Five Ways to Pare Down Your Briefcase

September 21, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Some business travelers might as well call themselves pack mules with the amount of weight they lug through airports in their briefcases. I’ve seen people carry briefcases that weigh as much as their carry-ons. The bags are filled with binders, folders, and loose papers. It’s enough to make an organizational expert run screaming from the room.

The problem is that a cluttered workplace clutters your mind. Not only is it hard to find anything, but it creates a sense of stress as well as its own inefficiencies.

But with some simple planning and strategizing, your briefcase doesn’t have to create additional strain on your body. We’ve come up with five ways business travelers can streamline the contents of their briefcase for travel. You may end up with so little in it, you might be able to leave it at home!

Crew Executive Choice 2 Briefcase with phone charger. Ideal for business travelers

Crew Executive Choice 2 Briefcase with phone charger

1. Unload everything from your briefcase and eliminate all non-essential clutter. Extra cables, extra equipment (could get by with a tablet instead of a laptop), and extra paper. How many pens and pencils do you need? If you have more than two, that’s too many. Put your loose cables into a small bag or cord organizer. Rather than treating your briefcase as a repository of “just in case” materials, try to plan ahead better so you’re not carrying a lot of extra stuff.

2. Get Evernote. This isn’t a sponsored post — the app simply is the best way to clip and save online content for reading later. You can also upload reports to it, save articles from the web to read on the plane, scan receipts and documents, and even scan business cards and save them to your phone’s contact list. While Evernote is primarily a cloud-based app, you can save certain notes and notebooks directly to your device. This way, even if you don’t have wifi access, you still have access to your most important documents.

3. Keep all your documents in the cloud. Price lists, special reports, contracts, and so on. I’ve known business travelers who would print several copies of each of these, and jam them in their briefcase in case they ever needed them. Instead, if someone wants a price list or report, open it up on your laptop or phone to show it, and then email it to them. Finally, use apps like DocuSign for people to sign contracts and agreements electronically, which lets you save and share the copies online.

4. Prioritize your work and delay your printing.
If you must carry paperwork, prioritize what you have to do over what you might do. The best-laid plans are usually just that, so be realistic about what you will accomplish. (Now, if you packed all your work onto Evernote and/or a cloud-storage service, you can load as much as you want.) Can you put off printing and carrying certain documents? If you’re going to give handouts during a presentation, can you have them printed once you arrive, rather than hauling them with you?

5. Is there an app for that?
Why pack a handheld calculator when you can use the one that came with your phone’s operating system? Why carry a book when you could read it on an e-reader? (For that matter, why carry a Kindle when your tablet has the Kindle reader?) Don’t bother printing out directions; use a travel app that offers offline mapping.

The biggest problem a lot of business travelers have is they can hoard documents like they’re doomsday preppers. But in this day and age of cloud-based storage and broadband wifi, you’re only a Starbucks or cell phone away from your important information. There’s no need to pack everything you might need “just in case.” Shed those unwanted paperwork pounds and see how much easier your next business travel trip is.

Business travelers, how do you travel light? What do you do to keep your briefcase or backpack pared down to just the essentials? Share your ideas in the comments below,on our Facebook page, orin our Twitter stream.

Churning Credit Cards for Points and Miles Can Hurt You

September 19, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

You get the credit card offers in the mail all the time. “Earn 100,000 miles if you spend $3,000 in the first three months.” Sounds easy enough. If you worked at it, you could spend three grand and then take a couple flights for vacation.

But if you’ve ever been tempted to sign up with the intention of spending the minimum, getting your miles, and then cancelling the card, you might want to reconsider. More and more airlines and credit card companies are cracking down on consumers who attempt to work the system, cancel the cards, and sign up again 18 to 24 months later.

The practice is called churning, and it can actually work against you.

Last year, USA Today travel columnist George Hobica warned of the dangers of churning credit cards as a way to game the airline’s system.

A messy stack of credit cards - Churning credit cards can damage your creditFor one thing, your credit score will take a hit. It may not seem like a big deal, but be aware that repeatedly applying for credit cards makes you appear to be a higher risk than those who apply less often. And if your score takes a hit of a few points and you own a home, your mortgage lender or credit card lender might increase your rate. Then those “free” flights aren’t so “free.”

And let’s be frank: do you really spend $3,000 in necessary purchases in a three month period? While credit card companies dangle the carrot of frequent flyer miles, they’re hoping you’ll be unable to pay off the balance and be hit with their exorbitant interest rates. They’re also hoping you don’t read the fine print to realize that there’s a relatively steep annual fee you’ll be paying, should you decide to keep this card in your portfolio of plastic.

