Air travel advice

I’m going to be traveling for work, but I haven’t been on an airplane for a while, and I haven’t taken a laptop on a plane for 5 years or so. What do I need to know about taking a laptop and other electrical stuff (cell phone, iPod) on the plane? I’m looking for practical advice; I’ve read the TSA website, but know we have some well-traveled Dopers who can give good advice.


Mods, if this should’ve gone in IMHO or GQ, please move it.

Take the laptop out of the bag for the security screen. Turn your cellphone off when you get on the plane. That’s about all you need to know. All of those things are fine to take on a plane.

They want you to turn off the iPod and laptop for takeoff and landing. They’ll probably make an announcement about when it’s ok to start using the laptop and iPod, but typically it’s around the time that they turn off the “fasten seatbelts” sign.

What about chargers, extra cables, etc.? Do those need to come out, or can they stay in the bag?

Chargers, cables, and other electronic-related items can stay in your bag.

If you think you will be taking the laptop on flights in the future then you might consider getting one of the TSA friendly bags. All you have to do is unzip them and lay it on the X-Ray belt.

Other than that, just take it out and drop it in the bin. Don’t put anything else in that bin like shoes, keys, etc. Every now and then the cables get tangled in such a way TSA has to take a quick look inside before I move on. But not often.

If you have too much metal/electronic stuff in your bag that may look odd to them, they will open your bag and look in it. This shouldn’t take long. Before the last bombing I was pressing my luck at how much electronics crap I could pack in my carryon before they pulled the bag out; I guess I had some pretty identifiable stuff since it took a while before they finally pulled it out. Then another time I had a tiny little scissors (like 1" blades) in my knitting bag, and they pulled the bag out and after looking at the knitting bag, asked me to tell them where the scissors would be. I gather they misjudged the proportions, since the guy pulled the teeny-weeny scissors out, kind of rolled his eyes, put it back, thanked me, and sent me on my way.

Is this merely US domestic, or is there international travel involved?

If the latter, US Customs can exert authority to take away any electronic device you may be carrying upon reentry, copy any and all data on the device, and return said device at their convenience, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months later.

No, this is all domestic. Indy to Florida. If I have to go somewhere in February for business, it could be worse. :smiley:

I rarely travel, so it wouldn’t be worth it to invest in a special laptop bag. I honestly don’t mind the screenings; I’d mind them less if I felt like they were truly effective.

Has anyone had trouble with carrying a glucometer? I don’t use it really regularly, but I do want to bring it if it’s not an issue.

Thanks for all the tips; I appreciate it.

No experience with a glucometer, though I know a diabetic friend of mine needs to keep her whole kit with her, and she does keep a note from a physician in with it. It shouldn’t be a problem, but it might be worth it just in case. I say this because in my experience the TSA is completely stupid - the people are told “do this or lose your job,” so they do, and the “this” is often times absolutely nonsensical. Like, “I’m sorry, there’s about three sips of water left in this 20 ounce bottle, so either you need to finish those sips right now on this side of the metal detector, or we have to confiscate the bottle.” Or “Yes, I freely admit that I can tell that this is a perfectly normal violin and as such I can see that it is hollow inside but I still need to chemically test it to make sure it’s not actually a gun.” Or, “I don’t need to do an full pat-down, but I do need to tap the back of my hands against your ankle, because that elastic bandage looks awfully suspicious.” And so on. Which has nothing to do with what you asked, but I can’t resist saying it.

As for actual advice - laptop goes in a bin on it’s own. Everything else (cables, phone, iPod, etc) can stay in the bag. You do need to take your shoes off, so those go in a second bin with your jacket, keys from your pocket, and baggie of liquids. Don’t put your jacket on top of your liquids (if you forget this and are corrected, don’t ask incredulously if your jacket is somehow going to block the x-ray image - they don’t appreciate that). Once through, slip your shoes back on, and it’s very considerate to take a few steps forward before repacking your bag.

