The biggest hassles happen in the Airport from the time you check-in until the time you board.
For check-in have all your paperwork organized and in-hand, including your tickets (or e-tickets), Passport etc.
Be sure that your checked baggage meets both the size and weight restrictions imposed by the Airline (on their website). And that you have not packed anything from the NO GO listing (ie aerosols, limitations on batteries, etc)
Check-In hasn’t changed a great deal from prior to 9/11… just that some airlines now charge for baggage (NO FREE Bags whatsoever). And some also charge for choosing seats etc.
You can also use the Airline’s Website to find out what their carry-on limits are in regards to size, weight and number of items (and which items count how… ie some airlines count Ladie’s Purses as an item, others don’t). A few Discount Airlines even charge for Carry-on Items.
There is a long list of restricted items now for Carry-On. You can find the latest list on the US Customs & Border Protection Website = http://www.cbp.gov
Read it, print it off, pack accordingly (I haven’t gone into the long list of restricted items… because it is such a long list… pay special attention to any liquids, gels, makeup etc, that must be of a certain size, and packed into a particular size of a ziploc bag)
When going thru Security expect a LONG LINE UP… (more normal than not) so allow plenty of time before your flight for this process. Delays are often the norm, and things can get really bogged down in Security.
You will have to put your carry on bags, purse, laptop case thru the scanner. Additionally you will have to empty your pockets etc into a tray / bin… so small change, keys, etc. You will also have to put into the bin… your shoes, belt, any hats, sunglasses, and any small electronic items… ie Phone, iPod etc. You are allowed to hang onto your Passport and money.
In the meantime, you’ll be walking thru a scanner… and if the Security Folks have any concerns they’ll use a wand to screen you some more, or pat you down. In some airports, there are also HUGE full body scanners… they sort of look like an upright tanning booth (or a round shower stall)… you walk in, put your hands over your head, and they do a scan of you (person in another room that cannot see you… sees / reads the scan).
If all is good, you are free to pick up your stuff and proceed to the Gate.
Sometimes the Security Folks, will want to further exam your bags (hand search / look) or your electronics (turn this on please etc)
All in all, it is a VERY POOR Customer Service experience… but they have a job to do (and I value that). It is a tough job. So no complaints from me (maybe the occasional “gosh I wish this was easier, or not so time consuming”) but I’m genuinely ok with it if it means everyone gets the same treatment that makes it safer to fly (never want to see another 9/11)
Personally, Mr TTR and I like to get it over and done with asap, and get get to the Gate area, and find a bite to eat & drink, and enjoy a Magazine or our Computer Toys until our flight is called. Security is really a small pain for us, because we are not one of the MANY who seem to arrive at the airport short of time to begin with, and then the experience (and watching the clock) makes it only worse.
Hope this helps,
NOTE – Altho THE RULES are the same across the Board by US CBP, they can be applied differently in every airport (or even depending on the day, time, or WHO is working). This is part of the game-plan to keep travellers on their toes, and the CBP able to read people better. So… it is important to be flexible, and not get flustered. It can be frustrating in that you expect one thing, but something else is asked of you (or shouted at you)… take it all in ease… it is what it is… and is over relatively quickly and you’ll soon be on your way.
EDIT – Lol, when I began drafting this topic, there were no replies yet… so I apologize for the items that I’ve listed that others have also covered in the last 9 replies (25 Minutes)