Once upon a time—pre COVID—I was roaming the world with my quasi-office (laptop and camera) in my backpack. I caught flights like the average person would catch a bus or train, sometimes even sleeping in airports so that I wouldn't miss my flight. I love airports: the buzzing chatter, the air of excitement, and the constant scurry of bodies rushing to departure gates or arriving travelers falling into the arms of friends or family. Traveling gives me an adrenalin rush like nothing else. But, hand-in-hand with that adventurous feeling was always the panic of going through airport security: get the laptop out, do I need to take my camera out, what about batteries, do my shoes need to come off, have I left any liquid in a bottle, how long is the queue, am I holding everyone up in the line behind me and the list of security gate woes goes on.
Every country has its own idiosyncracies where airport security is concerned. How to avoid some of the most common requirements, that I quite often learned the hard way, are below:
Take out that laptop
Most of us travel with a laptop, especially if we suffer from FOMO (the fear of missing out), sometimes a mobile phone just won't cut it. So make it easy on yourself and carry it separately, rather than grappling the device from a backpack. You actually don't need a dedicated computer bag, as an Asian woven cloth bag is perfect to be slung over your shoulder. Maybe not a fashionista's must-have. But it's great for going through airport security as you don't have to do a duck-dive into a bottomless bag trying to find your laptop. Plus, any other time, it will fold up into a teeny-weeny bundle that you can place in your luggage.
The dreaded metal detector
The metal detector's sensitivity will depend on what airport/country you are in, which will dictate what items the sensor squawks at in a hissy fit.
Try to avoid wearing anything with a metal component. You will get to know what jewelry items are likely to set it off: some bracelets, watches, rings, and belts with heavy buckles. Predominantly your nipple rings or other piercing jewelry will be fine. If you are really worried about that stud in a nether region, ensure that your piercing jewelry items are made of bioplast, which is actually super comfy to wear. Underwire bras usually won't be a problem. Still, if this idea plagues your mind, wear a sports bra; it will be more comfortable anyway.
If you have a pacemaker or a body of metal plates and screws, always advise security before going through the scanner.
Clear out your Pockets
Before you even stand in the queue to go through security, clean out your pockets—coins, keys, empty sweet wrappers, and any lurking musty chunks of lint.
If you are not into taking shoes off, then don't wear steel-toe cap shoes, boots of any description, or high-heels, as you will be asked to remove them. Also, ensure that your shoes are easy to take on and off—that means don't wear lace-ups or strappy sandals.
Strip off the Outer Layers
If you don't want to be yelled at, take off your jacket, hoodie, or cardigan, as these items will have to go through the scanner. Hats of any description are a no-no, but you can keep on a religious headscarf—although if the alarm goes off, it will be patted down. You can also keep your spectacles on, but wearing sunglasses through a checkpoint will be frowned upon and raise a few suspicions.
Runny Items aka liquids
Everyone should be aware of this requirement, yet it's so easy to forget about.
Any liquids or gels must be less than 3.4 ounces and placed in a separate clear plastic bag for inspection.
E-cigarettes or Vaping Devices
Check with your airline, as there are some differences, but basically, pack it separately in your carry-on luggage with the device turned off. If possible, remove the batteries from the device. Also, if you can, empty the device's tank before flying to prevent leakage due to elevation change.
OMG - packing guns!
Just thought I should mention this one—you have to follow the legal rules regarding the transportation of firearms and definitely not put them in carry-on luggage.
Be Your Polite Self
Be patient if standing in a long queue, which means allowing yourself plenty of time to go through the security rigmarole without the brain fear-spasm that you will miss your flight. Definitely don't argue with a security officer—bow, scrape and answer any questions honestly if you don't want to waste time getting to your flight. Ensure that you use the correct security lane—the special lanes are for 'special' people only (airline crew, VIPs, and maybe first-class passengers). You may think you qualify as 'special,' but security officers may have a very different idea of what category you belong to.
Take a Deep Breath when you are spat out the other end of the security checkpoint. Ensure that you collect ALL your belongings before heading to the appropriate gate for your departure. This is no time for a pseudo-senior's moment that has you arrriving at the boarding gate only to discover that you have left your boarding pass/watch/passport/coat/children or whatever, back at security.
NB Ensure that you follow airport COVID mandates ie wearing a face mask