New Airport Security Measures
|Even as security tightens — such as this extra checkpoint before boarding your plane back home — you can still pack light...and pack smart|
As people are heading to Europe for a summer vacation, we've been getting a lot of questions about how the constantly-in-flux security regulations are affecting travel. The good news: not much. If you pack smart and pack light, you can still carry on.
It pays to do a little homework before you head for the airport. Be aware that restrictions can differ between the US and Europe, as well as between any two European countries. And these restrictions can change without notice (especially in response to a terrorist threat). Don't assume you know what's allowed. Shortly before your flight, check the websites for your airline and any airports you're flying through. Note that flying through London often comes with tighter restrictions than other European hubs. For the latest rules on the American leg of your journey, check www.tsa.gov.
That said, things haven't changed as much as you might think. As of the spring of 2007, you can still carry on your bag as before. The main difference is that now if you carry on, you have to carefully pack your liquids: Each item can only be 3 ounces, and all of your bottles of liquids must fit into one clear plastic quart-size bag per person. (This regulation is the same in the US and in the European Union.) This sounds skimpy, but in practice you can easily fit two or three weeks' worth of shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, lotion, and other supplies into one bag. And, if you run out of toothpaste, it's the perfect excuse to go into a European department store, shop around, and pick up...something you think might be toothpaste.
Also be aware that, as always, many European airlines limit the number, size, and weight of carry-on bags. Check your airline's website for details. For example, British Airways allows exactly one piece of carry-on luggage, no larger than 10" x 22" x 17.5". There's no maximum weight, but you must be able to lift it into overhead storage without help. SAS restricts you to one 9" x 21" x 15.5" carry-on bag, which must weigh 18 pounds or less. It's only worth fighting to carry on your bag if you have a tight connection.
Of course, you can take an entire set of knives or giant bottle of shampoo to Europe if you like — but you'll have to check your bag. If you do check your bag, mark it inside and out with your name, address, and emergency phone number. If you have a lock on your bag, you may be asked to remove it due to increased security checks — or it may be cut off so the bag can be inspected (to avoid this, consider a TSA-approved lock). I've never locked my bag and never had a problem.
As carry-on restrictions tighten, people who used to carry on might now choose to check their bags. Does this mean it's less important to pack light? No way! Packing light isn't just about the trip over and back — it's about your traveling lifestyle. Too much luggage marks you as a typical tourist. It slams the back door shut. Serendipity suffers. Changing locations becomes a major operation. Con artists figure you're helpless. Porters are a problem only to those who need them. With only one bag, you're mobile and in control. Take this advice seriously. You'll never meet a traveler who, after five trips, brags, "Every year I pack heavier."