What can you NOT bring on a plane?
May 4, 2018 8:37 AM   Subscribe

I have not taveled in 10 years, so I was wondering if there is something I cannot bring onto the plane. For example, razors for shaving, or do I have to bring my electric razor, shampoos, hair gel, medications, contact eye solution, snacks? And what about cash? I want to bring some but I'm worried about when it goes through different checks that I might not be able to see; can I have the money on my person? And I want to make sure my carry on bag will fit in the overhead area, so do I just call the airline and ask them the measurements?

Does it just depend state to state, or maybe each airline has it's own rules? Some of you will probably be shocked that I have not been on a vacation for 10 years, so sorry to say I'm out of the loop for taveling. If you have any insight please let me know.

Thanks in advance.
posted by lynnie-the-pooh to Travel & Transportation (45 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Where are you flying from and to?

General TSA guidelines.
posted by like_neon at 8:41 AM on May 4, 2018 [4 favorites]

Are you asking about carry-on or checked luggage?
posted by HeyAllie at 8:43 AM on May 4, 2018 [4 favorites]

I assume you're traveling domestically in the US. If so: This TSA page will tell you what you can and cannot bring. Cash is not an issue, but you will have to put it in your bag and put that bag through the metal detector. It'll be out of your sight for about 30 seconds most likely.

You can call the airline to find out the dimensions for carryon - it can vary slightly depending on the plane, but at least in the US, there are some industry standards for most planes.
posted by lunasol at 8:44 AM on May 4, 2018 [2 favorites]

Definitely check out the link above for rules on what you can(not) bring.

Cash is fine BUT if you go through a TSA full-body scanner, you can't have anything in your pockets, including cash. So cash should be in a wallet/pocketbook and ideally that wallet/pocketbook should be inside of another bag. These items will be out of your sight while they go through the scanner.

As for general dealing-with-the-TSA advice:

* Get ready to be treated like absolute shit. Be polite and quiet, even if they're being nasty to you. It's just a power trip for most of them.

* The TSA does not permit you to touch your belongings while they're being scanned. For example, my backpack was once selected for additional screening, which means a TSA agent needed to search through it in front of me. She couldn't open one pocket, so I politely pointed out where the hidden zipper was. She completely lost her shit on me.
posted by schroedingersgirl at 8:53 AM on May 4, 2018 [5 favorites]

The website to which like_neon links will answer most of your questions. In general, rules about what you can bring on an airplane are set by the TSA, and how much you can bring are set by the airline.

Major exception: for carry-on luggage, you are limited by TSA rules to liquids and gels in containers of 3 oz./100 ml maximum, and you may take only as many of those as will fit in one one-quart clear zip-top bag. So if you want to bring a bottle of shampoo, lotion, contact lens solution, etc., that is bigger than 100 ml, you'll have to put it in checked luggage, not carry-on.

Airlines list their maximum carry-on luggage size on their websites, so check your airline. United is pretty standard: 9 inches x 14 inches x 22 inches (22 cm x 35 cm x 56 cm), including handles and wheels. You're generally allowed one carry-on bag and one smaller personal item (laptop case, purse, etc.) that can fit under the seat in front of you, but some discount fares and airlines have lower limits. (Note that on some smaller regional airplanes, you may have to "gate check" your bag: it will be taken as you get on the plane and then given back to you as you get off, unlike the regular checked luggage that you retrieve at the baggage claim.)

When you go through security screening, everything except your underwear and first layer of clothes will have to go through the X-ray machine. That includes shoes, jackets/coats, keys, wallet, watch, belt, pens, etc. A savvy traveler prepares while in line by putting all that stuff in the carry-on luggage while waiting in line. Laptops and tablets have to be taken out of their cases and put through separately (in plastic bins). (If you are 75 or older, you can keep your shoes, belt, and jacket on.) The last time I went through security, one gentleman had to go through at least four times because he did not seem to be able to grasp this rule. It will only be out of your sight for the time it's in the machine, though, in most circumstances; you wait until it goes in, go through the body scan, and then wait until it comes out of the X-ray.

The process might seem complex, but it's not that bad if you look at the TSA site, watch what experienced travelers are doing, and ask the TSA agents if you have any questions.
posted by brianogilvie at 8:55 AM on May 4, 2018 [3 favorites]

General tips for getting through security smoothly and quickly.

