer’s almost here! I know this not because of my calendar, but because my daughters keep reminding me about the pool… With summer often comes travel, so if you’re traveling by commercial airliner, you’ll likely find some of the news and tips in this post helpful.

There are a few new things to talk about this summer. The TSA Contact Center has extended their hours, and we’ve modified screening procedures for low-risk passengers.  Also, TSA Pre✓™ continues to grow with more airports and airlines coming on board. Read on to learn more about what’s new with TSA and also pick up a few travel tips along the way.

How to Avoid Additional Screening:  The most important tip to help you avoid a pat-down is to take everything out of your pockets before screening and put items in your carry-on bag. Don't wear clothes with a high metal content, and put heavy jewelry on after you go through security.  If you have a hidden medical device (insulin pump, ostomy bag, brace, etc.), please let the officer know.

Screenshot of summer travel tips checklist. TSA Pre Expedited Screening: TSA Pre✓™  continues to grow, providing expedited screening to eligible passengers at 15 airports, with plans to expand to more airports and airlines throughout 2012. If you’ve been contacted by your participating airline or if you’re a current member of one of CBP’s Trusted Traveler programs (Global Entry, NEXUS or SENTRI), be sure to opt in.  If you would like to participate, click here and follow the simple directions to apply to become eligible for expedited screening.  Click here to learn more about where TSA Pre✓™ is and where it’s coming to.

Other Risk Based Security Initiatives:  Since last fall, TSA has implemented modified screening procedures for passengers 12 and younger. Passengers 12 and younger can now leave their shoes on during security screening. These new screening procedures also include permitting an additional pass through advanced imaging technology to clear any alarms, as well as greater use of explosives trace detection. 
Additionally, TSA recently concluded a modified screening pilot program for passengers ages 75 and older. As the program proceeds toward full implementation, passengers 75 and older will undergo similar modified screening procedures to those 12 and under and will be able to leave on a light jacket or outwear when passing through security. Passengers 75 and older may see these procedures in place as they travel this summer.
TSA Contact Center: The Contact Center hours were recently extended and a representative is now available Monday – Friday, 8 a.m. – 11 p.m. Eastern time; weekends and federal holidays, 9 a.m. – 8 p.m. Eastern time. The TCC can be reached at 866-289-9673. Passengers can also reach out to the TSA Contact Center (TCC) with questions about TSA procedures, upcoming travel or to provide feedback or voice concerns.

TSA Cares Helpline: Travelers or families of passengers with disabilities and medical conditions may call the TSA Cares helpline toll free 855-787-2227, 72 hours prior to traveling with any questions about screening policies, procedures and what to expect at the security checkpoint. A TSA Cares helpline representative is available during all TSA Contact Center hours.

The MyTSA App: Want TSA information anywhere, anytime?  Use the MyTSA app.  Among the great features, there’s a “Can I Bring My…” tool. Type in the name of the item you’re curious about and it tells you if the item is permitted or not, along with packing tips. Wondering if you can take your bug repellant on the plane? Check the app to find out. A wait time feature is also available. It relies on crowd sourcing which means the more people who use it, the better.

The 4-1-1 on 3-1-1 (Liquids, Gels & Aerosols): If you’re checking a bag, make things simple by packing liquids in your checked luggage. That way, you don’t have to worry about the 3-1-1 liquids rules.  (If you’re concerned about them leaking, do what I do and put them in a zip-top bag.)  But I know that doesn’t work for everyone; either your trip is a short one or you’re only bringing a carry-on bag.  If you have to take liquids in your carry-on, please continue reading… 3-1-1 is a quick way to remember how our liquids policy works. You can read here for more details, but here is the gist: each passenger is allowed to take as many 3.4 ounce or less sized containers that will fit in one sealed clear quart-sized zip-top bag – and one bag per person.   Make sure you take the zip-top bag out of your carry-on prior to sending it through the X-ray.

