How to Fly Without an ID

July 13, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

It’s about the biggest inconvenience you can experience when traveling: you arrive at the airport and realize you don’t have your ID. What do you do? For starters, don’t turn around and go home. You won’t make your flight, and may be hit with a ticket change fee.

Here’s what you can do instead.

TSA CheckpointFirst, seriously, don’t panic. It is possible to continue with your itinerary without an ID. Isn’t that good news? The bad news is it’s going to cost you some time, but no money.

Be prepared to provide a succinct summary of your predicament to TSA. You don’t have to hang your head or act embarrassed. This happens enough that they’re used to it, and as long as you are willing to submit yourself to a second layer of security, you’ll be fine. Whatever you do, don’t be cocky — you are in no position to demand anything — after all, you did forget your ID or lost it. You are at the mercy of the system and there is a procedure for this situation, so submit to it, be kind and be patient. The old saying, “Lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part,” applies here.

Next, be prepared to answer all questions honestly and politely. TSA officers go through behavioral detection training, and while you may be stressed, you don’t have to be nervous. They’re just doing their job.
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TSA Hires Officers, Shifts Dog Teams to Shorten Lines

July 6, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

I consider myself a frequent business traveler, but even I was shocked when I descended the escalator to the security area at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago last month. The entire winding queue was full and an overflow area had been set up to accommodate more travelers. My first thought was, “I’m glad I got here early.”

TSA CheckpointThe line didn’t take nearly as long as I thought it would, but it was still 45 minutes long, much longer than I like to stand in line.

Now that the summer travel season is in full swing, many people are experiencing firsthand what others have been talking about for months: long lines. TSA successfully petitioned Congress this spring to reverse its decision to cut 1,700 people from its workforce and has hired 800 new officers, but it’s still taking some time to get up to speed.
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TSA Pleads with Congress for Overtime

June 6, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

It was the recipe for a perfect storm. The security screening process at most major airports was already operating at capacity, and the summer travel season was just months away. In an attempt to anticipate the influx, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) campaigned to get 25 million travelers to sign up for its PreCheck program. But the campaign to enroll members in the program only netted nine million users, so Congress cut nearly 10 percent of TSA’s workforce: 4600 people.

Now summer is here and TSA is understaffed, so it pleaded with Congress to authorize overtime for its existing workers while it scrambles to hire and train 768 new officers. The reallocation of funds from one account to another, to the tune of $34 million dollars, was approved May 12. TSA had originally planned on completing its needed hiring by September, but the estimated eight percent increase in travelers anticipated between Memorial Day weekend and Labor Day changed that.

TSA Bag CheckSince the first of the year, TSA has been advising travelers to arrive at least two hours before their domestic flight in order to allow adequate time to navigate the security line. Many have not heeded this advice and a harbinger of what was to come was seen in March during Spring Break when nearly 7,000 travelers missed their flights due to long wait times.
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DHS Revisiting Validity of State Driver’s Licenses

February 12, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Depending on which state you lived in, you might have had some trouble getting onto your next flight. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was all set to require states to issue driver’s licenses that complied with the Real ID Act.

If your license didn’t meet those standards, you couldn’t get on your plane.

But as the deadline drew near, the DHS extended their deadline to January 22, 2018, heading off a potential showdown between states and the Transportation Safety Administration at the nation’s airports.

real_id_web_03

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Bring This, Not That: Prepared Dishes

November 6, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Food and the holidays are like salt and pepper. They go together naturally.

If your family expects you to make a blueberry pie every Thanksgiving, you probably want to oblige. But should you bake it at home and take it with you, or make it once you get there? It’s an easy question if you live in the same city, but what if you have to travel a long distance for the holidays?

Cranberry sauce & Gravy

Cranberry sauce & Gravy (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you’re traveling by car, you can make everything ahead of time and put it into a carrying case or cooler. But if you’re flying, you may not want to cart a pie through airport security. Even though TSA’s website says “we’ve seen just about everything,” they also warn that a carry-on pie may be subject to additional screening.

In other words, make the food when you get there.

The TSA has a list of items you can’t carry onto the plane, including cranberry sauce, gravy, and soup. You could carry them on as long as they measured under 3.4 ounces, but that won’t put much food on the table.

You could always check-in the food items in question, but the containers could easily break during the baggage handling process of your flight. Cans or bottles could explode from the pressure, or a glass bottle could break from rough handling from a baggage handler, or when it lands onto the baggage claim carousel from the chute.

If you cook with special ingredients or have food allergies or dietary concerns that force you to eat carefully, weigh the pros and cons of packing or carrying these items. Usually your best bet is to buy the food items when you arrive at your destination.

Of course, it’s always possible you may be heading somewhere without many options, like a small town in the Midwest. In that case, consider ordering from a specialty food store or even Amazon. Or you could just box the items up and ship them yourself. Either way, your favorite foods and ingredients will be waiting for you when you arrive at your destination.

Have you ever shipped, carried, or checked food items for the holidays? How did you do it? Would you do it again or have you found a new method? Leave a comment or let us hear from you on our Facebook page.