- Put all your liquids (make sure they are all under 100ml) in a clear sandwich bag. Make this easily accessible as you will need to take it out of your carry-on and place it in the plastic bin.
- Don't pile things on top of each other in a bin. You can use many bins, I often use two.
- Don't wear a belt if you can help it. Wear shoes that are easy to take on and off. Avoid wearing clothing with metal studs and clasps. Zippers and buttons are fine.
- Also put any electronics (phone, laptop, e-readers) in a very easily accessible place, they will also need to be taken out (this is somewhat dependent on airport but very common).
- Just follow the directions of the people working there. They'll tell you when to walk, stop walking, and where to stand.
- Be prepared before you get to the conveyer belt. Take off your jacket while you're in line. Throw away that water bottle in the many bins provided before the scan. Be alert to when it's your turn.
- After going through the detectors, take your bin and re-organise somewhere else away from the building crowd of people waiting for their bin. Highly experienced travellers can re-assemble in the line, but most people are better off taking their bins away. There is usually a designated area where you can sort your things.
posted by like_neon at 9:09 AM on May 4, 2018 [8 favorites]

For example, razors for shaving, or do I have to bring my electric razor

See: http://traveltips.usatoday.com/can-electric-razor-luggage-plane-107389.html

Electric razors are allowed in carry-on bags and checked luggage. Disposable razors and cartridges are too. Batteries for razors can be checked or carried on.

Razor-type blades, such as box cutters, utility knives, and safety razor blades, are only allowed in checked luggage. You may also carry nail clippers and nail scissors with blades shorter than 4 inches.
posted by zarq at 9:14 AM on May 4, 2018 [2 favorites]

I flew a couple of weeks ago and they were making people take all snacks out and put them into bins as well. I had a contraband granola bar that I had forgotten about that held me up a bit.

Sometimes they ask me to take my digital SLR out, sometimes they don't. Laptops and tablets always have to go through separately.

You can only bring small travel-sized bottles of liquid through.

You will get there. Don't panic, and don't be worried about long lines. Both travelers and TSA people have gotten more efficient and the process goes more smoothly than it used to.

Almost every flight I've flown on recently is full. If you are boarding last you may have to gate check your bag anyway if all of the overhead bins are full (though they do always ask for volunteers first). They do make roller bags that fit under the seat these days.

Try not to wear bracelets/necklaces. These set off the porno scan. Earrings don't, generally.

Slip-on shoes make things easier.
posted by Ostara at 9:29 AM on May 4, 2018 [1 favorite]

Contact Lens solution is a medically necessary liquid, so you can carry a container that is larger than 3 ounces, but you must declare it. I have carried disposable razors on flights with no issues. Once I went through security and forgot to pull my liquids baggie out. No one stopped me or cared. Other times my backpack or laptop has been pulled aside and swabbed, but then they gave to back to me. You will probably not have any issues, but don't be surprised if they do find something and make you throw it away.
posted by soelo at 9:31 AM on May 4, 2018 [4 favorites]

I've been showing false positives every time I've gone through the full body scanner and was told they knew why but couldn't tell me.
posted by brujita at 9:32 AM on May 4, 2018

do I just call the airline and ask them the measurements?
Airline phone lines are often really busy. Go to their website for the carry on guidelines. Most are 14x22x9 or a total of 45 inches.
posted by soelo at 9:33 AM on May 4, 2018 [3 favorites]

No water bottles is a biggie. I think even experienced travelers occasionally space out and try to go through TSA checkpoints with unopened water bottles thinking it's okay because it's sealed, but they're pretty strict on the 3oz maximum on liquids and gels.

Also: nthing the easy on/off shoes WITH SOCKS. I've seen some brave souls (soles? ha!) wear sandals, but that is NOT a carpet I'd ever want to be barefoot on.

like_neon has a good list, and the TSA website will definitely have specific info. In a nutshell, take off all bulky layers/jackets, keep your baggie of liquids/laptop/e-reader handy to put into the bins, don't wear any unnecessary metal accessories whenever possible. Make sure you have your ID and boarding pass at the ready when you get to the front of the line before going through security.

