You can set your clocks to the idea that holiday travel is going to be a huge pain in the ass. Really, in the post 9/11 world, most any travel is a pain in the ass, but the extreme congestion associated with the holiday season really adds insult to injury. Before you go, mentally prepare yourself for the following psychologically hazardous situations.
Whatever your method (train, plane or automobile), leave yourself plenty of time to get there and get settled. Sure, it’s obnoxious that a two hour flight is a six hour ordeal, but arriving with extra time to scope out the security line, get your bags checked and finish chugging your bottle of water (lest it get thrown away, natch) will give you enough leeway to arrive at the body scanners relaxed and not displaying any of the nervous body language that almost guarantees you a thorough groping. (Bonus for the smokers, more time to slam back some nicotine before heading into the no man’s land of recycled air!)
Second, don’t be the jackass who has more than they can carry. (Of course, if you have small children, are moving across the country or have any special needs or considerations, this doesn’t apply to you…carry on.) As a general rule, I have one checked bag and one (monstrously large) purse. If I’m doing the all-carried-on route, I have one (size-approved) roller bag and the same (monstrously large) purse. That’s all I can carry, and it works just fine. Later in the week, I’ll be doing a fun post on how to pack a suitcase…you’ll love it, I swear.
Third, and perhaps most importantly, do not screw around with the Transportation Security Administration. Well, that’s not entirely true. If you’d like to be on the evening news, testify before congress or make the no-fly list, then go on right ahead. If you’d like to make your flight, keep your cool. Don’t make terrorism jokes, take off all relevant outerwear and be polite to the personnel. More than likely, you’ll pass through with no problems whatsoever, safe and sound in the knowledge that a bunch of rent-a-cops have seen back scatter imagery of your junk.
If it just so happens that you are pulled out of line for “additional screening”, do your best to remain calm. Remember, that unless you are actually a terrorist, you have nothing to hide — and no reason to be detained — unless you piss them off. So whatever the reason you think they have for delaying you on your way to the duty free shops, stay polite and focus on making it to your flight on time.
During the inspectigation, you should absolutely make your best efforts at the following:
-Determine why you have been selected for extra security.
-Ensure that there is another agent present for observation of all proceedings.
-Ascertain as much information as possible about the agents with whom you are dealing. (First name, last name and any applicable identification numbers).
-Try to remain in view of a camera at all times. (They’re in the ceiling, I like to scope them out while I’m waiting in line.)
And, as always, if at any point you feel uncomfortable (that is, beyond the usual level of TSA discomfort) or discriminated against (for any reason whatsoever), calmly demand to speak to a supervisor.
And remember, try to be polite to the flight attendants. Their lives really suck this time of year.