You may or may not have to take items out to be screened separately and are never really sure until you get to the security personnel. The rules differ by country, but for the United States, the official TSA website says that a standard screening includes taking out your laptop and placing it in a separate bin from your liquids, bag, jacket, and other items.
But what about netbooks? Or if you have a bag that should allow for x-ray screening? What about in other countries? We’ll dive into all the misinformation surrounding traveling with electronics in today’s post.
Do you have your own tips for traveling through security with electronics? Share them below!
The rules are fairly clear when it comes to traveling with laptops at airport security. They must come out of your bag and go into their own bin. The only exception is if you have TSA Pre-Check, a US government program that allows you to go through security while keeping your laptop, coat and shoes.
There are also “checkpoint friendly” laptop bags and briefcases on the market that claim to allow your laptop to stay in its case while going through security. It should have its own compartment for the laptop without excess pockets, zippers, snaps, or buckles. It also needs to be able to lie completely flat.
But with that said, you can purchase a bag of this type and still have the TSA agents ask you to take it out of the bag, no matter what the bag’s marketing materials say.
If you don’t want to bother with a special bag, be sure to keep your laptop in a place that is easy to access within your bag, and easy to put back in. I typically take out my laptop and hold it in my arms long before I make it to the front of the security line, along with my liquids bag, so that I can breeze through quickly. But I also recommend putting your laptop bin through first so that you can keep an eye on it as long as possible. I would recommend treating a netbook in the same way as a laptop when it comes to security.
1. Store laptop in easy to access location in your carry-on luggage.
2. Take laptop out before getting to the security line.
3. Place laptop in its own bin.
*If traveling with a “checkpoint friendly” laptop bag, be prepared for potentially still needing to remove from the bag.
Phones, Tablets and E-Readers
This is where things get tricky. Some airport staff in the US will ask you to take your iPad or tablet out for screening, as does the official website for Gatwick in the UK. I haven’t had much trouble with being asked to remove them from my bag for screening, but there doesn’t seem to be a hard and fast rule for these smaller electronics. E-readers don’t seem to be considered as the same category as laptops and shouldn’t be required to be removed according to the official TSA blog. The same goes for handheld gaming systems.
Phones, whether smartphones or basic cell phones, should be taken out of your pockets and tucked into your bag for safekeeping along with your ID and boarding pass. You don’t need to carry it with you through the scanner or metal detector. If you don’t have access to your bag, put it in a bin for screening. Also keep an eye on these, as they’re an easier item to steal.
1. Be prepared to take iPads and tablets out of your bag for screening. Experiences vary by destination.
2. E-readers are generally fine to leave in your bags.
3. Phones should be removed from pockets and placed in your bags for safekeeping.
Apart from the practical packing of camera and photography gear, bringing your gear through security can be tricky as well. You should pack your bodies, lenses, and accessories in a padded carry-on bag, like the PacSafe CamSafe, because theft and loss can get very expensive. If you do decide to check a bag full of gear, make sure it’s insured and that you have all receipts to make a claim.
Some items may appear to be suspicious through the metal detector, as I found out when it came to my monopod and GoPro extender pole. Tripods and other items with telescoping legs may set off the alarm so be prepared to take them out. I also have strapped them to the side of my backpack to make it easier to scan.
Make everything as easy for yourself as possible so that in case you do get asked to take something out, you won’t have a pile of items to re-pack at security.
1. Pack equipment safely in protective luggage, but make sure it is accessible at the same time.
2. Be prepared to remove items from luggage if asked; some equipment may look suspicious or be hard to read by the scanner.
3. Take note of any issues and pack accordingly for your next security experience.
Theft from airport security is an unfortunate truth of traveling these days, so keep an eye on your belongings as much as possible. Pack in an organized way that allows you to remove items like your laptop quickly and efficiently and be prepared in case you’re asked to remove your tablet or camera items. Be sure to double check the policies of your destination before you leave. And have a great trip!
Do you have any experiences to share bringing certain electronics through security? Share them in the comments below!