I've carried on disposable razors before and just put them in with my baggie of liquids. I've not had trouble with it, but it can really depend on the TSA agent, I think. Re: carry on sizes, there are some general approved sizes, but it'd definitely be worth it to double check the carry on size of the airline you'll be flying on. They should have it on their website.

Have fun!
posted by helloimjennsco at 9:41 AM on May 4, 2018 [1 favorite]

Disposable razors and razor cartridges are fine. Double edge blades for oldschool safety razors are not, though, both when installed in the razor and out. I wasn't aware of this and was flagged going through once. They were nice enough to just throw out the blade and not razor handle, fortunately.
posted by zsazsa at 9:48 AM on May 4, 2018

I'd also extend the 'no metal' rule to clothes with metal fibers in them.

In my last flight, I got pulled aside because the silver threads in my socks kept on alerting the sensor, so they had to both wand and pat down the area. Sometimes the sensors can be turned up way high, and will detect things like this.

Also, if you take a few minutes to put all of your belts, jewelry, pocket contents, etc. in your carry-on bag ahead of time, and arrive at the scanner with shoes off already, it'll go a lot faster. I personally don't care if people in line snicker at my cat socks; I'll at least only have to go through once. (Unless something unexpected happens, like the aforementioned socks having metal thread, and setting off an alarm. Cat socks now stay at home.)
posted by spinifex23 at 9:48 AM on May 4, 2018 [2 favorites]

If you are a perfume-wearer, I would recommend not wearing perfume on the days you fly - in addition to the baggage x-ray and the body scanners, sometimes airports will select people to swab for traces of explosive chemicals, and perfume can trigger false positives there.

All the rest of the advice in this thread is great, and a lot of the security-experience you will have depends on what kind of a day your TSA agent is having. It varies widely and sometimes you will have no trouble at all, and sometimes you will get pulled aside. Don't panic.
posted by Gordafarin at 9:51 AM on May 4, 2018 [2 favorites]

I've been showing false positives every time I've gone through the full body scanner and was told they knew why but couldn't tell me.
posted by brujita

Anecdata: I've been pulled aside for extra screening after the scanner and was told it's often due to extra bulk of fabric at the area--e.g. I was wearing leggins and a tunic, and the machine showed questionable reading at my waist (where the tunic, leggings, and my cardigan all met) and at my left ankle (where the leggings were sort of scrunched up).
posted by assenav at 9:54 AM on May 4, 2018

Re water bottles: If you have a reusable bottle you can take it through EMPTY and then refill it after you're through security. More and more airports seem to be installing those bottle filling stations, and if not you can usually get it partly filled at a water fountain.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 9:55 AM on May 4, 2018 [9 favorites]

You can bring little bottles of liquor through TSA security, but most airlines have rules against drinking alcohol that they didn’t supply.
posted by galvanized unicorn at 10:02 AM on May 4, 2018

Just to say I was like you and hadn't flown since the 90s. In the past two years I've had to fly about 4 times a year. The first flight out pulling all this together seemed daunting but by the return flight I was figuring it out. I've found TSA people to be uniformly serious but not unpleasant, and sometimes actually nice. So not to discount others' negative experiences, don't worry too much. It helps to get there early and give yourself time to organize yourself before and after going through the line.
posted by Gnella at 10:03 AM on May 4, 2018 [3 favorites]

The airline you are flying will have the measurements for carry-on limits on their website.

For airlines that sell food on the flight, you'll purchase it with a credit or debit card. They use a handheld card scanner and they don't take cash anymore (in my experience - I haven't flown all the airlines).

After you get through security, you can buy food and drink on the other side and bring it on the plane with you. I rarely see anyone bring a meal aboard, but I see lots of snacks. You can also pack snacks from home, as long as they aren't liquid or gel, and you put them into a separate bin and they go through the scanner.
posted by Knowyournuts at 10:16 AM on May 4, 2018 [1 favorite]

And I want to make sure my carry on bag will fit in the overhead area

One thing that has changed in the last 10 years is that most airlines now charge for checked bags, and some of the seemingly cheaper airlines also charge for carry-on bags, which IMO is some serious bullshit, probably intended to cheat at price-based ticket search services.
posted by aubilenon at 10:18 AM on May 4, 2018 [2 favorites]

To add a little more information about contact lens solution and what it means to "declare it"; you can leave it in your carry one and when you put your bag on the conveyer to be scanned, you can let them know you have more than the allowable 3 fl oz. (If you can't get their attention, don't worry. They'll see it when it scans and ask you about it once you've gone through the body scanner.) They will have to "test" it which in my experience usually means they look at the bottle, look at me, and put it back. Sometimes they'll use a test strip and as far as I can tell they keep it sterile. It adds just a few minutes to the experience so unless you need a full bottle or are cheap like me, having a travel bottle cuts down on hassle!

