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Los Angeles' LAX, showing the long lines of travelers. Photo by Kent E. St. John.
Los Angeles' LAX, showing the long lines of travelers.
Photo by Kent E. St. John.

Adjusting to Air Travel Changes:

"I Will Still Fly the Skies"


editor's note: Since this story was written, the Transportation Safety Administration has changed its regulations to allow liquids and gels in containers of three ounces or less. See their website for details.

It has been almost five years minus a month since September 11, 2001, a date that changed the way we will travel forever. It is now August 11, 2006, and I am headed to the airport the day after the break-up of a terrorist plot in England to down ten planes.

Once again the way we travel has changed and we must again adjust. Before leaving the house I had to take all liquids out of my carry-on, not a big change for myself but for my wife it meant removing all make-up and cosmetics. This is a seemingly simple thing but it is just the tip of the iceberg. What will it all mean? I hope to learn on this trip across country to San Francisco.      

Smaller Works

The news on the radio heading up to Albany was filled with delay info for New York City airports, and as I parked the car at Albany Airport there seemed to be huge lines there also.

Using the curbside check-in took strangely less than ten minutes. I timed someone checking in inside the terminal and it took them thirty, for the $2.00 curb fee I saved twenty minutes.

Security had longer lines than usual at Albany but in general it wasn’t all that bad and seemed efficient. The only noticeable difference was a barrel filled with water bottles, toothpaste tubes and cosmetic products.

My trip to SF was on Southwest and it included a change at Midway in Chicago. At Midway I happened to see a TV news report about the huge delays at O’Hare Airport, but Midway worked out just fine for me. It occurred to me that using the smaller airports may just be one of the new changes in my travel strategies. Over the course of my trip I came up with several others.

Hooked In

Until things get sorted airport changes will fluctuate, so go to the source. TSA or the Transportation Security Administration is responsible for implementing the changes leaving to reason that their website would be a good place to get last minute info.

Currently the biggest change is no liquids, gels or lotions in your carry-on. That goes for toothpaste, shampoo, cologne, or even that water you just paid $2.50 for in the airport mart. Boarding for Oakland, countless travelers were guzzling coffee, juice and water and chucking the bottles in a can that stands near every gate.

Duty Free shops will take a huge hit with the recently enacted ban on liquids in flight carryons.
Duty Free shops will take a huge hit with the recently enacted ban on liquids in flight carryons.

For a complete list of banned items scroll down to the bottom of this story. The travelers most impacted are those who loved traveling without dealing with checking in bags.

At every airport I went through, the baggage carousels became another bottleneck and added an average of fifteen extra minutes to travel time. On the upside there was far more room on the plane due to far fewer carry-on bags.

Strip Down

It has always been my least favorite part of air travel: the dreaded security check. For now at least wear shoes that are easy to remove--loafers or sandals instead of lace-up sneakers or boots. Save your time and everyone else’s by just stripping as much as possible including belts, jewelry and change. Most of the delay caused was due to travelers who repeatedly beeped when screened.

Take your laptop out of its case and also place your coat or sweater in a container. Also have your boarding pass and ID readily available. On all my flights I found that if travelers just did what is expected the time on line could be cut in half.

Viva Las Vegas

This airport was by far the busiest I passed through, with delays from the past week just getting sorted out. It also happened to be fortuitous for me. It has been years since I played the bump game. Bumping is volunteering to surrender your space on a flight for future flight vouchers. In my case, my wife and I received a total of $800 for future travel on Southwest good for the next year and a room at a Double Tree Hotel.

I asked the gate agent whether there was an increase in bumps due to stepped-up security. He said a record amount was due to people missing flights. The reason most missed their flights was due to lack of time they left themselves to catch their flights. If you need to get somewhere, get to the airport early!

Bottom Line      

On my cross country trip I really didn’t suffer due to changes much at all. I did allow for more time in airports and really just took for granted that once again vigilance is now necessary. I carried far less on board and resigned myself to include time at the baggage claim. I hydrated as much as possible while still on the ground and carried a good book to pass the time.

