Pack hastily and you just might be in for a second round of screening, especially if you’re packing electronics the way this Cheapflights reporter does. I travel with a laptop, tape recorders, a camera and a slew of slinky connector cables. I’ve learned to watch the facial expressions of quizzical TSA officers as my stuff passes through screening. If they frown, chances are it’s because I forgot to neatly lay out those cables, and properly coil those cords.
Among its “How to Get through the Line Faster” suggestions, TSA advises “pack[ing] an organized carry-on bag using layers.” Lay on a layer of clothes, then a layer of electronics, then more clothes. Finally, put in the heavier items. “This will help transportation security officers see what’s in your bag,” says the agency. “Innocent items can actually appear to be potential threats in an X-ray image, simply by the way they are packed.”
For all the grief that TSA gets, these security officers actually do a decent job of ferreting out bad stuff, things secreted by people trying to slip something through the system. Recent case-in-point: a TSA officer in Terminal A at Newark Liberty International detected an artfully-concealed knife in a piece of carry-on luggage Aug. 22. The officer found it during an X-ray scan underneath the wooden paneling of a leather carry-on belonging to a male flier. Port Authority Police were summoned and the knife confiscated.
Speaking of knives, serrated objects and such, be sure to search your own carry-on luggage before you fly to make sure you didn’t accidentally leave anything in it from your last land trip. I have one trusty backpack that I carry everywhere, whether I fly or drive. In a side pouch pocket I keep an alarm clock, a rosary and a Swiss Army knife. More than once, after getting in off a car trip and repacking for the plane, I’ve forgotten to take out the knife. The first time, I was in luck. The TSA officer said there was a CheckPoint Mailers on site. I mailed it to myself and proceeded through security. The knife was a family heirloom, given to me by my father. The next time, at a different airport, my luck ran out. Hasty packing meant I left the knife in that accursed side pocket again. No CheckPoint Mailer around this time around and TSA took the family treasure.
Next time you fly, pause and think for a moment. Double-check not just what you pack, but how you pack it.
Story by Jerry Chandler