Travel Think Tank

TSA Travel Troubles

A few months ago, I was flying within the states and had to, of course, get through TSA travel line. Like everyone else, I prepared to stand in line and wait out the inevitable. The longer I waited, the more irritable I got with the people who were obviously not ready to effortlessly glide through the TSA line well prepared and not holding up the burden of waiting in the never ending cue. I rolled my eyes when computers and cell phones were not boxed separately. Then I made a snide comment to the couple who didn’t remove their belts. I even had a bit of a temper tantrum when there was a question about whether or not shoes needed to be taken off. Yes! That’s the answer! We all do it!

Then it was my turn. Shoes, check. ipad and cell phone, check. No liquids in my bag thank you very much. I was ready to zip through the screening machine when the unthinkable happened! I was PULLED to the side to be WANDED!!!! How on earth could this have happened! I should already be finding my way to the terminal bar!

I had no chance!

It turns out that I was pegged to be pulled over from the moment I entered the line because my pants were cuffed at the bottom! CUFFED AT THE BOTTOM!!! I had no chance of evading the detainment. I had been defeated by the very system I had been out to beat. Now, your first question to me is why didn’t you go through the pre-check line? Don’t you have pre-check?!

The answer is no. I have not paid for pre-check or global entry and I don’t intend to. Those lines, take a look, are getting to be just as long as others and TSA is coming up with ways to better control line waits all the time. Even at Reagan National, I have only waited a maximum of 5 minutes for the regular TSA line, other airports are much longer though. Additionally, I also get a complementary pre-check on my ticket with participating airlines, so I gamble on the chance that I will win the pre-check lottery.

More important than all of that is what can you do to make the TSA shuffle a little easier and less painless the next time you are off on an adventure. Here are some basics:

Plan your carry-on.

Take the time to ensure that what is in your carry-on is what you really need. If you check your bags (I am a big believer in the checked bag) then you shouldn’t need much.  Your basic electronics, your plane needs, and your paperwork. I also carry a change of clothes (leggings and a shirt plus undergarments) that don’t take up much space, a solid shampoo and conditioner bar, and a disposable bamboo toothbrush.

Be liquid ready.

If you do plan to carry on everything, you need to ensure that your liquids meet all of those TSA requirements and are in the TSA approved clear bag. You also should put them in a convenient place so you can easily put them through the scanning machine on their own.

Leave the kitchen sink…

… and everything else you don’t need. If I’m flying from Montana to Arizona, I’m going to leave my winter coat and boots in the car. I can make it to the terminal in my flats thank you very much! While, I’m at it, I change purses to ensure that my Mary Poppins purse doesn’t provide me any TSA surprises. You never do know what you’ll find at the bottom of your bag.

Minimize the accessorize.

I love to wear jewelry and I want to look nice but TSA is not interested in nice or my cute new bracelets. Instead, I just put all my bling into a little zip bag in my purse and put it on when I get through. It’s one less reason to get pulled over.

Time your line.

TSA is usually a much bigger deal for people who are running late. A much bigger deal. The best advice for timing your trip comes down to three things. First, gauge your lead time based on the BOARDING time of your flight. You should be inside the airport one and a half hours before that time at a minimum. Next, use the MyTSA app to adjust this lead time based on the airport you are flying out of.

MyTSA does a great job of communicating the busy times and the down times from coast to coast. Simply, choose your airport and check out all the 411 on your pre-boarding experience. Last, check your gate location. While this may seem not necessary, trust me, it is. In some bigger airports have gate A1 compared to gate ZZ-99 can be a difference of walking 20 or 30 minutes more than you could have planned.                                                                                                                                         

Get the kids ready before you leave.

Choose clothing that makes them comfy on the plane and will get through that security check quickly. Remember, no cuffed pants! Ensure that their in flight entertainment is easy to scan and that they haven’t hidden any extras that can hold you up. Personally, I don’t think that every kid needs their own personal backpack to go on a plane. The less stuff the better. For super young ones, go online and scout out the easiest places to take care of diaper changes, feedings, and play space once you are in the terminal. And yes, breast milk  and formula are both permitted through TSA just be prepared to take a few extra minutes to look through that bag.

Follow the nonsense.

One of my favorite Instagram feeds is TSA. They have a great instahumor to their posts and often use the ridiculous to showcase what is and is not allowed.  Giant teddy bears that take up an entire seat? I think not. While you are at it, follow them on Twitter as well. You can get to them quickly if you have lost anything or you have left anything behind.