Some of these dual credit card issuers are also putting a limit on the offer, like one time per customer. The American Express Delta Skymiles Card awards bonus miles once and once only. The Capital One Venture Card allows you to use the miles you earn on any airline, but you can only open an account and get 40,000 miles once.

If you still want to play the game, here’s one last warning: if you open too many credit cards, the next time you really find one you think has a great deal, you might end up being rejected. George Hobica said that, despite an excellent FICO score, he was turned down for a particularly great deal because he had opened too many credit cards in the last two years.

Do you take advantage of the credit card offers? Have you tried churning credit cards to boost your mileage or points? Do you have any suggestions for your fellow travelers on best practices? Share your ideas in the comments below, on our Facebook page, or in our Twitter stream.

Photo credit: Nick Youngson (BlueDiamondGallery.com, CC BY-SA 3.0)

Busting Five Budget Business Travel Myths

September 7, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Everyone works hard for their money, and nobody likes the idea of parting with any more of it than necessary. In fact, everybody likes a deal. But when it comes to budget business travel, some of the advice you may have received is nothing more than myth and urban legend. Here are several:

Myth: Unlock your phone for international travel. This is completely unnecessary, unless you are going to be in an area of the world where you will need to be able to make calls whenever you want and you know you won’t have access to any reliable wifi. If you know you’ll have access to wifi, checking in is simply a matter of scheduling a time and finding free or paid wifi. There are other ways to communicate than just voice-to-voice. Apps like WhatsApp, Viber, and Skype make it easy to communicate offline via text or even make Internet-phone calls while abroad.

A rented Nissan Micra in Donegal, Ireland. Beware the business travel myths about rental cars!

A rented Nissan Micra in Donegal, Ireland

Myth: Rental cars are inexpensive overseas. While this may be true, what most Americans don’t know is that the price of fuel everywhere but the US is much more expensive. This turns something that appears reasonable into something that is costly. Public transit is much more developed in foreign countries, so utilize the local buses and trams, and use rail passes for the majority of your around town travel. Ride sharing also exists in foreign cities, so familiarize yourself with those apps before you leave. If it’s necessary to rent a car, consider Transfercar, which connects travelers with cars that need to be relocated, or BlaBlaCar, which allows drivers with available passenger seats the opportunity to sell them to travelers needing a ride.

Myth: Exchange money before you leave the US. With the right credit card in your wallet, this is completely unnecessary. Many credit card companies offer cards with no transaction fees for foreign withdrawals. You will pay a small fee if you use an ATM, but it’s minimal compared to the service fee charged by a bank. One caveat: notify your bank or credit card company of your plans to travel outside the US so your funds won’t be frozen for suspected fraud.

Myth: Book your flights and hotels very early. While there is some truth to securing your accommodations well before your departure, the same rule of thumb does not apply for booking airfare. You only need to plan six to seven weeks in advance in order to get the best price. Watching fares for a few weeks before then will give you the best intel about the fare drop. In fact, travel experts advise it is unwise to book your flight more than two months out.

Myth: Grocery shop instead of eating out. This advice has been proliferated by people who haven’t lived in a big city. (Okay, it was us! We recommended it! But we stand by this advice in most cases). Groceries in major metropolitan areas — New York, London, Toronto, Paris — are known for having higher prices, and the stores are not always easy to get to, especially if you don’t know where to look. You have to take a taxi to get there, traffic is terrible, and if you drive your own car, parking can be an issue. If you’re in a smaller city, then you won’t have as much of a problem.

However, if you’ve done your homework and saved on the other parts of your trip, why would you miss out on experiencing local fare just to save a few bucks? How often do you get to this part of the world, or get this chance to experience this local culture? Be sure to visit some of the best restaurants in the area and try to experience what that city has to offer.

Don’t be deceived; international travel doesn’t have to break the bank. But don’t just take our word for it; investigate your options and make wise decisions, and you’ll find affordable, memorable travel is possible.

What are some budget business travel “myths” have you found and debunked yourself? Do you know any conventional business travel wisdom that we’ve all shared but it turned out to be untrue? Share your ideas in the comments below,on our Facebook page, orin our Twitter stream.

Photo credit: Joseph Mischyshyn (Geograph.ie, Creative Commons 2.0)

Travel Hacks and Myths That Don’t Actually Work

September 5, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

The number of travel hacks that have been touted across the Internet as “the way” to get the “best” deal have many chasing the potential for something that isn’t out there.

