with Lorelle and Brent VanFossen

New UK Terrorist Threat – Tips For Travelers and Photographers

Suitcase tags, photograph by Brent VanFossenThere is a lot of confusion over the new high threat risk advisory and recent arrests in Britain of terrorists. Let’s look at the specifics.

Expect Long Delays and Multiple Security Inspections
No matter where you are traveling, but especially at international hubs, expect double to triple waiting times as you are processed through security. Two hours minimum, four to six average.
Expect Hand Searches:
Anticipate being hand searched. This involves one or more security agents doing a pat-down search of your body, all shoes, coats, belts, hats, scarfs, and other outerwear must be removed for inspection. Be prepared and wear as few of these as possible.
Checked Luggage Limited to Two Bags:
You are still limited to two pieces of luggage, so all carry-ons unacceptable to security and not allowed on the plane must be put in those two pieces of luggage to go into the cargo compartment.
All Carry-ons Banned:
All carry-ons are banned on some flights except for “wallet-sized items”. No purses, briefcases, laptops, laptop cases, or other bags permitted. All items are requested to be inside clear plastic bags. Everything will be inspected and pass through xrays.

A summary of the instructions from the US Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Threat Level Change for Aviation Sector (8/10/2006) and British Home Office – Advice to Travellers – Increased Security Measures (10 Aug 2006) is:

  • No Liquids or Gels: All liquids and gels of any kind will not be allowed in carry-on luggage. All beverages must be consumed and discarded before boarding. Even those purchased within the airport are not allowed on the plane. All liquids must go into your checked luggage. This includes all beverages, shampoo, alcohol, liquor, suntan lotion, creams, tooth paste, hair gel, and other items of similar consistency.
  • No Carry-on Luggage or Purses on Some Flights: Overseas and flights originating to and from the UK current ban all carry-on luggage. You may carry pocket-size wallets and pocket-size purses plus contents (for example money, credit cards, identity cards, etc.) and if necessary, put these in clear plastic bags. Handbags, carry-on luggage, laptop cases, briefcases, shopping bags, and all other carry-ons are not permitted. Exceptions may be made for clear plastic bags with diapers and other essential child care items if traveling with a child.

    The specific rules on what can be carried on the plane are:

    • Spectacles and sunglasses without cases.
    • Contact lens holders without bottles of solution or eye drops.
    • Female sanitary items sufficient and essential for the flight, unboxed and inside clear plastic bags.
    • Baby formulas:The only liquid exception is baby formula, breast milk, or juice if a baby or small child is traveling. The liquid will be tested by the security agents using chemical testing procedures or by the passenger by drinking it.
    • Prescription Medications May Be Permitted: Medicines must be clearly labeled with a pharmacy label and the name must match the passenger’s ticket an identification. Insulin and essential other non-prescription medicines may be permitted, but only in an amount appropriate for the duration of the flight, not the trip.
    • Tissues (unboxed) and/or handkerchiefs
    • Keys with safe or non-electrical key fobs.
  • Travel Documents Permitted: All travel documents essential for travel, including tickets and passports) are permitted to carry onto the plane. The name on the documents must match the identification and person.
  • Purchases Within the Airport Not Allowed as Carry-Ons: All purchases within the airport, including duty-free purchases, are not allowed on board the plane. They will be checked at the gate to be carried in the cargo.
  • No IPods or Music: While not on the list, expect that all MP3 players, video and CD players, handheld computers, electronic games, and radios will not be allowed. You’ll have to listen to plane music.
Be Patient, No Jokes, But Complain If Necessary:
Passing through security inspections, do not say anything unless asked. Be patient. Make no jokes. Make no complaints. If you feel you were improperly treated during the security checks, do report it, in writing, after your flight.

Do not feel obliged to tolerate unnecessary abuse or privacy violations just because “it’s for everyone’s safety”. Immediate responses to security issues are usually over-zealous and violations happen. Comments and complaints are reviewed in the administration offices and help make such security techniques more well-rounded and professional if the problems are reported. We all benefit in the long run.

Traveling With Camera Gear

While these new temporary security cautions, photographers are really stressed. No excuses are acceptable for carrying laptops, computers, or camera equipment on board the plane. Luckily, much of today’s camera gear and laptops are much more durable than they used to be.

If you are still traveling with print or slide film, consider now as time to switch to digital or a chance to test-drive digital equipment. If you are, consider mailing it or buying new film upon arrival. If you insist or are particular about your film, call the specific airlines and airports you will be traveling through to check on what their current policy is on film. The current rule allows film as described in “Know Before You Go: Myth – Airport Security X-rays Won’t Hurt Film” and “Know Before You Go: Airport Security and Traveling Photographers”, but current events change things.

Buy a suitcase as light as possible to save weight, but as sturdy as possible. It’s a trade off on weight versus compression and protection. With lowered weights for checked luggage, every ounce counts.

Camera equipment, photograph by Brent VanFossenWrap all equipment in thick bubble wrap and then with clothing. Do not put hard sides against hard sides. They scratch, rub, and press against each other, potentially cracking their cases. Use padding.

Keep all cables, connectors, and power cords, as well as small electrical items such as digital recorders, USB hubs, and such inside of sturdy clear plastic bags. I recommend heavy duty freezer zip lock bags. All checked luggage may be hand searched and this keeps parts and pieces together.

Carry as few clothing items as possible. Just about everywhere you travel, you can buy clothing and shoes upon arrival. Same with toiletries. Toothpaste, deodorant, sun lotion, and shampoo, though not your brand, is available generally everywhere. Buy it there.

If you will be at your destination for some time, then mail gear, clothing, and other items you will need. If you mail them in advance, they will be there when you arrive. This won’t work for all destination, but if it will, take advantage of it.

Consider renting camera equipment upon arrival. Through the web, you can often find services and make arrangements before you arrive. These may include long lenses, flash units, tripods, and even camera bodies. Such rental services are available only in the largest metropolitan towns, unfortunately.

Hopefully, most of these restrictions are temporary. Over-caution and over-zealous steps are being taken, and things will get back to a little more normal and tolerate in time.

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