Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Packing Right and Protecting Your Property – Tips for a Smooth Screening Experience


With spring break well underway, packing for air travel can sometimes be stressful. Still, following a few simple tips can help in protecting your property and with the screening process to give you peace of mind. 

The rule of thumb is to always check your bags for prohibited items. If you are in doubt, check out TSA’s list of prohibited items or enter the item in the “When I fly can I bring my…” feature on tsa.gov. Additionally, you may want to check the Federal Aviation Administration’s list hazardous items on its Pack Safe page.


A photo of screening at the checkpoint
Carry On: It is recommended that you keep your belongings in sight during the screening process. If you are carrying or wearing an item that might alarm our officers, requiring additional screening, you may ask that your belongings be brought to you to keep your property in sight. 

People regularly leave behind items deposited in the checkpoint bins. We strongly suggest that you double check the bins and collect all of your belongings before leaving the checkpoint. If you believe that any of your belongings might have been left behind at a checkpoint, visit the Lost & Found page for a list of TSA lost and found offices to reclaim your item.



A photo of a TSA officer screening the checked baggage

Checked Baggage: To ensure your security, TSA screens 100 percent of checked baggage. Remembering the following easy steps can help with the screening process.


  • It is recommended you not pack valuables or fragile items, such as jewelry, cash or electronics in your checked baggage. You may want ship them in advance to your destination. If you must bring them, we suggest that you take them with you in your carry-on baggage. Check out this posting on wearing jewelry through security.
  • Avoid over-packing the checked bag so that items do not spill onto the ground if the bag needs to be opened for an inspection. This way, the TSA officer will be able to easily repack and close the bag. This all is done under the watchful eye of closed circuit television cameras.
  • Place personal items such as toiletries and toothbrushes in a clear plastic bag to reduce the likelihood of handling if the checked bag needs to be opened and inspected. This will also help protect your other items from damage should containers of liquid or gels open or leak due to air pressure in the cargo hold.
  • When traveling with gifts, place them in a gift bag instead of wrapping them. If a wrapped gift alarms, appears to have been tampered with or poses any other security concerns, it will need to be unwrapped for additional screening.
  • TSA recognized locks, such as Travel Sentry® or Safe Skies®,* allow TSA officers to open and re-lock baggage, reducing the likelihood of damaging the lock or bag if a physical inspection is required. If your baggage needs to be opened and inspected, TSA may have to cut unrecognized locks to access your bags. TSA is not liable for damage caused to locked bags that must be opened for security purposes. TSA does carefully and respectfully handle your property. 
  • If your checked baggage is opened and physically inspected, TSA will place a notice of baggage inspection inside your bag. This is to inform you that an officer conducted an inspection of your property. TSA may randomly inspect checked baggage, regardless of whether an alarm is set off during screening.
  • Once the screening process is completed, your airline will transport your checked baggage on your respective flight, as well as deliver it to the baggage claim area. The majority of checked baggage is screened without the need for a physical bag search. Learn more about the screening of checked baggage.


A really good tip to keep track of your belongings is to label them. Place identification tags with your name, address and phone number on all of your baggage, including your laptop computer.  It is recommended you place an identification tag inside your baggage as well.

Before arriving at the airport, check with your airline or travel agent to determine the airline's baggage policy, including the number of pieces you can bring and size and weight limitations.

If you feel your property was damaged during the screening process and would like to file a claim, visit the TSA Claims page for more information. 

It’s important to always keep sight of your belongings and be aware of your surroundings. Public awareness is key for supporting security efforts; so remember “If You See Something, Say Something™.” 


Ask TSA icon
If you have any TSA related travel questions, please send a tweet to our @AskTSA team. They’re available to answer your questions, 8 a.m.- 10 p.m., Eastern Time, weekdays; 9 a.m. -7 p.m., weekends/holidays. Travelers may also reach out to the TSA Contact Center. The Contact Center (TCC) hours are 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 with questions about TSA procedures, upcoming travel or to provide feedback or voice concerns.

*Any reference to any specific commercial company, product, process, or service, or the use of any trade, firm, or corporation name, is provided for the information and convenience of the public. It does not constitute an endorsement, recommendation, or favorable treatment by TSA. TSA makes no claims, promises, guarantees, or warranties of any kind, expressed or implied, as to the goods or services provided by any commercial entity. 

Bessy, TSA Public Affairs Guest Blogger