TSA Needs to be Consistent on New Security Rules for Electronics

October 7, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

The TSA is now requiring anyone flying into the US to be able to turn on their mobile phones and other mobile devices whenever prompted by security. Right now, the plan is only in effect for those traveling into the United States, but it could eventually become standard procedure here in the US.

So far, each airport has approached the policy differently. Heathrow Airport in the UK is checking devices at the gate while others are checking them at security or at check-in. Many people are confused by the new rules, with a lack of consistent direction from the airports.

Heathrow has put up signs to instruct people about the device policy, and others should be following their lead soon. Airlines and airports will be posting the policy on their websites to allow for more people to understand the new policy before arriving at the airport.

At Travelpro, we’re curious whether the security will screen every single device or randomly select based on some criteria. TSA recently released a statement that said that “officers may also ask that owners power up their devices,” which suggests that not everyone will be required to.

We also wonder how the TSA will enforce this policy? Most of the screening will be done overseas and therefore under other countries’ control. Will TSA require certain regulations and reports? Will this be a cooperative effort between all the countries?

All airport security processes are somewhat networked, but they’re also independent. Therefore, they don’t have to follow each others’ rules and requirements. However, because each agency and country is concerned with security, we would hope that they would work together to ensure everyone’s safety.

If you are unsure how the device policy is going to work and you are traveling, call the airport or search on their website to find more information. Homeland Security has commanded TSA to regulate this policy with little disruption if possible, so we hope this will be the case for all travelers in the future.

The best move for a traveler is to have their mobile devices charged before arriving at the airport. If you are chosen to turn on your device, you will be prepared.

A Behind-The-Scenes Look at TSA’s Baggage Check

September 9, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Boarding a plane can be a hectic journey. You don’t want to miss your flight or forget your passport or go to the wrong terminal. But have you ever thought about the journey your bags go on once you check them?

CBS 46’s Pothole Harry did a fascinating behind the scenes report on where your luggage goes. At Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, the world’s busiest airport, TSA screens about 30,000 bags per day. (One surprising tidbit: oftentimes, your luggage boards the plane before you do.)

The way the system works is that the Transportation Safety Administration has some very large scanners and an intricate conveyor belt. Each bag is sorted and scanned, as the system looks for questionable items, using an algorithm that looks for certain objects. If an item is found and flagged, the system then alerts an operator and the bag is sent for further inspection. Something may be considered questionable if it’s flammable, sharp like knives, or alive, like the suitcase full of live crabs someone had tried to check through the system.

TSA Bag CheckTSA will open your bag, inspect it, and then place a note in the bag that informs you of the search and identifies themselves. They do this so, when travelers open their suitcase and find things packed differently, they know why. If there are any questions about missing items, the name on the note will help the TSA identify who inspected your bag. There are also hundreds and thousands of security cameras in the inspection area to cut down on theft.

How our luggage is handled, where it goes, and who touches it is valuable information. Knowing the airlines and TSA have a solid system is important, because it ensures our safety in the air, and helps reduce the amount of lost luggage each year.

Photo credit: Bradley Gordon (Flickr, Creative Commons)

TSA’s New Smartphone Rules May Cause Bigger Problems

August 14, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Thanks to new proposed rules regarding dead mobile phones and tablets, many travelers are worried about what could happen if their portable electronics die before they get through airport security.

The new rules require that all electronic devices must be able to be powered up at security, after it was revealed that Al Qaeda has figured out how to disguise bombs in electronic devices without detection. Currently, the only flights affected are those going into the United States, but not out of the country, or within it.

The Controversy

Cell phone and battery charger

Cell phone and battery charger

What happens when someone cannot power up his or her devices? According to an article by Conde Nast, the dead devices would be held at the airport or could be shipped to the owner’s house. If the devices are held at the airport, where would they be stored and what kind of security would oversee this storage? Many people have expressed concern at possibly being without their phones because of a dead battery, especially when their power cable is in their luggage.

The Costs

If the devices are to be shipped to the owner’s house, this method could be quite costly, especially for travelers returning to the US. Depending on how the policy is enacted and enforced, there could be a lot of confiscated devices to process.

One suggestion we’ve seen lately is to install electrical outlets and chargers at security stations. This means airports would have to relocate power supplies and install plugs. Then they would have to allow time for devices to charge enough to power up. However, this would solve the problem for travelers whose mobile device died in the airport. Another possibility would be charging stations outside security, where people can charge for several minutes before entering the line.

Will This Create Backups?

On the other hand, what kind of problems could be created as people fumble with dead phones, trying to charge them at the new stations, or even arranging them to have sent back home. And, what if you miss your flight? Though the new rules are for safety and security, the implementation process could cause quite a dilemma for many travelers if it’s not planned and implemented well.

Word to the wise: regardless of where you’re traveling, charge all your devices before heading out to catch your flight.