For example, none of these well-publicized travel hacks for getting a cheaper flight — clear your cache to avoid high airfares, don’t use a Mac, buy 42 days in advance, book after midnight on a Tuesday — actually work.

If you want to get a deal on an airfare, don’t book too early or too late. Booking one to four months out should result in a decent price. And the differences in between prices are not so vast anymore either. You might save $40 or $50 on a discount site, but you may be penalized by not being allowed to select your seats or being more likely to get bumped if a flight is overbooked.

Lobby of the Novotel Nathan Road Kowloon Hong Kong hotel - Travel hacks like tipping the front desk staff don't always work. And may be impolite in some cultures.

Lobby of the Novotel Nathan Road Kowloon Hong Kong hotel – Travel hacks like tipping the front desk staff don’t always work, and may be impolite in some cultures.

As for booking the best hotel rate, don’t believe the hack about calling the property directly unless you’re negotiating a group rate for a special event. That’s another situation entirely. If you’re thinking that you’ll be able to use your amazing negotiating skills if you can just speak with a human being, think again. Calling a property directly will most likely end up in a reroute to a reservation center. Just go to their website and make sure to enter your loyalty number. If you don’t have one, join their loyalty club and then stick with them for future travel. That will always get the best rates.

Finally, if you don’t join a loyalty club and every dollar counts, check a meta-search website instead, such as Google or Kayak.com, Booking.com, or Expedia. Cross-check your findings with those of the hotel’s website, though, so that you don’t miss a deal there.

“Tipping” the front desk personnel when checking is another travel hack that usually doesn’t work. Most often, the employee keeps the money, not understanding that you were attempting to hack the system and get an upgrade. This does have a better chance of working at fancy hotels in big cities, but even then, it doesn’t always help.

Rental cars used to be able to be procured for deeply discounted rates by making a reservation via travel sites like Travelocity, Hotwire, Orbitz, or Priceline. Not so anymore. The best deals today are through Costco, AAA, or the rental companies themselves, such as Hertz, Enterprise, National, Avis, and Budget.

If you need an inexpensive rental car, start with the rental companies’ websites, but check the other sites as well. The rental car companies truly have figured out that it’s better to offer great deals directly to their customers than to make them hunt them down on competitor’s sites.

Everyone wants to figure out a way to hack the system and travel cheaper or faster. While it may seem innocuous at the time, many potential hacks may involve lying, bribing, or cheating, and those behaviors only end up creating consequences for the traveling public—often resulting in higher fares and tighter restrictions. So be careful in the hacks that you use.

Your best bet is to join loyalty clubs at your favorite hotel, airline, and car rental agency and stick with them as much as possible. Also, get a credit card that rewards you loyalty points. Your membership in those clubs can get you some extra perks.

What are some travel hacks have you found that don’t actually work? Any painful lessons you learned in your business travel? Share your experiences with us in the comments below, on our Facebook page, or in our Twitter stream.

Photo credit: Novotel Nathan Road Kowloon Hong Kong (Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons 2.0)

Packing Food for Air Travel

August 29, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Are you trying to stay on track with that new diet you’re on, but you have a business trip, and the thought of running the food court gauntlet without getting tripped up by some tempting food has you considering quitting? Do you have a dietary restriction that makes finding allergen-free food in the airport next to impossible?

Have you considered packing some snacks or meals to eat while you fly? You can take food through the TSA security checkpoints, you just have to know what food falls under its liquid restrictions — the 3-1-1 rule —and pack accordingly.

Although water bottles or other beverages must not exceed 3.4 ounces, don’t automatically assume you can’t bring items such as packets of nut butters or salad dressing. Just be sure the amount you’re bringing through security is less than 3.4 ounces/100ml. The liquid restrictions also apply to ice and gel packs as well, so be sure to time your arrival at the airport so those frozen food products are still frozen solid.

Peanut butter is not a good food to take during air travel, unless you pre-make your sandwichesItems listed by TSA as liquids include:

  • Nut butter (squeeze packs included)
  • Jam/jelly
  • Yogurt
  • Oil and vinegar
  • Creamy cheese
  • Salsa
  • Soups

That means you can’t bring more than 3.4 ounces of these items through security. You can see the complete list here.

