Here are a few tips to help get you through airport security and to your destination with minimal stress and maximum efficiency.
- In addition to labeling your prescription medications, people with certain medications should also consider carrying a letter from their doctor on letterhead explaining the medicine or device.For example, a diabetic traveling with an insulin pump should carry a letter saying what the device is and why it should not be disconnected, suggests dLife, a Web site on living with diabetes.
- Call your hotel before you leave. Check to see what toiletries it provides. Because of the new baggage restrictions, for example, the La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club and Sea Lodge Hotel in San Diego will expand its standard in-room toiletries to include razors, toothbrushes and toothpaste if guests should need them. Many domestic hotels just carry the basics, so plan ahead.
- Check the Web site of your destination airport. Find out what stores are available within the airport, and their hours, so you can do some quick toiletry shopping as soon as you land. If your flight arrives at a late hour, this might be your only shopping option.
- Hydrate on the way to the airport. Airplanes are notoriously dehydrating, so drink up before you get there. Slather on some moisturizer and lip balm, too, before you leave home.
- Scale down. Less is more, especially at airports.
"A lot of people are going on board with giant-size shampoos, and toothpastes and sunscreen lotions. You don't need that much for a weekend or even a week. Buy the sample size ... and that will be plenty," says Susan Foster, travel expert and author of "Smart Packing for Today's Traveler" (Smart Travel press; $20).
It's also wise to leave extra room in your checked bags in case you have to shift over more of your carry-on contents.
- Back to basics. This isn't the time to pack three shades of nail polish, two expensive face creams and a plethora of perfumes. You might need to do without some nonessentials or purchase certain cosmetics and toiletries when you get to your destination. It may not be the brand you normally use, but it's only temporary, and your hair, skin, nails, etc., will survive the switch.
"Just remember, other states and countries sell shampoo and skin lotion," says Jesse Keller, manager of Le Travel store in San Diego.
- Consider nonliquid trade-offs. Get creative. Instead of loading up your bag with little bottles of hand sanitizer, use towelettes. Switch from a roll-on or gel deodorant to a solid stick. Try a powder foundation instead of liquid makeup.
- Invest in travel containers. Instead of packing your old shampoo bottle with a flimsy flip-top lid or a glass bottle of lotion, transfer them into small plastic, leakproof containers with screw-on lids. Several experts recommend Nalgene travel bottles, which come in a variety of sizes and are guaranteed to be leakproof.
- Secure your containers. When liquids expand in the hold areas of the airplane, leaks happen. Be sure to leave space at the top of the bottle or tube for expansion.
"People fill their toiletry bottles way too full. Leave about a finger width at the top so your shampoo or lotion has room to expand," says David Coleman, manager of Traveler's Depot in San Diego. Squeeze out any excess air from the bottle before tightening the lid.
- Bag it. Even after you've tightened lids and secured liquid containers, pack them in self-sealing plastic bags.
"You may even want to double-bag some things if you still think there's a chance of it leaking," Foster says.
She recommends taking along plenty of extra plastic bags in a variety of sizes, so you'll have clean, fresh ones to replace any that have had spills.
- Keep it neat and tidy. "Organize your carry-on and checked baggage so when (security) opens up your bags, they can look through them systematically," says Ricky Schlesinger, executive vice president of Eagle Creek, a travel-gear manufacturer headquartered in Vista, Calif.
Travel-accessory companies make packing organizers, folders and vacuum-sealed bags to help separate suitcase contents. Eagle Creek's line, the Pack-It System, includes everything from the tiny Quick Trip bag ($16) for small toiletry items to the jumbo Cruiser ($45).
- Pack a collapsible, lightweight tote bag. In case the baggage rules change while you're away or you need to reorganize your bags, you'll be glad to have a spare.
"If, at the last moment, you find out you're allowed an extra bag, you have one," says Anne McAlpin, an Ashland, Ore., travel expert and author of "Pack It Up: Traveling Smart & Safe in Today's World" (Flying Cloud Publishing; $15).
- Make sure your carry-on luggage is suitable for checking. "In case the no-carry-on rule should happen here and they make you check your carry-on bag, take one that's sturdy enough to go through the baggage handlers," Foster says.
- Interpack with your traveling companion. Instead of packing all your stuff in your suitcase, and all of his stuff in his, put a few things of each of yours in each bag, McAlpin suggests.
"If one piece of luggage is delayed or lost, at least the suitcase that comes through will have something in it you can use or wear to get you by for a day or two," she said.
- Checked bags packed with cameras and laptops should be secured with TSA-approved locks. The locks, emblazoned with a small red diamond symbol, can be opened by a TSA master key. They're available in several brands at most travel and luggage stores.
- Minimize the chance of losing or having your checked bags delayed. One of the chief reasons checked bags don't make it to your destination with you is that not enough time is allowed between connecting flights. Allow at least one to two hours. And make sure all bags are labeled with your name, address and phone number on the outside, and an itinerary and contact information packed inside.
- Mail or ship those small but expensive items: You don't have to throw away that brand new bottle of designer after-shave just because you forgot to pack it in your checked luggage.
- Forget about picking up a bottle of Cristal or Chanel at duty-free shops in airports. You won't be allowed to board the plane with your liquid bargains. Duty-free shopping onboard will continue.
- Travelers going through security at airports in the United Kingdom - and those heading to Great Britain on at least some flights leaving the U.S. - are allowed only a single transparent plastic bag as a carry-on.
The only items allowed in the bag: a pocket-size wallet, a passport, tickets, prescription medicines in a name that matches the passenger's name, medical items "sufficient and essential" for the flight (a diabetic kit, for example), eyeglasses (without cases), contact lens holders (without bottles of solution), keys (but no electrical key fobs), unboxed tissues or a handkerchief.
Those traveling with infants can carry baby food and milk - but the contents of each bottle must be tasted, in front of inspectors, by the accompanying passenger. Sanitary items "sufficient and essential for the flight" are allowed if unboxed.
Travelers are not allowed to carry laptops, cameras, iPods, books, magazines or newspapers onto their flights. They'll be allowed nothing in their pockets. Check with your airline on what is allowed.
Here is a sampling of airline Web sites if you have any more questions:
- American Airlines - www.aa.com
- British Airways - www.ba.com
- BMI - www.flybmi.com
- Continental - www.continental.com
- Delta - www.delta.com
- United - www.united.com
- Virgin Atlantic - www.virgin-atlantic.com
PACK SMART: KNOW THE RULES
The Transportation Security Administration has banned the following liquid items from carry-on luggage: drinks, perfume, shampoo, hair gel, suntan lotion, face creams, lipsticks and similar items. Toothpastes and ointments in tubes cannot be brought on the plane. Drinks purchased at the airport (even those bought past the security gate) are not allowed.
- Baby formula and breast milk will be allowed, as will juice for a small child. Prescription medications with a name that matches the passenger's name can be brought onboard. So can insulin and other essential nonprescription medications. Be prepared to present these items for inspection at security checkpoints.
- Although there's no definitive rule about gel-cap medications or liquid capsule supplements such as fish oil, TSA spokesman Nikko Melendez recommends putting them in your checked luggage. "It's always better to err on the side of caution," he says.
- Items such as contact lens solution, nasal spray, cough syrup and eyedrops are not considered "essential," said Amy Vonwalter, a spokeswoman for the TSA.
- Get the latest information by checking out the Web sites for TSA, www.tsa.gov and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), www.faa.gov.