"If in doubt, leave it out," should be the motto for travelers packing for a flight, especially around holidays when airports can be jammed. Security at U.S. airports remains intense, and...

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“If in doubt, leave it out,” should be the motto for travelers packing for a flight, especially around holidays when airports can be jammed.

Security at U.S. airports remains intense, and keeping the lines moving quickly at airport checkpoints is in everyone’s interest.

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Here are some do’s and don’ts as recommended by the U.S. Transportation Security Administration, Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and airlines.

Carry-on rules

• Firearms and other weapons obviously cannot be taken as carry-on items on planes, nor can any items that could be used as weapons. For example, virtually all knives and scissors with pointed metal tips are forbidden in carry-on luggage (although they can be put in checked bags). However, knitting needles and crochet needles are allowed in carry-on bags.

• Screwdrivers are forbidden in carry-on, except for the mini screwdrivers in eyeglass-repair kits.

• Walking canes are allowed as carry-on, but will be inspected to ensure that nothing is concealed in them.

• Flammable items such as flare guns or strike-anywhere matches are prohibited from both carry-on and checked luggage because of fire danger.


Seattle-Tacoma International Airport:


or www.portseattle.org/seatac

• If you’re not sure about an item, check with your airline or the U.S. Transportation Security Administration. The TSA Web site has a list of what you can and can’t take in carry-on or checked luggage: See www.tsa.gov or phone 866-289-9673.

If you arrive at Sea-Tac airport and find you have something that isn’t allowed through the security checkpoint, use one of the “Send It Home” self-service kiosks near the checkpoints to mail it home to yourself instead of having the item confiscated by security staff. See www.portseattle.org/seatac/services

Helping security staff

• Take a plastic bag with you and put any items that might set off the metal detector in it before you pass through security, including watches, keys, jewelry, mobile phones or coins. (If you forget a plastic bag, they may be available at checkpoints.) That makes it easier for inspectors to inspect items and less likely that you’ll leave something behind.

• Take off your coat, jacket or bulky sweatshirt before you get to the checkpoint so inspectors can see you’re not concealing any dangerous items.

• You don’t have to remove your shoes, but if you’re wearing thick-soled or thick-heeled boots or shoes, taking them off so they can be easily inspected may help the line move more quickly.

• Be aware that clothing with metal — such as belt buckles, snaps or underwire bras — may set off the metal detector and mean you have to undergo a secondary screening that could include a pat-down.

If you’re taking along a laptop, take it out of its bag before you get to checkpoint.

Locking luggage

You can lock your checked luggage, but TSA screeners — who inspect checked luggage behind the scenes — may cut off the lock to search the bag. Travelers are urged to use special “recognized by the TSA” locks, available from a variety of luggage companies, that can be opened and relocked by TSA screeners with a special tool. Such locks are made by Eagle Creek, Samsonite and more; check with luggage stores, or there’s a list of TSA-approved locks on its Web site at www.tsa.gov

Film, gifts and more

• Take film in your carry-on luggage; the X-ray machines used on checked luggage can damage undeveloped film.

• Wrap gifts when you arrive, not before you go, so security staff can inspect them.

• Last, but not least: Don’t make any jokes about bombs or terrorists at security checkpoints. You could find yourself going through intense screening — or being arrested.

Kristin Jackson: 206-464-2271 or kjackson@seattletimes.com