Here is some information on frequently asked liquid, aerosol and gel items:

  • Suntan & Sun Block Lotion: Lotions fall under the 3-1-1 procedures that I mentioned above. So do the aerosol spray lotions. Sun block sticks do not fall under this rule.
  • Makeup: Any liquid makeup cosmetics such as eyeliner, nail polish, liquid foundation, etc. should be placed in the baggie. That goes for perfume as well. Powder makeup is fine.
  • Beverages: Wine, liquor, beer, and all of your favorite beverages are permitted in your checked baggage. You can also  bring beverages packaged in 3.4 oz or less bottles in your carry-on bags in the 3-1-1 baggie.
Sporting Goods: Golf clubs, baseball bats (including the mini slugger bats), cricket bats, bows and arrows, hockey sticks, scuba knives, spear guns, etc. are all prohibited from being carried onto the plane. However, you can have put them in your checked bag.

Destination Weddings: Getting married soon? We’ve been asked about it a lot lately on our MyTSA app, so we wrote a post on it. Be sure to check it out for some great tips.

Camping, Hunting, or Fishing?: If you’re heading to the great outdoors, be sure to check out this post for tips on traveling with camping, hunting, and fishing gear.

Double Check Your Bag for Guns: Seriously!!! It sounds silly, but if you read our Week in Review posts, you’ll see that our officers find at least two guns every day at checkpoints in the U.S.  A good percentage of those were loaded. The most common excuse is that the passenger didn’t know it was there or forgot it was in the bag. Save yourself the hassle of a bag check, a police interview and a potential arrest by making sure you leave your gun at home.

Shaving Razors: You can get more info from our blog post on this subject where the pictures will answer all of your questions.

Lost or Forgotten IDs:  We’ve gotten many calls from people who’ve had a wallet stolen or lost on a trip and have no ID for their return trip.  Don’t worry, if this happens to you, you’ll still be permitted to fly as long as you help us verify you are who you say you are by answering a few questions.  It’s wise to get to the airport a little earlier just to be safe.

If you’d like to comment on an unrelated topic you can do so in our Off Topic Comments post. You can also view our blog post archives or search our blog to find a related topic to comment in. If you have a travel related issue or question that needs an immediate answer, you can contact a Customer Support Manager at the airport you traveled, or will be traveling through by using Talk to TSA.

TSA Week in Review: Never Look a Gift Horse in the Mouth

Fireworks, Screwdriver shaped like grenade, concealed drugs, knives.
Gift Horse?: A passenger at Helena (HLN) thought that fireworks were allowed on planes and apparently prefers to store their fireworks in a ceramic horse. Whether it was a gift or not, we don’t really know…

Screwy Grenade: Speaking of grenades, check out the photo of the screwy grenade our officers found at Newark (EWR). It opens up to reveal screwdriver bits.

Fantasy Knife
Bat'leth?: I don’t know what the knife is actually called, but I have to admit that it looks like a compact version of a Klingon Bat'leth. Do you think Klingons travel through LaGuardia (LGA)?

In a Jam: A passenger at Florence (FLO) concealed a bag a marijuana inside a jar of raspberry jam. As I’ve often said, we’re not looking for drugs, but an organic substance stuffed in a jar of jelly looks odd. Also, a jar of jelly over 3.4 ounces is prohibited and likely to bring our officer’s attention to it.

False Top Soda Can: A bag of marijuana was discovered stuffed in a cola can with a false top at LaGuardia (LGA). As with the jam I mentioned above, this looks odd and we’re going to look.

Smoking is Still Prohibited: An MK-13 projectile smoke grenade was discovered in a check bag at Newport News (PHF).

Knives in Odd Places: A small pocketknife was discovered wrapped in a cloth and hidden at the bottom of a stick of deodorant at Detroit (DTW). Another knife was found inside the lining of a bag and taped to the bag handle at Grand Rapids (GRR). And yet another knife was discovered taped to the frame of the bag under the lining at Bradley (BDL). And if that wasn’t enough, a man had a knife in his shoe at New York Kennedy (JFK).

