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Traveling Don’ts: Learn From My Mistakes Part 1



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This week I will be taking a trip to San Francisco in order to help out with a large event that my wife coordinates each year.  In an effort to reinforce the technique of learning by proxy, I wanted to give you guys and gals a few personal travel tips that I have learned over the years…The hard way

Avoid making these mistakes otherwise you could be in for a rough trip.

Know what to expect when you get there.

I was dumb enough to think that going to San Francisco, I shouldn’t need more than a jacket because, hey it’s California….right?

Luckily a friend of mine pointed out that the average temperature in San Francisco this time of year is 57 degrees, around 3 degrees cooler than my home town of Austin.

This isn’t much of a difference but it left me red faced to think that with all my preparations at home, I would have walked out of the house completely unprepared for what would have been waiting for me on the other side of the country.

I felt dumb but luckily I had time to repack my suitcase with a few extra long sleeved shirts and a slightly heavier jacket.

That leads me to the next item

Pack light, have wheels, or face the consequences.

On my first flight alone, I was headed to New York City.  I had gotten a free ticket after my high school graduation and wanted to take a bit of a vacation.

What I didn’t realize was that the flight was actually several connected flights.

I had a duffel bag that weighed in around 30lbs  and nothing else.

When I left Dallas my flights looked something like this

Dallas -> Houston, Houston-> Memphis, Memphis-> Boston, Boston-> New York

At each stop I only had about 15 to 20 minutes to get to my next plane.  Normally this is pretty simple, but my luck was not good that day.  I would land at gate 3 and be taking off at gate 53.

Nine hours after I left Dallas, I finally arrived in New York and boy were my arms tired…

Lugging around that 30lb duffel bag really takes a toll on you.  Make sure that you either pack light or have a good set of wheeled luggage.  Your body will thank you for it.

Old habits die hard

I carry a pocket knife every day.  I have the same routine when I leave the house in the morning.

Wallet goes in back right pocket.

Phone goes in front left pocket.

Keys go in front right pocket.

Knife clips in to front right pocket.

Leave the house.

Frantically check each pocket multiple times on the drive to work because I am sure that I forgot something.   (Yes I realize I may have a few OCD tendencies.)

I do this every morning, so it never fails that on the day I am headed to the airport I find myself with a pocket knife that I have to leave in a car.

On one occasion I lost a rather expensive pocket knife to the TSA that soured my outlook on the rest of the day.

My wife now has to literally pat me down to make sure that I’m not carrying a pocket knife every time we take a trip.  I don’t know if it’s more for my benefit or so that she can avoid the embarrassment of watching me go through security…. Probably the latter.

Post it notes, alarms on your phone, or hiding your knife the night before; do whatever you have to do in order to make sure you don’t head to the airport with a knife or heaven forbid a pair of toenail clippers in your pocket.

Have a travel story or tip of your own?

Leave it in the comments below.

Check out these related articles from our site:

Preparedness Tips: Prepping For Travel

7 Travel No-No’s to Avoid At All Costs

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  1. Robert E. Hays

    January 21, 2013 at 8:27 AM

    On the pocket knife deal, you can out one in your checked suitcase. So if they don’t lose it, you will at least have it where you go. I always check an extra and inexpensive knife that I would not mind losing, however.

  2. Jean

    January 21, 2013 at 8:50 AM

    My daughter traveled to Mexico City a few years ago. She did not realize she had a Leatherman tool in her backpack. If you are familiar with these, they have a knife as well as other tools on it. Well, after going through numerous security checks at various airports, including customs, she came home and unpacked and that is when she realized she had inadvertantly taken the Leatherman with her. Not one scanner on the whole journey caught it. TSA is a joke.

    • Miles

      January 21, 2013 at 2:27 PM

      TSA IS a joke but the oversight in this case can happen if there is something that is denser than the Leatherman blocking it so the scanner cannot see it.

  3. Bernie

    January 21, 2013 at 8:53 AM

    Have the phone number of the airline reservations you are on. If the flight is canceled, you can call them and avoid the long line of passengers trying to rebook.

  4. charles

    January 21, 2013 at 9:05 AM

    homeland in-security will check the knife for you and you can pick it up on returning.

    • Joe

      January 21, 2013 at 10:58 AM

      Thanks for the tip Charles, that was never offered to me when I had my knife taken.

