Welcome to the "The Smart Traveler", your February, newsletter with tips and information to help make your traveling smoother.

Prepare For Takeoff -Part 1

There are preparations you can make before you arrive at the airport to help you move more quickly and efficiently through the new security processes.

Dress the Part

Be aware that any metal detected at the checkpoint must be identified.  If you set off the alarm, you will be required to undergo additional screening, including a hand-wanding and a pat-down inspection that includes the torso.

You can remove metal items at the security checkpoint and place them in the plastic bags offered at several airports or in the bins provided.  The bins will be sent through the X-ray machine.  You can save time by not wearing metal items or by placing them in your carry-on baggage before getting in line.

TSA Shoe Screening Policy
You are not required to remove your shoes before you enter the walk-through metal detector.

HOWEVER, TSA screeners may encourage you to remove them before entering the metal detector as many types of footwear will require additional screening even if the metal detector DOES NOT alarm.  

Screeners will encourage you to remove the following footwear that is likely to require additional screening:

  • Boots  
  • Platform shoes (including platform flip-flops)
  • Footwear with a thick sole or heel (including athletic shoes)
  • Footwear containing metal (including many dress shoes)

Footwear that screeners are less likely to suggest you remove includes:

  • "Beach" flip-flops
  • Thin-soled sandals (without metal)


  • Avoid wearing clothing, jewelry or other accessories that contain metal when traveling through the security checkpoints:  
    • Heavy Jewelry (including pins, necklaces, bracelets, rings, watches, earrings, body piercings, cuff links, lanyards or bolo ties)
    • Clothing with metal buttons, snaps or studs
    • Metal hair barrettes or other hair decoration
    • Belt buckles
    • Under-wire bras
  • Hidden items such as body piercings may result in your being directed to additional screening for a pat-down inspection.  If selected for additional screening, you may ask to remove your body piercing in private as an alternative to the pat-down search.
  • Take metal items such as keys, loose change, mobile phones, pagers, and personal data assistants (PDAs) out of your pockets.
  • Place heavy jewelry and other metal items in your carry-on baggage or in plastic bags if they are offered, until you clear security.
  • Pack all your coats and jackets in your baggage when possible.All coats and jackets must go through the X-ray machine for inspection. These include, but are not limited to, trench coats, heavy winter coats, suit jackets, sport coats and blazers.  If you choose to wear an outer coat or jacket to the checkpoint, you will need to either place it in your carry-on or put it in the bin that is provided for you.

Next month Part 2 will be "Pack Smart"

The Department of State to Begin Issuance of an Electronic Passport

The Department of State is developing an Electronic Passport that will enhance document and border security, while facilitating international travel for U.S. citizens.

The Electronic Passport will integrate the latest concepts in electronic document protection and readability. The Department plans to issue the first full validity U.S. electronic passports.  By October 2006, all domestic passport agencies will issue electronic passports.

The new passport will combine facial recognition and contactless chip technology. The chip, which will be embedded in the cover of the passport, will hold exactly the same information that is printed in the passport: name, date of birth, gender, place of birth, dates of passport issuance and expiration, passport number, and photo image of the bearer. A digital signature will protect the stored data from alteration and mitigate the threat of photo substitution.

To address concerns that the chips may be susceptible to unauthorized reading (skimming in the industry parlance), the Department will incorporate anti-skimming technology in the front cover. The Department is also seriously considering incorporating basic access control (BAC) technology in the new passport. BAC prevents the chip from being accessed until the passport is opened and its machine-readable zone on the data page is read electronically. The anti-skimming feature and BAC, when taken together, will prevent unauthorized reading of the Electronic Passport.

The Department will provide more information on its website at travel.state.gov

Hotel Card-Keys Edge Toward Extinction

The magnetic hotel-room key, one of the lodging industry's most popular but controversial creations, is losing some of its attraction.

According to the American Hotel and Lodging Association, 83 percent of hotels have electronic locks, and a majority of these use magnet swipe-card technology. No one expects these systems to vanish overnight. For one thing, they are cheap--plastic keys cost about 10 cents each. They are also a snap to use - just swipe the card through the reader and you are in your room. And they are without question more efficient than the old-fashioned, easy-to-lose metal keys.

But they also have a bad reputation among some business travelers. For several years, rumors have circulated on the Internet about privacy concerns with magnetic cards. The rumors appeared to originate in 1999, when the police department in Pasadena, Calif., investigated a claim that personal information had been extracted from a hotel key card. Officials ultimately concluded that private data was not being downloaded onto the cards.

Still, the hotel business is quietly looking for alternatives to make sure the fears don't spread. For example, the new tower at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas uses fingerprint scanners instead of plastic keys. A few years ago, the Hilton New York Towers, one of the first properties to switch to magnetic-stripe keys back in 1985, installed new "smart cards," which hold far more information but are more difficult to hack into. Of course, they are also more expensive.

Hotels are also considering another key system that uses proximity cards, according to Greg Patyk, a national sales manager for Access Technologies International, a Milwaukee manufacturer of security locks. The systems, which are used mostly by corporations today, open a lock when a guest approaches. "There is no strip that needs to be read," he said, so it is also harder to penetrate than a magnetic card.

Whether magnetic stripe cards disappear quickly or fade over time, there are several precautions that travelers might consider. Treat a magnetized room card as if it were a car or house key. Protect it as if it were a credit card. And either return it to the front desk when checking out, or dispose of it as one would any other form of plastic payment: Use scissors to cut it into bits and throw it away.  

Travel Safe-Travel Smart

Safety and Security

  • Use your business address (or business card) in your luggage tags to avoid revealing your home address and phone number.
  • Tape a card with your name and address inside every piece of luggage in case the bag is lost and the outside tags get lost.
  • Make two photocopies of every important document you'll be carrying -- tickets, driver's license, proof of auto insurance, passport, vaccination certificates, and so on. Carry one copy with you (not with the originals) and give one copy to a friend at home. These copies may be lifesavers if you lose the originals.
  • Carry a list of toll-free phone numbers for all of your credit and bank cards in case you have to cancel them (if they're lost or stolen) or if you need to find an ATM to use them at.
  • Remove old airline destination tags; they're the main reason bags get lost.
  • As soon as you get to your hotel room, look for a map of fire escape routes. Be sure to check that the routes are marked correctly and are accessible.
  • During hot weather, never leave an animal or a child in a parked car -- even with the windows open.
  • If you can find someone to reliably pick up your mail and newspapers while you are traveling, there is less chance that strangers will know no one is home. Another option is to have delivery temporarily stopped; the Post Office can hold mail, and the price of undelivered newspapers is often credited toward future deliveries.
  • When driving in unfamiliar locales, always park in well-lighted areas.
Never open your hotel door to a stranger without first calling the front desk to see whether hotel management has sent someone to your room.

Remember: Without a travel agent, you're on your own