With airports, there are things you can’t assume.
You can’t assume that it will be logical. Passing through immigration and security can happen in odd sequences – especially when in transit between flights.
You can’t assume that you can navigate with your sense of direction. Airports often operate beyond capacity forcing them to use space in ways for which it was not designed. It’s best to trust and follow the signs.
And you can’t assume that the guy in the CBC t-shirt is from Canada. As I transited through Taipai airport a little lost the guy in the CBC t-shirt I asked for help was just some guy from somewhere. Not an English-speaker. He couldn’t help all.
Fortunately there are some things that you can know for sure. There will be lines! The most complicated of which is the security screening line that every country manages differently. Some require you to take off your shoes, others don’t. Some take your passport while you go through security. Fortunately, most don’t. Everything into a bin. Only a few things into a bin. You really have to watch and listen for the details.
Regardless of how different each security process may be, preparing for them is typically the same. For those who are flying this holiday season, when the lines tend to be particularly long, I’ve teamed up with CATSA, the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority, to provide some tips to reduce the petty annoyance of airport security for all travelers – wherever you are in the world.
Tips for getting through an airport solo.
First things first, let’s start with packing. The following are important. Use this information in conjunction with the Bare Minimum Packing post.
- Download the CATSA app. To help you with security at Canadian airports you can download the CATSA “Breeze through security” app. In addition to wait times, you’ll find information on what you can and can’t bring through security and helpful tips about the screening process. Visit catsa.gc.ca, follow CATSA_gc on Twitter, or pinterest.com/catsagc for more information.
- Liquids are a big issue. The most common mistake that travelers still make is with liquids, aerosols and gels (LAGs) exceeding the 100 mL limit in their carry-on baggage. That includes sunscreen, tanning lotion or hand cream, alcohol, maple syrup, etc. To go in your carry-on LAGs must be in containers of 100 mL (3 ounces) or less and all these containers must fit into a 1 litre or 1 quart baggie that can be closed. If it can’t be closed you’re packing more than the allowed amount.
- Pack so that required items can be removed easily at security. If you travel with only a carry-on as I do, pack your liquids at the top of your bag so that they can be taken out easily. Have your computer or tablet easily accessible as well.
- Leave gifts unwrapped. The security team may want to inspect what you’re traveling with so plan to wrap any gifts after security.
- Electronic devices go in various places. It all depends on the size of the device. Tablets, ebooks, cameras can stay in your bag in their individual cases. Laptops, notebooks and game consoles need to be taken out of your carry-on and placed in a separate bin for screening.
- Dress appropriately. Dress comfortably with easy-to-remove outerwear, belts and shoes. The latter is particularly helpful if you’re flying to or through the US as you’ll have to remove your shoes at security. Avoid wearing clothing with metal buttons and snaps that will sound the metal-detector alarm.
Plan for a smooth takeoff at security. On your travel day…
- Arrive at the airport early. Allow ample time to be screened.
- Take care of your passport. Have a specific place on your person for your passport that is easy and accessible. You will have to show it many times but you don’t want to put it down so that it gets lost. Always return it to the same place.
- Prepare for security. Before you enter the security line, unlock your carry-on and empty your water bottle. You can refill your it on the other side of security. Have your boarding pass ready.
- Once you get to security…
- Remove everything from your pockets and put the contents in a bin.
- Remove your computer and plastic bag of liquids and put it in a bin – it can be the same bin.
- Place your purse, hat, scarf and jacket in a bin. You may have to put a sweater in the bin as well so dress appropriately.
- Place your day-pack and/or carry-on on the belt itself.
- Stand in line in front of the metal detector and wait to be waved through.
- Pick up your things at the other end. And make sure you have everything before you leave the area.
This post was sponsored by the CATSA, the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority.
If you have more questions about the screening process, you can find answers online at catsa.gc.ca, on the go with CATSA’s mobile app or on social media (Twitter: @catsa_gc, Pinterest: CATSAGC). You can also watch short info video on CATSA’s YouTube channel. Bon voyage!