Thursday, March 20, 2008

Travel Advice Part Two: Carry-on Bags

Number Two in a Series of Travel Articles for

Important: If you have questions or special needs in regard to items you want to pack in your carry-on bag, speak to a customer service representative of your airline before you leave home, follow their instructions, and allow extra time for your items to be processed. It’s unfortunate, but you may get conflicting instructions if you speak to someone at the main headquarters vs. an employee at your local airport. Every airport seems to have slightly different rules about carry-ons.

Check your airline’s website at least one week before your trip and review all security and packing instructions. These change frequently. Then review all rules and regulations again the day before you fly, so that you are current on all aspects of air travel.

Most airlines allow one small item such as a purse or briefcase, and one larger item, such as a small suitcase that must conform to their size specifications. Consider using a small bag with wheels for your larger personal carry-on item. Understand that if the plane is full or space is limited, it must be small enough to fit under the seat in front of you, and pack it accordingly.

I like to think of my carry-on bag as an overnight bag. Anything I might need for 24 hours should be included in it, as well as any other important items I might need for my trip. I try to pack everything in quart-sized plastic zipper bags to keep items separate, easy to find, and, if a hand search is necessary, this makes it much easier for the security agents to go through your bag.

What should be in your carry-on: (this covers the “one carry-on plus one smaller personal item such as a purse or briefcase” policy now in place with most airlines). In one or the other of your carry-ons, include the following:

All prescription medications and important over-the-counter medications for upset stomach, diarrhea, pain and allergies. Travelers with special medical needs should wear bracelets or necklaces identifying medical conditions and medications. Pharmacies sell medical bracelets that allow a small piece of paper to be inserted inside, on which you can write important medical details.

All liquids such as lotion, shampoo, or cosmetics must be in containers of three ounces or less. This regulation is strictly enforced. For example, you can’t take a large tube of toothpaste with just a little left in it, because it will be discarded at security. Buy a small one instead. Any liquids you carry on must be in these small containers and must fit on one zipper-lock plastic bag per passenger. Pack any larger containers of liquids, such as shampoo or lotion, in your checked bag, securely protected in plastic bags.

Example: My nephew and his wife were traveling in Europe with their baby when, almost overnight, airlines suddenly required that all liquids in carry-on bags be limited to three ounce containers, and those containers must fit in one quart-size zipper plastic bag per passenger. Within a few hours, they had to make quick adjustments to be in compliance and catch their planned flights. Airlines do provide the plastic bags if you forget yours, but it can also cause delays for you and other passengers if you haven’t packed properly beforehand.

Many people carry water bottles. Make sure these are empty until you pass security, and then fill them at drinking fountains. A full water bottle, even if sealed, will be confiscated.

Any medical devices such as oxygen canisters, diabetic supplies, breast pumps for nursing mothers, and C-Pap machines (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure, used for conditions such as sleep apnea, etc.) must be declared at security and made available for hand inspection. These may count as one of your carry-on items, so pack accordingly.

About ID: This must be a state-issued photo ID card such as a driver’s license, passport, or a photo ID card which you can obtain from the state (usually at the same office where you get your driver’s license) if you do not have a license. To get this ID card, you must present your social security card and official birth certificate, and pay a small fee. I like to travel with mine and leave my license at home. In fact, go through your wallet and take out any cards you will not need, such as your library card, etc. Should you lose your wallet, you’ll have fewer cards to replace. In this day of identity theft, it's an important consideration.

You must also carry your boarding pass with you through security.

I obtained a state ID card for my son when he was 13 and headed for computer camp, just to be safe, and he was thrilled because it looked like a real driver’s license. When the camp ended and the students were headed for the airport, the camp counselor forgot my son’s paper airline ticket. This was pre-September 11, 2001, when security wasn’t as tight, but the airline official said my son would not have been allowed on the plane if he hadn’t been carrying his official state ID. Give Mom some credit for planning ahead!

If you are traveling with a young infant, check with the airline to see what their minimum travel age is. You may need a birth certificate to prove your baby’s age. If you don’t have the official birth certificate yet, the hospital-issued certificate should be acceptable. (More on traveling with children later.)

A change of socks and underwear. If you've ever been stranded overnight or longer without your checked bags, you'll appreciate this suggestion.

Cash or traveler’s checks (if you wear a money belt or pouch under your clothing, you may be asked to remove it at the security checkpoint, or it may pass through the screening process without a problem). Do not pack cash or travelers checks in your packed bags.

Snacks. Your plane may be delayed, or you may board the plane and then sit on the runway until weather or other complications are resolved. No snack or beverage services are available on the plane until after it has taken off, so you’ll appreciate having some granola bars, raisins, nuts, or other snacks handy, as well as your bottle of water.You can also buy food after you pass through security and take it on the plane with you, but prices are very high at airport concessions, so if you can bring something from home it will cost less.

Reading material for the length of the flight. If you are traveling with more than one person, arrange to trade magazines and books, so you won’t have to bring as many with you. Extra books can go in your checked bag as you want your carry-on to be as light as possible.

Electronic devices: cell phone, camera, film, batteries, MP3 player, and the chargers, batteries and cords necessary to recharge them.

Laptop: Many people won’t travel without their laptops. I like to leave mine at home if I know I can check my email every few days on someone else’s computer. It's one less item to pack and one less valuable to worry about. If I have serious work to do, then the laptop comes with me. Be prepared to pull it out of the case at security. If you have a portable DVD player, prepare to take it out of the case also.

Next week: Part Three - Airport Security

1 comment:

Shellie said...

That is great advice and I love the picture!