Get on board, slick as a whistle | Travel

Get on board, slick as a whistle | Travel

Travelers line up at a security checkpoint area in Terminal 3 at O'Hare airport in Chicago, Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2017. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

Nam Y. Huh

If you're getting on a plane during the holidays, the rules for security have changed. Again. Here are some ground rules holiday fliers should know.

What's up with electronics on domestic flights?

You'll find stricter screening of electronic devices at many airports, such as Los Angeles International Airport and Orange County's John Wayne Airport.

What does "stricter screening" mean?

Any electronic device larger than a 4-by-6-inch cellphone must come out of your carry-on bag when you go through airport screening.

Tablet? Put it in a bin. Keyboard for your tablet or smartphone? Bin. E-reader? Bin. Large camera such as a DSLR? Bin. Laptop? Of course, a bin (and that's not new). Electronic label maker? Bin. (You're using it for place cards, right?)

Basically, said Lorie Dankers, a Transportation Security Administration representative, any electronic device larger than the aforementioned size that has a battery and circuitry must be screened.

Isn't that going to slow things down?

In the best of all possible worlds, it will not because you are prepared. You have all your electronics together and you can whip them out of your bag.

But be prepared for those who are not reading this column (and presumably other travel-related columns) because they may be surprised.

It's also true that many people travel just once a year, so they may be extra flummoxed by what has changed from last year.

Not you, of course. But here's something that could trip you up: You aren't used to having to take those things out of your bag so you may not remember to pick them up afterward.

Dankers suggests keeping a mental checklist for your journey through security.

To that I would add something that retired LAPD Detective Kevin Coffey, an expert on travel safety, has drilled into my head: Put your name and contact information on your electronics just in case your mental checklist fails.

On my cellphones, I have created a lock-screen message that shows where to call if they're found. You can find a tutorial that tells you how at lat.ms/customlockscreen.

The message also directs the finder to remove the case to find my business card. (Do not put your home address in there.)

Just as easily, you can tape your contact info to just about any object. Your chances of getting it back are far better, TSA and Coffey have told me.

But I have TSA PreCheck. Am I not exempt from this electronics screening?

You are. Until you're not.

If you have PreCheck, available through TSA ($85 for five years at www.tsa.gov/precheck) or as part of Global Entry ($100 for five years and includes expedited screening at Customs at lat.ms/globalentryprecheck), you generally don't have to do the security line juggling act.

But here's when you do, and this just happened to me: If the PreCheck line is not in operation because there's not enough traffic, you have to take out all that electronic stuff.

I wasn't expecting this and found myself in the line where the non-Pre folks dwell. I was scrambling to grab the tablet and the laptop.

As I was talking with Dankers, it dawned on me I should have removed my portable keyboard and didn't.

It wasn't that my mental checklist failed me; it's that I never thought of the keyboard. Nothing happened to me … this time.

But note to self and readers: Review what's in your bag before your trip. Corral those things with batteries and circuitry so you can remove them easily just in case.

Is that it?

No. There's one more important electronics piece of the puzzle and it's this: Make sure those electronics are charged, Dankers said.

You may be asked to turn them on.

In that event, you may need an external battery charger, which comes in a variety of strengths and sizes.

Second note to self and readers: Make sure you have saved the phone number of the airline you're flying.

I'm flying to the U.S. from a foreign airport. Anything I should know?

Last month the Department of Homeland Security implemented additional screening measures for fliers from abroad.

What are they and when will I encounter them?

We can't say for sure because, Homeland Security's website says, "We cannot discuss specific timelines or measures, but some were required immediately, while others will be implemented over time, in coordination with our international partners."

Whether domestically or internationally, what's the most important thing to have with me?

Besides an external battery, good cheer. And we don't mean the bottled kind.