When it comes to holiday travel, you can’t be too prepared. For most people, this simply means packing extra outfits or buying travel insurance. Many people forget or don’t realize that there are things they should do to protect themselves legally while they travel. If you’re flying, here are a few tips to make things run more smoothly during a hectic travel week.
Research the TSA guidelines and pack accordingly. Certain aspects of modern air travel have become familiar, like removing your shoes and avoiding carrying liquids. However, there are more things you can do to make your security check-in go quicker. If you’re unsure what you can bring in carry-on as opposed to checked luggage, read up on the list of prohibited items. Check the TSA website for travel tips, like de-cluttering your carry-on bag so that the TSA agents can get a clear image and let you through faster. Another tip: don’t gift-wrap any presents. The airport security officers will have to search your bag and undo the wrapping, so you might as well save the decorating until you land.
Know the TSA security check process. In response to the many rumors flying about the new search procedures, the TSA created a “fact vs. fiction” page on their blog to help you understand what you can expect at the security check when you fly. For example, “only passengers who alarm a walk through metal detector or Advance Image Technology machine—or opt-out of the AIT—receive a pat down.” This applies to all passengers, regardless of race-religion or ethnicity. Passengers can have a private screening with a travel companion, or they can have it in public. Only a small percentage of travelers out of the two million who fly every day actually receive a pat-down, so your chances of being submitted to the search are low if you follow the security guidelines.
Protect yourself against ID theft. We all know we’re supposed to keep track of our belongings in a busy airport at all times; this vigilance is especially important when it comes to your passport or other personal documents.
- Don’t carry all your personal information with you when you travel. Only carry the minimum of what you need, like a few necessary credit cards and one or two forms of ID.
- If you can, bring copies instead of originals. Never place these cards and documents in your checked baggage.
- When you go through travel security checks at the airport, don’t let your items containing your IDs out of your sight. This means not putting your bags through the x-ray until you yourself are ready to go through the security detectors.
- Finally, be aware of your surroundings whenever you use an ATM, log in to emails over public networks, or access your voicemail in public.
For additional information and resources, check out our Identity Theft Center.
Take precautions for child travelers. Many children travel unaccompanied over the holidays to visit family. If your child is traveling without you, you may want to create a Child Care Authorization form authorizing another person like a relative or friend to care for your child in your absence, and make certain decisions on their behalf, including medical, nutritional, and educational needs.
Give yourself plenty of time. Whatever other precautions you take for your luggage, children and identity, they won’t matter if you miss your flight. Going to the airport feels like an exercise in frustration, requiring you to “hurry up and wait”, and unfortunately that’s especially true this year. Aside from being one of the busiest travel days of the year, the day before Thanksgiving is also National Opt-Out Day. Many people are frustrated with the TSA’s security checks, saying that the invasive searches violate the fourth amendment. National Opt-Out Day was organized as a way of bringing more attention to the issue. If a significant number of passengers decide to opt out of the body scanners and submit to pat-downs, this could cause long delays in the security lines. Be prepared to arrive at the airport well in advance of your flight.