The easiest time for pickpockets, robbers, or a loss of personal belongings is when you are in motion. On the bookends of your trip, you should be hyper-aware of your surroundings. When you’re moving through the airport, there are all sorts of events: check-in, bag check, security checkpoint, convenience stop, walk to the terminal, and finally board the plane. Here are eight tips to keep your safety – and sanity – in check.
Research fees and document requirements before traveling.
Corruption remains a problem among customs and security personnel at some airports. Officials may insist that travelers pay fees or fines for fictitious violations. Some countries have strict requirements for certain documents, including vaccination records, and impose hefty (but legal) fines on travelers who do not have the required documents. If you are familiar with the published duties and fees, you can challenge the request for a fine. Bribes are illegal in every country- always use the term “fine” or “fee” when challenging the request for payment. If officials still insist on an additional fare, comply and pay the fine if the situation isn’t mitigated.
Stay vigilant entering the airport.
In places under constant threat, like Baghdad and Kabul, Afghanistan, security checkpoints begin miles from the terminal and include a myriad of scans, checks, and bomb-sniffing dogs. Following the Brussels airport bombing event, the airport added vehicle screening which occurs about a mile before the airport on the access road. US-based airports currently do not have street-side airport security; travelers can drive up to the terminal and use a convenient curbside bag-check. In this respect, it’s important to be aware of suspicious activity or baggage and report to airport security.
While the aviation industry has made significant progress towards harmonizing aviation security screening standards across the world, some countries still have different procedures and standards. Travelers should not be alarmed if security procedures differ from those in their home country.
Be aware during bag check.
Have your ID at the ready and know the bag weight limit of the airline you’re flying. If prepared, you’re less likely to feel rushed or lose any belongings. Burglars have been known to hang around airports checking addresses to locate empty homes. It’s a good idea to make sure to hide your luggage tag so that passersby cannot view your home address.
Pack essentials in your carry-on.
To ensure the safekeeping of your electronics, medicine, and any other items that you will need access to during your flight, pack them in your carry-on. Keeping an eye on your carry-on is also important in wait lines. Bring a carry-on or purse that has a zipper to avoid a quick reach-and-grab. It may go without saying, but also never leave luggage unattended- even if someone next to you offers to watch it while you use the restroom.
Prepare for security checkpoints.
Once checked-in and in line for security, a standard rule of thumb is to take out electronics, cameras, and mobile devices and be ready to place them in a separate bin. Some checkpoint requirements are country-specific laws. For example, flights from some countries do not allow people to carry laptops in a carry-on. Other airports instruct the removal of shoes, belts, and anything metal. Know the security requirements of the places you are traveling to and from; you will be able to focus more on what is happening around you.
Move from landside to airside as quickly as possible.
Airside (post-security) areas of airports are less exposed to terrorism and crime than the landside, so travelers should try to get through from the landside to the airside as quickly as possible. Max Leitschuh, Sr. Intelligence Transportation Manager, says that passengers can take several steps to reduce their exposure to the possible threat of terrorist attacks in landside areas of airports. These include:
- Only bring carry-on luggage if possible
- Check in online before arriving at the airport
- Print boarding passes at home or send to a mobile device
- Proceed directly to security checkpoints after arriving at the airport instead of loitering in the landside areas
- Sign up for trusted traveler programs that are available (such as TSA Pre Check)
Passengers can sometimes use security checkpoints at terminals or concourses different from the scheduled flight concourse if they connect to the airside portion of the airport and the lines are shorter.
Be cognizant when you reach your destination.
Long flights, time differences, and travel itself can leave travelers tired. Be sure to take necessary steps to re-energize prior to arriving at your destination. This will allow you to stay alert as you transition from the airplane to the airport. Use peripheral vision to stay aware of your surroundings as you migrate through the airport. Make sure you only use official taxis or transportation that has been booked ahead of time. If staying at a hotel, pre-arrange an airport transfer using the hotel transportation service.
It’s important that travelers purchase insurance before embarking on a trip. Travel insurance covers emergency help if needed.