And yes, sometimes TSA agents are pleasant — I've had some really nice experiences —but it doesn't hurt to be prepared for a nasty experience. It can depend on: your race, your gender identity matching your ID, your age, your last name and a million other things. I almost always get flagged for a pat down because I am fat; an agent has told me it's supposedly because my clothes bunch up around me and their scanner flags that. All this to say: give yourself plenty of time to go through security, and remember that everyone in this thread totally understands and sympathizes with the trials of air travel. I hope you have a lovely trip after it all!
posted by the thorn bushes have roses at 10:22 AM on May 4, 2018 [3 favorites]

Also, when going through the security lines, don't send your bags through the line until you are also going through the personal scanner. Theft is a problem when your bags are on the other side of the bag scanners and you are not, especially when electronics must be separated out into their own bins. I try to have my laptop go through the scanner last.

Dump your pockets/phone/etc into your bag and not the tray itself. The trays cannot really be regularly cleaned and you're less likely to lose things.
posted by meowzilla at 10:24 AM on May 4, 2018 [1 favorite]

Each airport claims (rightly or not) that they can have different rules from other airports.

For example, I was on a 7 airport circuit and only the last one stole my shaving soap - which they claimed was a liquid.
posted by porpoise at 10:38 AM on May 4, 2018 [1 favorite]

Like someone already said, all airlines have carry-on size restrictions listed on their website. There is usually a little wiggle room with this. In general I find it's ideal to bring soft-sided things onto the plane, easier to smoosh it into the overhead compartment.

I am lazy and bad with money so I always check a bag too. It's usually about $25 to do this each way, and I prefer doing this to figuring out the liquids rules for my carry-on. It's very luxurious to pack giant bottles of sunscreen and as many shampoos as you want into your suitcase and not have to fiddle with the TSA rules.

I travel pretty frequently and rarely do I have negative TSA experiences. I think people are sometimes kind of dramatic about the process, it's not really that onerous. The worst part are the lines. Like you, I had a very long period of time in life where I didn't fly at all, and when I started to fly again it was post 9/11 and all the rules had changed. If you just follow the lead of what everyone else in line is doing, you will be fine. It's not rocket science.

The people who work for TSA are extremely underpaid and have a thankless job. Just follow their relatively simple instructions and it will be fine. Did I mention that the worst part are the lines? Try to get to the airport at least two hours before your flight. Some people think this is overkill but you do not want to be stuck in that TSA line and stressing about missing your flight. Have fun!
posted by cakelite at 11:00 AM on May 4, 2018 [4 favorites]

If you carry a water bottle, you have to either dump it out or throw it away before going through the TSA line. If you forget and leave it in your bag then there is a very good chance that you and all your stuff will have to go through screening again, if you want to keep the bottle. If you are lucky the screener will be willing to dump the water in the trash can twenty feet away. You will probably not be lucky.

I forget this like every damn time I fly and it’s always such a pain.

I always give myself an hour before boarding time for Shit To Happen; if nothing happens then I get to sit somewhere and pull out the computer to get some work in, or just kick back and chill with a book.
posted by egypturnash at 12:11 PM on May 4, 2018 [1 favorite]

I don’t know how likely this is for you, but: lead crystal apparently looks just like C-4 in the X-ray view. Carrying it on WILL get you pulled aside for extra screening, and if you’re lucky the TSA guy will just roll his eyes and give a sigh and a wry grin when he finds it amongst all your underwear.
posted by armeowda at 5:54 PM on May 4, 2018

If you think you'll need several plastic bins, I advise grabbing them all at once because it's hard to fight through the people bunched up at that area of the line to go back for another.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 6:50 PM on May 4, 2018 [1 favorite]

Regarding snacks: if you're crossing an international border, don't carry any kind of fresh fruit (like an apple). It's not worth the risk if getting hassled or possibly even fined by Customs.
posted by mhum at 7:15 PM on May 4, 2018 [1 favorite]

Dump your pockets/phone/etc into your bag and not the tray itself.