  5. Thom Bloomquist

    January 21, 2013 at 9:26 AM

    I am a BK amputee. Life get tough enough for that challenge but I do okay. That said, I get the full meal deal, every time, every airport, from the TSA. There is no medical ID card r similar traveling aide, that I am aware of, that can spare you from this time-consuming, aggravating and personal invasion embarrassment. One TSA agent even demanded I take my artificial leg off. To which I replied “mine comes off right after years does!” I won that one but the dominance equation is stacked totally against you with TSA. If anybody has suggestions on how to make traveling with an artificial leg more user-friendly-please post.

    • Brad

      January 21, 2013 at 6:59 PM

      I don’t know if it will help but a friend of mine has an artificial knee and all he has to do is show TSA a note from his doctor. (Yes, it is an official form).

    • Lucy

      January 22, 2013 at 10:32 AM

      Thom, I am not an amputee but I am mobility a challenged 60 year old grandma. When I travel by plane, I always use Delta and request a wheelchair and escort. The escort gets me through security. I also request a pat down instead of the machine…doctor’s orders. The TSA folks have always been courteous and quick and the Delta employee is always a huge help in getting me to my gate on time. I never take carry on luggage, only my purse with my little clear ziplock meds bag. If I have too much to check, I ship it ahead of time to my destination and inform the hotel to expect it and put it into storage until my arrival. I am a very anal traveler and must have everything go smoothly. Sorry you have had so much trouble. Also, if I can get a direct flight, I will pay extra not to have to go through the rigamarole of changing planes.

    • Skysoldier47

      January 24, 2013 at 12:52 PM

      I am a bilateral (both legs) AK amputee. I don’t fly and haven’t since 1999-2000. I use a wheelchair. Years ago, they would use a fork lift to put me on and take me off the airplane (pre-jetways).

  6. Leona

    January 21, 2013 at 9:47 AM

    I had a small pair of travel scissors that fold down in a sewing kit in my purse. I also had a small set of scissors in another area of my purse which I removed from my purse before leaving for the airport. The screener stopped my purse, and claimed that I had scissors, I knew I had removed the usual set of scissors from my purse. They sent my purse through again and said they could see the 2 round eyes of scissors. I had to remove every item from my purse, found the small sewing kit, and lost a beautiful, more expensive pair of sewing scissors from my mini travel sewing kit.

    • cindy

      January 21, 2013 at 4:31 PM

      Sewing and craft supply companies have a nifty thread cutter, worn around the neck on an attractive chain. It looks like a vintage, carved metal pendant and has a concealed blade down inside, between the front and back parts.. no moving parts and I can’t imagine it would be a problem. If I ever get back to handwork, I plan to locate one for travel; but then, having a needle might be the problem…

      • MaryAnn

        February 7, 2013 at 11:20 PM

        According to published regulations of TSA (anyone can look them up online), tools like knitting needles or crochet hooks or embroidery needles are allowed. I suggest circular knitting needles from a space point of view, but they are allowed. I’ve carried them multiple times. I printed the relevant section of the rules, just in case the particular TSA ‘officer’ I had to deal with didn’t know about it.

  7. Donna

    January 21, 2013 at 10:11 AM

    Travel tip: Don’t fly! If you drive you can take whatever you want or think you might need. If flying is your only choice, stay home.

  8. ChuckTheGreat

    January 21, 2013 at 10:36 AM

    Don’t be tall. I am 6’4″. Not freakishly tall but tall enough to be seen over most other people. I was travelling recently with someone who is 5’6″. He went through security first and was waiting for me on the other side. He said he heard the TSA agents single me out. Why? Because they could see me over the other passengers.

  9. Wayne

    January 21, 2013 at 10:36 AM

    Hi Joe,
    Like U, I have carried a folder in my front right pocket for many years and also a little folder in my left pocket. I still do. Before I retired, I flew a couple of million miles a year as a airline flight crew member. After the security checks started at the airport even crew members could not carry a knife on their person. Just in case I woulda forget I carried a padded evenlope self addressed to myself for items I would forget to remove. It is a handy travel aid
    Stay safe

  10. kimmer

    January 21, 2013 at 12:02 PM

    Great story. I NEVER go to sleep without jeans and belt ready to bail, keys in right front, knife and flashlight in left front, wallet with at least $150 cash in back pocket, socks and shoes ready, jacket by the front door. Be it earthquake, fire, flood I do not need to search in the dark for keys. Every car of mine has a spare key taped to the sway bar and a spare ignition key in the ash tray. I do not sleep unless the fuel tank is 3/4 filled at least.