The following foods are not listed in TSA’s guidelines for food, but should be taken only if you don’t mind risking their loss because a screener uses his or her discretion:

  • Pudding/Jell-O
  • Applesauce
  • Fruit cups with syrup

Other foods you prepare at home, such as sandwiches, salads, and snacks, do not have to adhere to the same restrictions as liquids, as long as there’s nothing too liquid or gel-like in them. For those who are serious about meal prep and frequent travelers, there are some totes designed to keep food cold during travel.

You don’t have to lose the battle of the bulge or resign yourself to getting sick from accidental allergen exposure because you’re flying. With a little knowledge and some planning, you can stay healthy while work takes you to the skies.

Do you travel with your own food? How do you make sure you’re staying healthy or avoiding problems on the road? Share your ideas in the comments below, on our Facebook page, or in our Twitter stream.

Photo credit: Piccolo Namek (Wikimedia Commons, GNU Free Documentation License)

How Much Should You Tip at Hotels?

August 22, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

In this country, tipping is a combination of good manners and best practices. Whether you agree with it or not almost doesn’t matter, because this is how the travel and service industries operate. You tip at restaurants, you tip your cab driver, you tip at hotels — it’s a part of travel etiquette.

But there are a lot of questions about who you should actually tip at hotels, so we’ve found some different resources on the subject and here’s what you should do if you want to become a champion of etiquette. Here’s just a short list of the most visible staff you need to consider tipping:

The lobby of the Bellagio Hotel. Staying at a place like expects that you tip at hotels.

The Bellagio Hotel – Definitely a tipping environment.

  • Shuttle driver: Typically receives $1–$2 per person or $4–$5 per party. Consider if they help with your bags or provide helpful information specific to your location.
  • Valet/parking attendant: Receives $2–$5 for delivering your vehicle. Tipping the parking attendant is optional.
  • Door Staff: The rule of thumb should be, the worse the weather, the higher the tip. Because they usually hail cabs and help with luggage or shopping bags, this rate fluctuates between $2–$5.
  • Bellman: If you have a particularly heavy bag or large quantity of them, consider tipping the bellman $2–$5 per piece of luggage.
  • Front desk attendant: If you’d like to ingratiate yourself to someone who could upgrade you to a better room, tip $5–$10 to the front desk attendant. But don’t assume that just because you do, they will. That’s a bribe.
  • Concierge: It’s not recommended, but is always appreciated. If you have a difficult request, it’s nice to tip at least $5. If it’s a more difficult request, tip a little higher.
  • Housekeeper: The one person who should always receive a tip. The most invisible of all a hotel’s staff, this army keeps your room tidy and your towels folded. Leaving a tip for them on the desk or nightstand is risky, though. Ask the hotel if it provides envelopes or place it under the pillow to ensure they receive your expression of gratitude.
  • Room service: If a tip might already be applied to the cost of the meal, a tip of a few dollars is all that’s expected. If not already accounted for, 20 percent of the bill is standard for room service delivery, especially if it’s late at night.
  • Waitstaff: Waitstaff at the hotel’s restaurant should receive a minimum of 15–20 percent of the bill, but be advised that this usually applies only in the US. Check with the front desk or concierge when traveling abroad to determine local standards.
  • Bartender: They receive similar gratuities of 15–20 percent of the tab. If you’re of the mind to tip per drink, $1–$2 is sufficient.
  • Restaurant bussing & Buffet attendants: Another group that is often unnoticed in a hotel dining room or restaurant is the waitstaff that bus the buffet. If they are refreshing your drinks, clearing plates, or procuring extra helpings, they should be compensated accordingly, and the average is usually $5. Don’t expect your primary waitstaff to split the tip with them.
  • Pool or beach attendant: The norm here varies according to the service being performed on your behalf. For towel or drink service, $1 per item is fine, but if they are moving chairs or setting up umbrellas, $5 goes a long way toward securing prime poolside real estate.

Before you succumb to the feeling that giving a tip at hotels is akin to being a human ATM, remember that those serving you are working hard, possibly harder than you, to make a living. They’re providing you a service, and it’s good etiquette to show your gratitude.

What do you usually tip your service providers? How do you handle the question? Let us hear from you in the comments below,on our Facebook page, orin our Twitter stream.

Top Five Strategies for Business Travel Efficiency

August 15, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Business travel is hard — hard on the body, hard on the mind — but making a few intelligent choices can make all the difference in terms of efficiency. To paraphrase the old saying about charity, “Good health starts at home.” You can’t be your best if you don’t take care of yourself first. Here are five strategies to help you be the most efficient traveler possible.

Travelpro Crew Executive Choice 2 Business Backpack - ideal for business travel

This checkpoint friendly backpack can get you through airport security with a minimum of fuss.