This will get you sent back through the line in some places. Last time I went to China I had to take out EVERY electronic device, including stuff that never got pinged elsewhere - dead spare phone, ipod, wifi dongle, power bank. China is particularly persnickety about power banks - I got mine confiscated in Shanghai because it did not state its mV and was therefore not considered provably a power bank.
posted by ahundredjarsofsky at 8:49 PM on May 4, 2018 [1 favorite]

And I want to make sure my carry on bag will fit in the overhead area, so do I just call the airline and ask them the measurements?

Websites all have them. A few things I didn't see people mention:

- Sometimes on smaller planes even if you have a carry-on bag that is regulation size they will offer to "gate check" it for you. This means they check it, only it's free (even if the airline had a checked baggage fee). This can often be useful if you don't absolutely need your bag with you but just want to avoid fees. Sometimes these bags wind up at baggage claim and sometimes they will unload them right into the jetway. They will tell you which ahead of time.
- You can't choose whether to go through the metal detector or the full body scanner (if they have both) BUT you have the right to refuse the full-body scanner and, instead, get a pat down. I always pick this. It can feel a little invasive depending what your comfort levels are with strangers (same gender as you if you're cis, do not know the flying-while-trans limitations here) touching you, but I like it better than the scanner option.
- A lot of this stuff really varies. I try to "dress for TSA" when I am flying just to make it all be easier. No belt, slip-off shoes, socks, a bottom layer of clothes that is decent, no hat, everything already in baggies and in my carry-on. My experience has been that sometimes TSA is yell-y but a lot of times they are just perfunctory security theater people. I show up early, try to be mannerly unless someone gets in my face and it usually goes just fine.
posted by jessamyn at 9:20 PM on May 4, 2018 [1 favorite]

Pack a small light fabric bag/daypack and a paper list of what stays with you if your carry-on is gate-checked. Your personal item must also fit inside it.
Some seats do not have an area for a personal item.
The new basic economy ticket does not include seat choice and does not include carry-on luggage.
Can you secure your gate-checked bag? Will zipties work (since it has already been through security)? Can you fasten the destination tag with the three-letter code to it?
A bright-colored laundry bag can act as a bag cover for gate-checked daypacks. The daypack is now "contents" and less likely to be damaged or spill its contents.
Bring wet wipes and an extra pair of socks for the cabin. Bring an empty bottle and stay hydrated.
If you wear it, it is not counted as part of luggage weight.
posted by TrishaU at 9:37 PM on May 4, 2018

Sometimes on smaller planes even if you have a carry-on bag that is regulation size they will offer to "gate check" it for you.

Some rigid cases that are the maximum carry on size flat out won't fit in the smaller planes. If you're going to be on a really small hop and don't want to have to gate check your bag, use something maliable like a duffel bag and pack it such that you can squeeze it into different shapes.
posted by Candleman at 9:59 PM on May 4, 2018 [1 favorite]

hmmm...I've been to airports which have both the porno scanner and regular ol' metal detectors and have been able to choose. Usually I've aimed for the shortest line and then oops. If you are walking through the metal detector, walk slowly, like in slow motion. Walking fast seems to trigger it.

Best advice is just to be alert and hang back a bit and watch what everyone else is doing. Sometimes the signage will contradict what the staff is telling you to do.

I was asked once (not in the US) to take off my eyeglasses. Yeah, no.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 10:04 PM on May 4, 2018

I usually travel 3-4 times a year but bought the precheck thing a few years ago (so my experience is slightly different as a known traveler).

I've always put my money/wallet in the larger bag I've carried so that it's put away (and not sticking out in some obvious way). I've never had an issue with it or my stuff disappearing from the post x-ray area.

Before getting precheck my husband and I were patted down before every flight. My husband has a ponytail which they liked to pet and my clothing choices often made them pat me down (loose clothing, dresses, lots of layers, etc.)