Miscellaneous Prohibited Items - In addition to all of the other prohibited items we find weekly, our Officers also found firearm components, realistic replica firearms, stun guns, brass knuckles, a bazillion knives, ammunition, and batons.

6 loaded firearms.
6 loaded firearms.
5 loaded firearms and an antique firearm.
25 firearms discovered. 21 were loaded.
Firearms - Here are the firearms our Officers found in carry-on baggage since I posted last Friday.

You can travel with your firearms in checked baggage, but they must first be declared to the airline. You can go here for more details on how to properly travel with your firearms. Firearm possession laws vary by state and locality. Travelers should familiarize themselves with state and local firearm laws for each point of travel prior to departure

Unfortunately these sorts of occurrences are all too frequent which is why we talk about these finds. Sure, it’s great to share the things that our officers are finding, but at the same time, each time we find a dangerous item, the throughput is slowed down and a passenger that likely had no ill intent ends up with a citation or in some cases is even arrested. This is a friendly reminder to please leave these items at home. Just because we find a prohibited item on an individual does not mean they had bad intentions, that's for the law enforcement officer to decide. In many cases, people simply forgot they had these items.

If you’d like to comment on an unrelated topic you can do so in our Off Topic Comments post. You can also view our blog post archives or search our blog to find a related topic to comment in. If you have a travel related issue or question that needs an immediate answer, you can contact a Customer Support Manager at the airport you traveled, or will be traveling through by using Talk to TSA

2012 National Hurricane Preparedness Week, We Pledge to Prepare

Picture of hurricane.
Hurricane season started May 15th in the Eastern Pacific and  starts on June 1st in the Atlantic, and we were more than happy to have Michael Widomski from FEMA Public Affairs as a guest blogger here to talk about hurricane preparedness. Hurricanes can put a damper on everything. Including air travel of course… So TSA will be tweeting hurricane updates from our brand new regional twitter accounts this year: @TSANortheast, @TSAMidAtlantic, @TSACentral, @TSASoutheast, @TSAMidWest, and @TSAWestern. Be sure to follow one of the accounts for TSA tweets related to your region.


TSA is joining thousands around the country who are pledging to be a “Force of Nature” and taking action to prepare for the potential negative impacts of hurricanes and tropical storms. Hurricane season begins June 1 and extends through November 30, and as we saw last year with Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee, severe tropical weather can impact coastal and inland areas alike. 

Hurricanes and tropical storms are known for the unforgettable visuals we see on the news every year –trees bending due to high winds and heavy rains rendering TV cameras useless as they look over an abandoned beach. But in addition to these obvious effects, hurricanes and tropical storms can often disrupt life for those in coastal and inland areas through evacuations, prolonged power outages, and flooding.

With these risks in mind, we ask that you join in pledging to be prepared for hurricane season by: 
  • Knowing your risk: The first step to Being a Force of Nature is to understand how hurricanes and tropical storms can affect where you live and work, and how the weather could impact you and your family. Check the weather forecast regularly and sign up for local alerts from emergency management officials and obtain a NOAA Weather Radio.
  • Taking action: Actions can be small, simple, and quick. You can pledge to develop an emergency plan based on your local hurricane, severe storm, and flooding hazard, and practice how and where you will evacuate if instructed by your emergency management officials.  Post your plan in your home where visitors can see it. Learn how to strengthen your home and business against hurricanes.  Download FEMA’s mobile app so you can access important safety tips on what to do before, during and after a hurricane.  Understand the National Hurricane Center warning and alerts
  • Being an example: Once you have taken action and pledged (or if you already have), share your story with your family and friends. Create a YouTube video, post your story on Facebook, comment on a blog, or send a tweet. Or you can even post the Be a Force of Nature widget on your social media profiles.

TSA Guest Blogger Michael Widomski, FEMA Public Affairs

If you’d like to comment on an unrelated topic you can do so in our Off Topic Comments post. You can also view our blog post archives or search our blog to find a related topic to comment in. If you have a travel related issue or question that needs an immediate answer, you can contact a Customer Support Manager at the airport you traveled, or will be traveling through by using Talk to TSA.