1. Pack wisely. Choosing the best luggage to meet your needs is the first way to set yourself up for success and streamline your travel experience. Our Crew™ 11 20″ Business Plus Carry-on is not only lightweight and durable, it features a complete business organizer with RFID protection for easy accessibility to your essentials and protection from identity theft. The Crew™ Executive Choice™ 2 checkpoint-friendly backpack is designed to maximize functional efficiency while on the road. Its exterior USB port and dedicated Power Bank battery pocket ensure you always have access to power on the move (battery not included), and the built-in business organizer has unique storage amenities, including padded and quilted sleeves for both a standard size laptop and tablet. Ensure all your essentials get where you’re going to and maximize efficiency while you’re doing it with a single bag.

2. Speaking of getting where you’re going, consider different modes of transportation. There are different, sometimes hidden advantages and disadvantages to various forms of travel, such as productivity en route. Weigh flying versus driving versus train travel to see which one gives you the best combination of productivity, less time wasted, and value for the dollar.

3. Be equally selective about your accommodations. Yes, the hotel further away from the customer is less expensive, but if you have to pay an Uber driver the difference to get there and back, the savings is a wash. Take the time to shop your options after you’ve thought through your needs for the location.

4. Fly once, visit many. It’s inefficient to spend the time and money to travel to a city where you have multiple existing or potential clients and not make time to see all of them. Take advantage of your proximity to schedule face to face meetings. Even if it costs you an extra night or two in a hotel, the lodging is usually cheaper than additional airfare.

5. Finally, create a detailed agenda. Those who fail to plan plan to fail, and that’s not you! Planning an itinerary not only allows you to schedule yourself effectively, it helps you articulate your thoughts and prioritize your goals. And, it even helps you figure out what clothes you need to pack, which results in wiser packing.

How do you travel efficiently? Do you do anything special to get the most out of your trip and stretch your time and money? Share your ideas in the comments below, on our Facebook page, or in our Twitter stream.

Four Ways to Bootstrap Your Travel Budget

August 8, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Video conferencing, data sharing, cloud computing, and mobile connectivity have been touted as the way to do business in the 21st century. Turns out, it’s hard to beat being in the room to conduct business. Face-to-face meetings facilitate better, clearer, and faster exchange of ideas. And don’t forget all the conferences and trade shows you have to attend.

According to Entrepreneur magazine, business travel is expected to grow by almost 6% each year over the next five years. How can startups and small businesses, which often operate on shoestring budgets, bootstrap their travel costs so their salespeople can close crucial deals?

Business travel is costly, but it doesn’t have to break the bank. Entrepreneur magazine’s article had some helpful ideas for bootstrapping your travel budget, and we came up with a couple of our own.

Get organized. Concur Technologies found that disorganization — failing to fully understand the true cost of travel — caused companies to waste nearly 20 percent more than large businesses in this category. Bottom line? Do a cost analysis of your frequent travel options in order to create a detailed, thorough, comprehensive travel policy that everyone must adhere to.

Business traveler walking through an airport. You can still fly even if you're trimming your travel budget.Spell out the details. The more your employees know about what will and won’t be covered when expenses are reported, the more informed decisions they’ll make when booking their trips. Create a list of preferred airlines, hotels, and rental car companies, and be explicit about how these costs are to be paid. Specify how expenses will be itemized and what receipts will be needed. Defining what will and won’t be covered stops the post-trip argument before it happens. Post your policy online so employees can look it up when they’re out of the office.

Don’t be stingy. While you’re bootstrapping, that doesn’t mean your staff needs to fly on cargo planes and eat beans from a can. Make travel enjoyable for the people who are spending days and weeks away from home. They don’t have to fly first class, but let them fly in Economy Plus, and let them keep their frequent flyer miles and hotel points. If they don’t like traveling, or they feel taken advantage of, you run the risk of them leaving, which means hiring and training new salespeople, which could eat up any savings you might have gotten otherwise.

Revise, revise, revise. Travel regulations change, prices change, and even the benefits from hotels and airlines change, not to mention your company’s own financial health. So update and amend your travel policies at least once a year. Make sure the airlines you choose still have a decent loyalty program. Double-check that your company credit card is still the best option for paying for travel. Ask for major input from the people who actually travel frequently for your company, rather than leaving it in the hands of people who rarely leave the office.

A startup or small business’s success may hinge on the ability to go to its customers, but neglecting to create and commit to a travel budget is planning to fail.