Staying calm and watching what other people are doing is helpful to make it through. You'll be surrounded by people who know the process and will go faster than you. Don't feel hurried by the travel vets and go at your own comfortably swift pace.
posted by toomanycurls at 10:24 PM on May 4, 2018

What I've started to do is to put everything that will need to be on its own bin (laptop, liquid bag) into a separate bag in my carryon, like a canvas bag. While I wait in line I pull that bag out in preparation for putting it on the bin. Saves me some time rummaging through my bag for each bit.
posted by divabat at 12:01 AM on May 5, 2018 [1 favorite]

Tried to post this yesterday, but it got lost in the server outage...

The first thing is, don't panic. Airport security really isn't a big deal. People blow it up.

If you're flying Southwest or JetBlue, and you're not in a huge hurry (i.e., you don't mind waiting at baggage claim), just check your bag and put everything in there. Travelling with a carry-on has its benefits, but it's so much easier getting through the terminal without one. You can check bags on the other airlines, too, but it costs money, so I generally pass. Southwest and JetBlue, the first bag is free.

Second, a lot of this can be prevented by using TSA PreCheck. Your liquids are still subject to the 3-1-1 rule, but you don't have to take stuff out of your bag, and you don't have to take your shoes off. And of course, you move to the front of the line. It's not worth paying $75/year if you only fly once a decade, but if you upgrade your ticket to first/business class, that'll usually give you PreCheck privileges.

Third, TSA employees get a bad reputation. They're not what you'd call nice, in general, but they're not usually monsters, either. If you treat them with respect, they'll usually treat you with respect. Make small talk with them, ask them how things are going, etc. They're used to people being dicks, so if you're friendly, that will improve their mood. Just a quick "busy day, huh?" goes a long way.

Fourth, nobody actually expects you to know what you're doing at security. I used to travel a lot for work, so I optimize for TSA, but nobody else does, and nobody else cares. You're going to fumble around and be awkward. But guess what? So will the person in front of you, and so will the person behind you. There's no judgment.*

Fifth, with regard to cash, you're supposed to empty your pockets before going through the scanner, but I've gone through with stuff before. For example, I rarely take off my belt, even though you're supposed to, and I've had my driver's license and boarding pass in my pocket before. It's usually not a big deal. Everyone has stories about that one asshole TSA agent, but that's the exception. If you have a couple dollars in your pocket, you're unlikely to get a lot of attention. Worst case scenario, they'll just tell you to put it in a bin with your other stuff. Carry as little as possible, though.

Sixth, with regard to toiletries, razors are fine, as are nail clippers and things like that. Liquids are subject to the 3-1-1 rule (which you can avoid if you check your bag). The general rule for what constitutes a liquid, as told to me by a TSA agent, is whether it drips when you hold it upside down. So things like gel deodorants are considered solid. The TSA website is very clear about what's allowed and what's not. Unless your toiletries are highly specialized, though, just buy them when you arrive at your destination. Travel-sized toothpaste containers are so small that you'll rarely get more than a couple of days out of one.

Seventh, if you do make a mistake and bring something into security that you're not supposed to, most people just assume that they'll have to throw away that thing. TSA doesn't do anything to discourage that perception, but it's not true. They have envelopes that you can request to mail the contraband back to your home address. You're not forced to forfeit it. Again, if you just check your bag, none of that matters.

Eighth, carry-on size requirements are different for each airline, but 9x14x22 is a pretty standard size. Smaller planes will have trouble even with that size even if it's allowed, though, in which case you'll be offered the best thing: gate checking. Gate checking is like checking a bag, but not having to wait at baggage claim. It's great. If they offer it, take it. One thing to note is that nobody will actually measure the size of your bag until you actually try to stuff it into the overhead bin. I mean, if you have a bag that's bigger than you are, maybe it'll get attention, but if you're trying to carry on a bag that's 10x15x22, nobody will actually pull out a ruler and say "you can't do that". If your bag was marketed as a carry-on, it'll be safe to carry on.

This seems like a lot of information, but the overarching theme of both my long comment and the other responses is "don't worry, it's not a big deal, just check the TSA, airport, and airline websites before you pack". That's all you really need to know.