My TSA Travel App
TSA travel lines can be a breeze or a nightmare
Photo by Connor Danylenko on
Travel Think Tank

Travel Time Out!

As we get back into the process of planning for travel, we are all excited to get out there and get going. When we dream of our future travels, we sometimes forget how important it is to remember we are not invincible. In fact, we want to pack so much in that we forget to plan a little travel time out. It’s okay to plan a beach day or a lazy day. It will be well worth it! Here are my pre-coronavirus thoughts on that very subject.

I Don’t Need A Time Out!

I hear you! You are not two years old! Can I just say this? Adults have more temper tantrums than kids. Can we say “hangry” people? No one enjoys a nap more than an adult. And no one, I repeat, no one wants to be around you when you are tired, cranky, and grumpy. We all need a time out and we deserve them! So, say thank you and really enjoy it! You are on vacation after all! So what does a travel time out look like?

Back in the Summer of 2019…

I’m on day one of my European holiday and Belgium 🇧🇪 has not disappointed! The weather is glorious and the airport, while rather dated, was a breeze from runway to rental. I’m traveling with my mom as I often do and we have stopped in this sweet little location for the night before we take in the Normandy region of France 🇫🇷 in the next week. So, why stop at a place like this? Well, this is a great spot to take a time out and recharge after international travel or after up time at a bigger venue. Genval has a lovely bistro full of locals, a beautiful old hotel with plenty of rooms and a lake to just enjoy! Yes, there are paddle boats and stand up paddle boards but, no, there is no swimming. I did check with the front desk and there are bikes for rent. Lastly, nearby is Waterloo with a modern museum that does a great job explaining why Napoleon met defeat here at Waterloo. #quietfind #berlintoparis?

Travel Think Tank

Gift Experience!

gift experience to unleash the global citizen in each of us

As everyone is out and about on Black Friday tracking down all those deals, I’m sitting back enjoying a little well deserved me time. After all, I did 16 hours in the kitchen yesterday! So, why am I not out there hoofing it from store to store? I gift experience! My gifts to my family focus on experience! I am a true fan of the gift card, the ticket, and the voucher. You may think that gifting like this is a bit impersonal and doesn’t hold the thrill of a traditionally wrapped box. I beg to differ. I am a fan of promoting the global citizen in all of us by experiencing the world around us. Here are five ways to infuse experience into your gift giving this season.

Add a friend!

If you are gifting a trip to the zoo (A great first start! Zoos are underrated!), add a stuffed zoo buddy with the tickets so there’s a little something to hug in the moment and something to look forward to. Consider other add ins like t-shirts, sunglasses, accessories, or other event specific gear to add in to the gift. It doesn’t have to be big, just a good match to the experience.

Plan ahead!

Gifting an experience like going to a national park or theme park? Add in a camera to save those memories. Cameras come in all shapes and sizes these days and there’s one that’s just perfect for the trip and your price point!

Make it fun!

One way to make a gift fun is to make it an experience in itself. How about a scavenger hunt? Perhaps a gingerbread house building contest? Maybe an ornament hunt is just your style.(Think Easter egg hunt in the winter.) No matter what the experience, have a few reindeer games to make it fun!

Match it up!

Tickets to a concert? Add the CD! Passes to a museum? Add a field guide! No matter the destination, a companion gift is a perfect pairing for your experience. Mouse ears are great if your headed for Disney and a pasta making kit could be just the thing if you are going to Rome. Perhaps this is your first travel experience and your young recipient needs a piece of luggage.

Read all about it!

No matter the experience, no matter the destination, there is a book to support your experience. Fiction and non fiction options are endless! Guide books, stories of destinations, historical accounts, and notable novels all work like a charm. If your interested in something more personal, a journal or a day planner may be just the right fit. Note that some of the links below are affiliate links. I only recommend products & brands I love and that I think you would love, too!

No matter the age, no matter the interest, there’s an experience out there that’s just the right match for the loved ones on your list. Happy holidays!

There’s plenty to experience!

There are tons of great last minute ideas for great last minute gifts that focus on experience. Some are big and some are small. Here’s hoping you find all kinds of fun and creative gifts for the ones you love!

  • Escape Rooms
  • Hunting and fishing experiences
  • Concert or live performance tickets
  • Art classes at a museum or local studio
  • Movie tickets
  • Food crawls
  • Zip lining experience
  • Hot air balloons or sky diving
  • Unique restaurant experiences
  • Museum tickets

Looking for more? Check out our eco friendly picks, our subscription box picks, and our 2020 gift guide for plenty of great picks!