Tips for navigating airport checkpoints
No traveler wants to lose his or her stuff, especially to the TSA. To safeguard your belongings at airport checkpoints, simply follow these tips and guidelines, then carry on.
• TSA has an online tool and app called "When I Fly, Can I Bring …?" The feature covers more than 3,500 items, including bleach (no), peanut butter (special instructions) and scissors (yes, if the blades are shorter than 4 inches long). If you have any doubts, type in the specific item and wait for the results.
• Many items prohibited in carry-on bags are permitted in checked luggage. For firearms and ammunition, consult with the agency on proper packing protocol. Also be aware of state and local laws that ban certain weapons and personal protection devices. You can be arrested at the airport for possessing such illegal materials.
• If the officer prohibits your item, remember that surrendering it isn't your only option. You can mail it back home (some airports have on-site postal facilities), hand it off to a non-traveling friend, stick it in your car or send it in a checked bag.
• Condense your items into one or two trays. Place all small and valuable items in your carry-on bag; avoid using multiple bowls. You can hold your cash or wallet in your hand inside the screening machine. And keep your jewelry on. If a piece sets off the alarm, the officer can wand you.
• After the screening, first secure your laptop, then put on your shoes.
• Tape a business card or contact info on all gadgets and computers. Attach name tags to all bags. This way, TSA can quickly track you down and return the lost item.
• If you realize that you're missing something, contact TSA's lost-and-found office at the airport. The agency's website has a list of airport phone numbers. After you claim the item, an employee will set it aside for pickup or shipping. (Postage will be paid by you.)
• If you had to relinquish an item and miss it terribly, check government-auction websites or visit a state surplus store that sells TSA goods. For example, try GovDeals.com.