What kind of travel policies do you have at your company? How do you extend your travel budget? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, on our Facebook page, or in our Twitter stream.

Photo credit: MauriceBMueller (Pixabay, Creative Commons)

Business Travelers Can Continue to Carry Laptops in their Carry-On Luggage

July 25, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

The United States Department of Homeland Security has ended a four month ban on laptops in carry-on luggage on U.S. bound flights from the Middle East and North Africa. The ban was originally enacted because terrorism experts were concerned that explosives could be concealed in electronics as large as laptops and mobile tablets. It affected ten airports and nine airlines that are based in the Middle East.

The King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia was the final airport to have the ban lifted, after they and the other airlines and airports implemented new security measures designed to check for explosives in the large electronics.

Officials visited the ten airports in Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates, and confirmed that the security measures were in place.
Business travelers on Etihad Airways and other Middle East airlines were concerned about a laptop ban.
The airports originally affected include Amman, Jordan; Cairo, Egypt; Istanbul, Turkey; Jeddah, Saudia Arabia; Riyadh, Saudia Arabia; Kuwait City, Kuwait; Casablanca, Morocco; Doha, Qatar; Dubai, UAE; and Abu Dhabi, UAE. The carriers most heavily impacted by this ban were Egyptair, Emirates Airline, Etihad Airways, Kuwait Airways, Qatar Airways, Royal Air Maroc, Royal Jordanian, Saudia, and Turkish Airlines.

A ban on the citizens of Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen still remains in place, although several U.S. court hearings are challenging those restrictions.

The aviation industry has been trying to come together with a united message to governments and stakeholders about regulation and supporting the industry,” Will Horton, senior analyst at Australian aviation consultancy CAPA, told Reuters.

The ban was nearly expanded to cover all flights into the U.S. from the Middle East and Europe, which had international business travelers concerned. Since many business travelers have long been practitioners of “carry-on luggage only” travel, this could have had serious ramifications on business travel in general.

Instead, the U.S. accepted new security and screening measures from the airports in Europe and Middle East, other than the original ten airports, thus preventing the expanded ban. And now that the U.S. has lifted their ban on the remaining airlines, business travelers can continue to carry their laptops and tablets in their carry-on luggage.

That was a bit of a close call for business travelers, but we can remain productive. We’ve also talked about how to function without a laptop, should a similar ban return. How would you cope if the ban were instituted? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, on our Facebook page, or in our Twitter stream.

Photo credit: Alex Beltyukov (Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons 3.0)

TSA May Require Additional Screening for Additional Items at Airport

July 20, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

As if we weren’t already in the throes of the busiest season for traveling, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has announced that it might require more items to be removed from your carry-on luggage during screening. For the past 18 months, TSA has been testing how to make it easier for its officers to consistently view what’s in the bags they screen daily.

According to Wall Street Journal “Middle Seat” columnist Scott McCartney, the X-ray machine color codes the items inside the bag based on the density, and the more tightly packed the bag is, the harder it is for all its contents to be identified. That makes it difficult for screeners to identify the items within the bag.
TSA Bag Check
TSA officials have been considering having all electronics, food, and paper added to the list of items that must come out of every carry-on during screening. Why food? Certain items, such as chocolate, are dense and mimic the shape of explosives, often creating the necessity of a second look, just to be sure. Paper, including books and notepads, obscures other things, forcing the screener to tag a bag for a manual check that slows the line.

If you haven’t heard us sing its praises before, all these measures give us another reason to urge frequent travelers to invest in TSA’s Precheck. According to the TSA, the removal of these additional items would only apply in regular screening lines.

What should you do if you can’t afford Precheck and want to make sure your bag doesn’t get tagged for a manual search? Think through your packing strategy and be organized.

Store items that you already know need to be removed in the easy-to-access exterior pockets of your luggage. Consider electing to pull out that special chocolate bar you purchased at a gourmet shop as a souvenir so that it can be screened in plain sight in a separate bin with your jacket or shoes. Have a specific place you always store that favorite book or notepad you plan to use to help you pass the time onboard.

While these additional items haven’t been added to the official list, thoughtful packing before you arrive at the airport will help you develop a few habits that could save you some time and avoid unwanted hassle if the list is expanded.

How will these new rules, if they go through, affect you? Are you an electronics-only traveler, or do you carry a lot of paper and food as well? Let us hear from you in the comments below, on our Facebook page, or in our Twitter stream.

Photo credit: Bradley Gordon (Flickr, Creative Commons)

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