Trying to get out of Dodge to get to your second home for Turkey Day? There is all this controversy over the TSA’s new enhanced security measures, including the chance to get “patted-down” if you set off the metal detectors at the airport. The hardest part about having a second home is getting there, which, unless you have your own sky wheels or can drive, often necessitates getting on a commercial flight. Personally, I’m happy for the added security and I have heard from some traveling readers that it’s no big deal. Then I’ve heard from radiologists that the enhanced X-Rays are too invasive. I’m sure my husband (an ob/gyn) would advise his pregnant patients to avoid the radiation… or maybe not.
Here’s official TSA advice sprinkled with my own about what you can expect at airports today and tomorrow – and how you can make the process a bit smoother.
–Before you leave the house for the airport, stop, take a breath, go potty and check your pockets. Put any jewelry in a baggie inside your purse. Offer to carry your spouse’s loose change the same way. Pack the sneakers and wear flip flops or other shoes that can be slipped off. The only thing in your pocket: a pair of socks or paper booties to ear on the yucky floor.
— Wear a bra for the trip that does not contain any underwire — I know, this is tough for me. Narrow down your travel wardrobe to two or three comfy outfits that hide your boobs and hold no metal — warm-ups without zippers are great. I have these set aside in my closet for “day of travel” wear. I am working with my husband on this concept.
–The TSA’s new screening techniques are in place at all domestic airports, even if security is handled by a private company instead of the agency.
–Only passengers who set off a walk-through metal detector or advanced-imaging technology machine, or who opt out of the scanning machine, receive a pat-down.
–See my first tip: Items that might set off an alarm on the metal detector include: keys; loose change; cellphones; pagers; heavy jewelry (including pins, necklaces, bracelets, rings, watches, earrings, body piercings, cuff links, lanyards and bolo ties); clothing with metal buttons, snaps or studs; metal barrettes or other hair accessories; belt buckles; and underwire bras.
–Travelers are required to remove their shoes and put them through the X-ray machine for inspection. Slip-on shoes or flip-flops ease the process. I also hate walking barefoot on a dirt floor so tuck booties in my pocket.
–Prepare for screening by removing the contents of your pockets — do this at home — and alert the security officer if you have a hidden medical device. Less than 3 percent of passengers end up needing a pat-down, the TSA says.
–Pat-downs will take longer than body scans. According to the TSA, body scans take about five seconds, with an extra 15 to 20 seconds for processing. Pat-downs take one to two minutes.
–Pat-downs are conducted by TSA officers who are the same sex as the person being screened. (Who cares? Are people really this Puritan?)
–Children age 12 and younger who require extra screening will receive a “modified” pat-down. The TSA has declined to provide specifics of its pat-down procedures.