I took the time to check with the TSA website the night before flying. When the lines got long I

Baby bottles will have to be sipped by mama in order to board the plane.
Baby bottles are ok, as long as you actually have a baby with you.

thought about how lucky I was that I didn’t own a Body Shop franchise at an airport. The bottom line is that I will still fly the skies!

Kent E. St. John
Kent E. St. John has been GoNOMAD's Senior Travel Editor since the website was founded in 2000. During that time he has circled the globe many times, visiting more than 80 countries. His Travel writing blog is called "Be Our Guest."

See our Kent E. St. John Page with links to all his stories and photo galleries

A Summary of Transportation Security Administration Rules

Due to enhanced security measures most liquids, gels, lotions and other items of similar consistency are not permitted in carry-on baggage. These types of items must be packed in your checked baggage.

Liquids, gels and lotions can be purchased beyond the checkpoint but must be disposed of before boarding the aircraft.

Exceptions: Baby formula and breast milk if a baby or small child is traveling; prescription medicine with a name that matches the passenger’s ticket; up to 8 oz. of liquid or gellow blood sugar treatment and up to 4 oz. of non-prescription liquid medications.

Prohibited Make-up and Personal Items

Aerosal spray bottles and cans
All creams and lotions including Neosporin or first-aid creams and ointments, topical or rash creams and ointments, suntan lotions, moisturizers, etc.
Bug and mosquito sprays and repellents
Eye drops (See exceptions below)
Gel deodorants

You can't bring these on the plane anymore, either. Damn those terrorists!
You can still bring gel baby toys on board, this rule was changed by the TSA recently.

Hair styling gels
Hair sprays of all kinds including aerosol
Hair straightener or detangler
Lip gels and balms
Lip glosses or liquids for lips
Liquid bubble bath including gel or liquid filled bubble bath balls or bath oils or moisturizers
Liquid foundations
Liquid, gel or spray perfumes or colognes
Liquid sanitizers
Liquid soaps
Make-up removers or facial cleansers
Non-prescription liquid or gel medicines like cough syrup and gel cap type pills (See section on Medications)
Nail polish and removers
Saline solution (See exceptions below)
Shampoos and conditioners

Food and Drinks

All beverages
Camelbaks and similar backpacks and water bottles (See exceptions below)
Cheese in pressurized containers
Duty free alcohol and other items (Please see our section on Duty Free Items)
Gel based sports supplements
Whipped cream
Yogurt or gel like food substances

Other Items

Baby teethers with gel or liquid inside

Lighters, with the exception of Zippos, are not allowed on board.
Lighters, with the exception of Zippos, are not allowed on board.

Children’s toys with gel inside
Gel candles
Gel shoe inserts (See exceptions below)
Lighters (Read our section on lighters and matches)


Under certain circumstances, some items from the list above are permitted.

Eye drops - You are allowed to carry up to 4 oz., of eye drops with you. Volumes greater than 4 oz., are only permitted in your checked baggage.

Gel shoe Inserts - Gel shoe inserts are not permitted, but shoes constructed with gel heels are allowed and must be removed and screened.

Saline solution - You are allowed to carry up to 4 oz., of eye drops with you. Volumes greater than 4 oz., are only permitted in your checked baggage.

Duty free items are permitted if delivered directly onto the aircraft.  However, passengers making connections from international to domestic flights must transfer the items to their checked bag before boarding their flight. At pre-clearance airports passengers must put duty free items into their checked luggage since the aircraft deplanes behind passenger security checkpoints.

Baby formula and food, breast milk and other baby items

Baby formula and breast milk are allowed in your carry-on baggage or personal items. You can take these through the security checkpoints and aboard your plane. However, you must be traveling with a baby or toddler. All items including formula or breast milk will be inspected

You or your baby or toddler will not be asked to test or taste breast milk or formula. Security Officers will not test or taste formula or breast milk.

