TSA & Cruise Industry Issue Holiday Travel Tips

November 24, 2003

The "big" news for passengers heading off for cruises this holiday weekend – not to mention through the rest of the holiday season -- is that "increased government security is expected to cause travel delays." That's according to the U.S. government's Transportation Security Administration (and other sources). Cutbacks in airline security personnel could mean longer-than-ever lines.

The obvious first point of advice for cruisers flying to ships, then, would be to pad an extra hour or two into your day-of-departure schedule (the TSA says add an hour; we advise two, just to be safe). And while TSA's list of suggestions focuses largely on predictable stuff (don't joke about security issues around screeners, carry important items like medicine, travel documents, and jewelry in your carry-on, and make sure your suitcases have tags with contact information), there are some that address today's unique travel environment. These include:

Wear slip-on shoes (security screeners frequently require travelers to take them off) and, um, socks (those airport floors can be cold, not to mention dirty). And leave that flashy belt with the metal buckle at home (or packed in your checked suitcase).

If you are traveling with gifts, particularly as carry-on items, make sure they are unwrapped.

Using airlines' self-serve in-airport kiosks (or web sites) to check in – and print boarding passes – is a huge time-saver.

Make sure you carry the appropriate documents; cruise lines require a passport or a birth certificate (original or certified copy) plus a picture ID card issued by a federal, state, or local government agency are required. And that's just for "homeland cruising" –based destinations. For more exotic cruise travel – South America, Far East, French Polynesia, and Europe – a passport is the only acceptable proof-of-citizenship. FYI, children under 16 years of age do not require a picture ID card. If unsure, call your travel agent or cruise line.

*In some cases, airport security screeners will have to open your checked baggage as part of the screening process.  You can lock it, but if TSA staffers need to open it – and break the lock in the process – it is not liable for damages.