Unless you’re flying first class they will not give you food on the plane, so either bring something from home, buy something in the airport, or be prepared to shell out ten bucks for a limp sandwich. However, often, if you ask for an unpopular beverage and/or without ice, you’ll get an entire can, not just a plastic cup.

Southwest still gives our peanuts/crackers.

I had to look up what a glucometer is, so I don’t have any personal experience, but usually medical devices are ok. If you have special packaging for it, or a letter from your doctor, it wouldn’t hurt. You can always mention it to the person before it goes through, and they’ll tell you if it needs to go through separately.

Don’t forget about the liquids. Medications are exempt, but it’s usually easier to just put them in the bag with the rest of the liquids if it’ll fit. I always make sure I have the label with the prescription on it, but it’s usually ok.

Just put the laptop in it’s own bin all by itself. People try to put one laptop on another, or their jacket on top, and it has to go through again delaying the whole line.

On preview, NinjaChick stole all my stuff. Except this - I take my shoes off last, but put them through first to minimize shoeless time.

Has this happened to anyone you know or anyone on the Dope?

I work for a MNC and never heard of any of our people ever having this problem. Just curious? If it’s a real risk, I would be more energetic about backing up my hard drive before travelling.

It’s a real risk. Rare, but real.

Personally, if this is domestic, I’d just ship it ahead of me to somewhere. It’s safer and less hassle. Maybe a UPS store you could pick it up from if there’s no family/friends/relatives.

You’re not supposed to put your shoes in a bin anymore:

How does one travel with prescriptions? I went to the doctor on Wednesday and updated my tetanus shot, got a typhoid prophylactic (which I’ll take before leaving), but also some prednisone (for altitude sickness) in pill form and the bottle is HUGE. So can I just put them in a little ziploc baggie or should they stay in the bottle?

Pills don’t have to go into the ziploc. Only liquids (unless the pills are liquid-filled gels, then I don’t know what TSA will do). Medications generally are allowed in reasonable quantities, and can be separated from the quart ziploc. Personally, I’d ziploc separately what I would need for the trip, plus maybe one days worth of extras. If you wear contacts, you are permitted larger quantity of saline. Most brands have 4 oz. bottles, which is a good compromise. Keep what you’ll need during the flight in the underseat bag, not the one going into the overhead bin.

Last time I flew Jetblue, they also still served snacks.

I used to love flying. Now I despise air travel. US airlines treat their customers like cattle, and the TSA treats everyone like a criminal with their security theatre. Sadly, we customers (as a whole) are partly to blame, but that’s a different rant for a different place.

Interesting - I’ve flown a few times since that and haven’t heard anything about that.

I’ve flown with liquid gelcaps multiple times and they’ve never been noticed/commented upon. Admittedly, the fact that someone has gotten through airport security with an item doesn’t mean someone else will - if you’re doubtful, I’d advise you to not point it out, hope it doesn’t get notice, and if they point it out, act very apologetic and claim you had no idea.

Just as a point of information regarding pills: When I travel I put the one prescription bottle I take in my carry on bag. I also put a trip’s worth of my daily over-the-counter pills (vitamins, various supplements, and 81-mg aspirin) in a pill bottle which also goes in my carry on. One of the supplements is a gel capsule, and I’ve never had a TSA-person pull out the bottle and say anything about it.

The biggest pain I have since I went to all carry on travel to avoid having to pay to check a bag is toothpaste; I had to go to three different stores to find toothpaste in tubes under 3-oz. Unless, of course, you count those dinky 1-oz tubes which are only good for a few days worth of use, and cost (proportionately) twice as much as full-size tubes.

Not true. TSA tried to mandate it last year, but then quickly backed off and said it was optional.

From your link:

Also, some TSOs will still try and insist that all shoes go onto the belt. Don’t let them bully you. Put them in the bin (if you want).