Canned, jarred, or processed baby food is permitted in your carry-on baggage and aboard your plane.

Juice and all other liquids or gels are not permitted.

Liquids and gels, including baby formula or breast milk, may be packed in your luggage and checked with your airline. You should travel with only as much formula or breast milk needed to reach your destination.


Due to enhanced security measures most liquids, gels, lotions and other items of similar consistency will not be permitted in carry-on baggage. These types of items must be packed in your checked baggage.

However, prescription medicine with a name that matches the passenger’s ticket; up to 8 oz. of liquid or gel low blood sugar treatment and up to 4 oz. of non-prescription liquid medications are permitted.

If you need more than 8 oz. of liquid or gel low blood sugar treatments or 4 oz. of non-prescription medications, pack amounts in excess of those described above in your checked baggage.

Non-liquid or gel medications of all kinds such as solid pills, or inhalers are allowed through the security checkpoint once they have been screened. Please make sure your medications are labeled.

Security personnel normally x-ray medication and related supplies. However, as a customer service, you may ask that security officers visually inspect your medication and associated supplies.

You must ask for visual inspection before the screening process begins; otherwise your medications and supplies will be x-rayed.

If you want to take advantage of this option, you should carry your medication and associated supplies separated from your other property in a separate pouch or bag when you approach the Security Officer at the walk-through metal detector.

Ask the Security Officer to visually inspect your medication and hand your medication pouch/bag to him or her.

To prevent your medication, associated supplies or fragile medical materials from contamination or damage, you will be asked to display, handle, and repack your own medication and associated supplies during visual inspection. Any medication and/or associated supplies that cannot be inspected visually will be x-rayed. If you refuse, you will not be permitted to carry your medications and related supplies into the sterile area.


The equipment used to screen checked baggage will damage undeveloped film.  Pack your undeveloped film in your carry-on bag.  High speed and specialty film should be hand inspected at the security checkpoint.  To speed up hand inspection, remove your undeveloped film from the canister and pack it in a clear plastic bag.


Carry-on Rules

You cannot bring lighters (fueled or without fuel) in carry-on luggage or on your person going through the security checkpoint.

Checked Baggage Rules

You may take up to two fueled Zippo lighters in your checked baggage if they are properly enclosed in a DOT-approved case. You can bring unlimited quantities of unfueled lighters in your checked baggage.

If you don't know whether your lighter is prohibited, you shouldn't bring it to the airport.
Because of federal laws and operational considerations, security personnel can’t return any prohibited items that you leave at the checkpoint.

Department of Transportation Lighter Exemption

On June 23, 2005, the Department of Transportation (DOT) granted the Zippo Manufacturing Co an emergency exemption that allows passengers to pack up to two fueled Zippo lighters in checked luggage. The lighter must be in DOT-approved packaging. The packaging is a vapor-tight plastic box that can accommodate a single Zippo lighter. These packages must be clearly marked by their manufacturer to show that they comply with the DOT regulations. This enables TSA security officers to easily identify them during screening.


You may not bring matches in your checked baggage because of safety regulations. You may, however, bring up to four books of safety (not "strike anywhere") matches in your carry-on baggage or on your person. For safety reasons, you may not bring “strike anywhere” matches at all.

Traveling with Special Items

You should review the TSA Special Items Page if you are transporting the following:

Alcoholic Beverages 

Camping Equipment

Compressed Gas Cylinders

Crematory Containers and Deceased Remains

Currency, Coins, Precious Metals, or Valuable Jewelry

Firearms & Ammunition

Food & Beverages (through security checkpoints)

Hunting & Fishing Equipment

Knitting Needles, Needlepoint & Sewing

Lighters and Matches


Musical Instruments

Paintball Equipment


Photographic Equipment & Film

Scuba Equipment

Sporting Equipment

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