Photo credit: Jeremy Page (Flickr, Creative Commons)

Gatwick Airport Tests Hi-Tech Security and Passenger Technology

August 12, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Remember how impressed you were the first time you saw an airport faucet that turned on automatically when you waved your hand in front of them? (Don’t pretend you weren’t!)

It’s almost shocking how far airports have come technologically since then. Case in point: Gatwick Airport’s chief information officer, Michael Ibbitson, recently told FutureTravelExperience.com about the new technology that’s not just wowing passengers, but also streamlining the passenger experience and making travel safer for everyone. Let’s take a look at some of the technological advances Gatwick has made.

Speeding Up Bag Check

English: Gatwick South Terminal Zone K check-i...

Gatwick South Terminal Zone K check-in concourse (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Automated bag check and check-in are technologies well on their way to mass adoption at this point, but Gatwick is aiming to make them more efficient than ever.

EasyJet has been testing a bag drop system fueled by Phase 5 Technology at its Gatwick hub. According to Ibbitson, the average passenger took 76 seconds to process — the goal is to get passengers through in 45 — so they’re tweaking the system, working toward maximum efficiency.

Automated Security

One of the major headaches of air travel, no matter how far you’re traveling, is getting through security. Gatwick is attempting to make security checkpoints smoother by automating them — the systems installed in 2012 have cut wait time to an average of a mere 107 seconds — and installing Security Max lanes that will enable even more passengers to prepare for the checkpoint at once.

Iris Scanning Technology

The wildest technology we read about: Biometrics as a single passenger token. The gist is that when you check in at the airport and drop your bag off, a machine also scans your iris — an identity marker that’s almost impossible to forfeit — and all your passenger information, from baggage tracking to your passport and boarding pass, is encoded into the scan.

A single scan of your iris is all it takes to move you through the rest of the travel process throughout the airport — and even at your destination.

According to the Future Travel Experience post, this technology is well within reach — it’s the widespread implementation of the technology at airports worldwide that will take some time.

What technology would you most like to see implemented in your favorite airport? The sky’s the limit, so they say — leave a comment with your loftiest technology dreams.

Avoid These Common Travel Scams

June 26, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Benjamin Corey is an author, speaker, and blogger who frequently travels internationally, so he knows part of the travel game is for some locals to try to rip off unsuspecting tourists. He’s always on his guard and knows most travel scams. But after his flight to the Democratic Republic of Congo was delayed by a few hours, he found himself stranded outside the airport without his designated ride.

In a very dangerous area, he was very relieved when a taxi driver called his name and announced himself as the new ride. Turns out, this taxi driver was not his new designated ride at all, and Corey found himself in a life-or-death situation. Corey was able to draw on his years of experience and knowledge to escape the situation unharmed, frightened and embarrassed, but able to see where he went wrong. (It’s an interesting read.)

We were reminded of Benjamin’s story after seeing a Mental Floss article about several different travel scams flogged on unsuspecting tourists. Here are a few of our “favorites,” and how you can avoid them.

    Attention aux PickPockets (dans La Tour Eiffel...

    Attention aux PickPockets (dans La Tour Eiffel) @EiffelTower (Photo credit: dullhunk)

  • The Store Scam: A local starts up a conversation and mentions that his family owns a local store where you can get great deals on local goods. Deals that sound too good to be true (which should be your first clue). When you go to the store, you will be extorted and badgered for everything you have, and the deals aren’t that good to begin with.
  • The Change Scam: Merchants will often try to not give you exact change back, or give you change with incorrect exchange rates. To prevent this, carry small bills/coins or pay with your credit card. This helps you avoid getting shortchanged on the exchange rate as well.
  • The Taxi Scam: The very same scam that Benjamin Corey knew to avoid but still fell victim to. Before getting into cabs, ask if the driver knows the directions and for the ride fee. If he or she cannot answer, the ride is likely not legitimate. Try to only catch cabs in front of an airport or hotel, rather than just flagging one down that “looks like” a cab. If at all possible, arrange for a private driver to pick you up beforehand. Try to get a photo of your driver emailed to you, and ask him or her to confirm with you, even with a simple passphrase, like “John sent me.”
  • The Distraction Scam: You’re walking down the street. Someone bumps into you, spilling their drink or food on you in the process. They apologize and try to help clean you up, or so you think. You were actually just pickpocketed. Keep your money secured on your person, and don’t carry everything with you.
  • The Fake Cop scam: If a cop asks for you to pay a fine on the spot, he’s most likely looking for a bribe. Respond by politely saying you will only pay at a police station. Stick to this answer even if the cop becomes loud and aggressive.
  • The Dropped Ring Scam: A local will say he found a dropped gold ring, which likely isn’t even gold. He will give it to you, then demand a finder’s fee. He may even begin shouting to attract attention in the hopes of embarrassing you into paying. Don’t accept the ring in the first place, and just walk away. Drop it again, if necessary.

In all cases, it’s best to walk away from the situation as soon as you realize what’s going on. Never hand anyone your money, your camera, or any of your belongings. Keep your wallet and money in a secure place. And always take an official taxi; never accept a ride from a local.

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