Blend Images/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Want to avoid travel snafus? FareCompare CEO Rick Seaney has a few tips on how to do just that.
1. Make the appointment
The appointment for your TSA interview, that is. This is part of the process of joining PreCheck. And based on my own experience and that of dozens of friends and acquaintances, it take all of five minutes. Assuming all goes well, you’ll be ready to go in a couple of weeks, and after paying $85, you’ll have access to a fast lane at security for the next five years.
2. Do not pack anything you “might” wear
We’ve all been there: You’re going on vacation someplace you’ve never been and start loading up the suitcase with “possibilities” — items of clothing you might wear. Don’t do it. You know you’ll only wear the stuff you really like, anyway — stuff you know fits and looks good on you. Besides, fewer items are easier to stuff in a carry-on bag, and you should use a carry-on for several reasons. Sure, you can avoid a checked-bag fee on some airlines, but a carry-on is really about freedom, allowing you to hop on and off buses and trains easily; make quick exits from airports, so you’re first in line for a taxi or shared ride; and sprint to a distant gate when an airline changes your flight. Finally, a bag that travels at your side is a bag that can’t get lost.
3. Do not rile up the baggage police
Have you seen this passenger? You know, the one pulling not just one but two carry-on bags one atop the other and carrying a heavy coat, umbrella, hardcover book and a large computer bag or maybe a tote-sized purse. This traveler then proceeds to fill up an entire overhead bin meant to be shared by three or more. Not only is this rude, anecdotal evidence suggests the baggage police are increasingly on the lookout for such folks, and they will make them check this kind of too much/too big baggage or at least force them to shove some of it under a seat. There goes your legroom.
4. Ditch your valuables
Sometimes items or even entire bags are lost or even stolen. Either way, those diamond earrings or that fancy tablet can turn up missing. Leave such pricey pieces at home. If you absolutely must have the earrings — maybe you got an invitation to the royal wedding — wear them or keep them on your person. And when you get to the hotel, put them in a safe.
5. Save your surprises
Don’t do what an Anchorage flyer did recently: That traveler’s bag contained a surprise for the TSA in the form of a “live smoke and illumination signal flare.” Then there was the flyer at Raleigh-Durham’s airport whose cane concealed a hidden sword. Security people do not like surprises, nor do they allow flares on planes or swords in cabins. You can also run into problems with less radical surprises such as wrapped presents — and the gifts will likely be unwrapped for you so the contents can be verified. Please, no surprises.
6. Add 15 minutes to airport arrival time
New security regulations actually loosen some of the rules concerning electronics on planes, but the TSA can also subject travelers to short interviews that can mean longer lines at security. Be smart, and get to the airport early.
7. You lost your wallet; don’t lose your head
Wallets can get lost or stolen, so before you begin any trip, be sure that your traveling companion or someone back home has copies of your credit cards and other important information. As for getting through security without an ID, you will have to submit to an interview with a TSA officer, so get to the airport early. I know people who’ve gone through this; they said it was no big deal. Nevertheless, this is another case where getting to the airport earlier than usual will be helpful.
Rick Seaney is the CEO of FareCompare, a website that curates the best deals on flights from around the world. Any opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author.
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