Eli Orzessek is Travel's Digital Content Producer.

Ask Away: Be prepared for US airport security

Be prepared, not scared, of US airport security, writes online guru Eli Orzessek.

Security is strict at airports in the United States. Photo / 123RF
Security is strict at airports in the United States. Photo / 123RF

I am travelling to the United States next month to visit family who I haven't seen since before 9/11. I've been nervous about visiting the States and flying domestically, especially since I've heard the lines for security checks are very long and airport officials can be very strict. Do you have any tips for getting through in one piece?

Sophia

Travelling to and around the US can definitely be a stressful experience — particularly in this age of heightened paranoia around terrorism. Just last week a 9-year-old boy with a pacemaker was refused entry on a flight after his family said he couldn't go through metal detectors.

According to America's Transportation Security Administration (TSA), the most important thing to remember is "prepare, prepare, prepare" - they say that's the best way to ensure a quick trip through the screening process.

The standard recommendation is to arrive 90 minutes to two hours before a flight — but looking at the crazily long lines this US summer, it's advisable to extend that time.

As with any flight, make sure your liquids are all the right size, stored in plastic bags and screened separately.

You should also be prepared to take off your shoes and belt.

When it comes to entering the US, make sure you have all your documents filled in and ready — as I'm sure you would with any flight — and declare whatever needs to be declared.

I was recently travelling overseas with a young Canadian photographer who told me he had his laptop and phone searched when he last visited the US — border agents are legally allowed to do so, without evidence.

So this is something to be aware of if you've got any embarrassing selfies you don't want scary US customs officials viewing.

However, I don't want to scare you too much! People enter and leave the US all the time and mostly it happens without any incidents. But the Americans do take their security very seriously, so it's good to be ready in advance.

Why do I have to take my laptop out of my bag every time I go through security? I thought x-ray machines were supposed to be able to see through everything, so I don't understand why this is necessary.

Gary

According to a blog post by the TSA, "removing larger electronics helps us get a better look at them and also allows us to get a better look at the contents of your bag".

As tablets and other smaller electronic devices aren't as dense as a typical laptop, they're able to stay in your bag.

Apparently it's easier to hide things in a big laptop and items have been found concealed in the past — so looks like you'll be taking it out and putting it back for a while yet.

Tweet us @NZHTravel or use the hashtag #NZHAskAway
Email your questions to askaway@nzherald.co.nz

- NZ Herald

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