*There is, but it's reserved for really stupid people. "Oh I guess I forgot I had that big ass knife in my bag."
posted by kevinbelt at 5:42 AM on May 5, 2018 [5 favorites]

One thing that surprised me after I hadn't flown in a while is some airlines only take cards to purchase in-flight snacks and drinks. Whereas there are some that are still cash only. Also there is almost no free food on flights anymore so either bring your own snacks or be prepared to pay.
posted by Jacqueline at 11:44 AM on May 5, 2018

If you are bringing any food (even dry/packaged food, even domestically), pull it out of your bag for separate screening. My bag's been pulled aside for granola bars, and most recently, a tin of powdered cappuccino mix. I usually bring a meal on the plane but this only started happening in the last few months, and only at large airports.

When you check in (try to check-in online if you can, will save you time at the airport) you'll be assigned a boarding group. If you're in one of the later boarding groups (definition of "later" varies by airline) you may be required to gate-check your carry-on. Sometimes that means it'll be delivered planeside (right outside the plane door on arrival); sometimes you'll have to go to baggage claim. Make sure you ask them which. The gate will also likely have a bag sizer, a metal bin that meets their carry-on requirement. Some gate agents are zealous about making everyone check their bag in the bag sizer. Keep all your valuables (travel documents, money, etc) in your personal item in case you're made to gate-check your carry-on.

Flight attendants on US carriers are not allowed to help you get your carry-on into the overhead bin. Pack light, or check. (Or if you're petite like me, find a friendly neighbor to help.) Attendants on international carriers are much friendlier in general.
posted by basalganglia at 12:08 PM on May 5, 2018 [2 favorites]

...you have the right to refuse the full-body scanner and, instead, get a pat down. I always pick this. It can feel a little invasive depending what your comfort levels are with strangers (same gender as you if you're cis, do not know the flying-while-trans limitations here) touching you, but I like it better than the scanner option.

Yeah, the manufacturer of my insulin pump says I shouldn't go through the body scanner, so I opted for the pat down as well. I was a little nervous the first time, but it was fine. (Speaking as a white woman, I mean - I have no idea if people with darker complexions are treated as well.)
posted by The Underpants Monster at 8:43 PM on May 5, 2018

The new basic economy ticket does not include seat choice and does not include carry-on luggage.
Delta basic still allows a carry on, while American and United basic don't let you use the overhead bins. There isn't much policing of that but when you are in the last boarding group, there is rarely overhead space anyway.
posted by soelo at 8:03 AM on May 7, 2018

All 3 let you bring your "personal item", like a purse, if it fits under your seat.
posted by soelo at 8:03 AM on May 7, 2018

Former TSA agent here.

Seventh, if you do make a mistake and bring something into security that you're not supposed to, most people just assume that they'll have to throw away that thing. TSA doesn't do anything to discourage that perception, but it's not true. They have envelopes that you can request to mail the contraband back to your home address. You're not forced to forfeit it. Again, if you just check your bag, none of that matters.

This envelope thing is not true at any airport I know. Many airports don't have postal facilities anymore because of security.

You don't have to throw it away, that is true - but they will escort you and your property to the exit for you to handle before you go back through screening. Few passengers want to deal with the hassle, so they choose to toss it.
posted by Monday at 11:11 AM on May 7, 2018 [2 favorites]

Update: I flew out of Boston the other day and found some more information about what I was talking about. It's not a postal envelope at TSA, but rather a company called Airport Mailers, Inc.. It's a plastic pouch you leave in a drop box, and they pick it up and mail it for you.

Also, for reference, I don't think there are public-facing USPS collection boxes (at least, if there are, I haven't seen them), but on several occasions I've sent postcards to my wife (i.e., my own address, so I was able to verify receipt) by handing them to a store employee and asking them to mail them. I'm not sure if they're sending them from the airport or just taking them home, but it's a pretty reliable way to mail something from an airport if you need to.
posted by kevinbelt at 8:50 AM on May 30, 2018

Plan for extra time, particularly if you are leaving from a large airport. Ensure you have at least 90 minutes for connections. Dress to be comfortable, and definitely wear your socks.

also The people who work for TSA are extremely underpaid

The mean salary is $19.21/hr. They're not underpaid.
posted by arnicae at 5:10 PM on September 1, 2018

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