    Random tip…shower with the bath tub drain closed. See how much water you use.

  11. Mike Messenger

    January 21, 2013 at 12:44 PM

    I too have surrendered my share of pocket knives. On a recent trip to Hawaii I forgot about my pocket knife and hid it in the bottom of my carry on backpack. It wasn’t found by the TSA!! It was left in the pack during our vacation and upon our return the TSA in Hawaii found it in the pack. While they were taking everything out of the pack they broke a 8×10 glass picture frame. Happy with the discovery and confiscation of my small swiss army knife they let me repack my pack with the broken glass of the picture frame. I even commented to the TSA agent the stupidity of taking my knife vs letting me keep the broken glass. Simply, the broken glass is not on the unaccepted list.

  12. Glen

    January 21, 2013 at 3:43 PM

    While checking in at 5am at DIA the TSA guy asked me to remove my belt. I said something to the effect that the buckle was made of some alloy that would not trip the metal detector. Not to be out done he said that an object in my carry-on didn’t exhibit the same qualities, it was my Leatherman. Cost me $13.95 to ship it to my home 30 miles away, it was over the 6.5 ounce limit for the lower rate. Grrrrr….

  13. Gene

    January 21, 2013 at 4:17 PM

    My first flight, as an armed citizen, went without a hitch…the personel behind the gate had me fill out a form after I “declared I had a firearm” (say it that way…don’t say “I have a gun”)….everything went very smooth contrary to my girlfriends concerns over the whole matter….then disaster hit as they found an old box cutter in her luggage that she forgot to remove after her last trip to a horseshow where she’d used the boxcutter to cut hay bales 😉

    • bigmike

      January 24, 2013 at 10:37 AM

      I have flown many times with a handgun. Very easy. I just walk right up to the counter when checking in and ask the agent for a firearms declaration form. Isn’t it amazing how they never seem to lose or delay that suitcase! LOL

  14. ralph kramden

    January 21, 2013 at 5:50 PM

    ha ha, i lived in the bay area for 30+ years, 5 of which were in the richmond district in sf. everyone who
    ever came to visit always had ‘baywatch’ in mind, sunny, blue skies and bikinis. lost a few jackets and sweaters over the years cause of that. i think i read somewhere once that san francisco clothing stores sell lots of sweaters, mostly to out of towners. great restaurants, nice folks, but if you aint liberal, dont talk politics. nuff said.

    • Joe

      January 21, 2013 at 5:57 PM

      That actually ended up being the case, the gift shop ran out of I Heart SF hoodies!

  15. Jeanie

    January 21, 2013 at 6:52 PM

    About the jack knife. I have a medium sized one that the NRA sent to me for joining….years ago. I also have a long black light-weight coat that I wear for traveling at times. I went from Oregon to Seattle ..to Fairbanks…then flew back out of Anchorage and then to Portland and Southern Oregon again. I didn’t realize when I left that the knife was in my right pocket. No once noticed at all….but they took my son’s half bottle of Obsession. I have also traveled through SF to LA with the same coat and knife. Nothing! I had forgotten that time, too. 🙂

  16. Chuck

    January 21, 2013 at 8:19 PM

    If you travel to Japan don’t event think about packing a knife. As a foreigner you are not allowed to carry a knife with a blade longer than 1 1/4 inches long. I don’t know how foreign residents there get to carry a kitchen knife home from the hardware store, but that is something I don’t have to worry about.

    A 70 y.o. U.S. citizen asked a Japanese cop where a certain bookstore was. The cop asked him if he had a knife. Wanting to be cooperative, you know, foreigner in a foreign country, the guy pulled out his Swiss army knife. Whammo, into a Japanese jail. It took a few days to get him sprung. A Japanese cell is one mat in square footage, about six feet by three feet. That is considered a livable space in Japan. If you are a 105 pound 5″2″ Japanese guy, it is okay. If you are a 250# 6’4″ American it’s a little cramped.

  17. jesse

    January 21, 2013 at 11:00 PM

    I traveled with a gun all the time in the 80’s. One time my wife put her gun in my suitcase which I always kept in the back of the car. I went to get on a plane and I did not have time to check my bag. I thought I would just carry it on and lo and behold it went thru the baggage dector and alarms went off every where. It just got funnier from there.

  18. Dan Zimsen

    January 21, 2013 at 11:21 PM

    I flew out of SFO (San Francisco) one Saturday night. I have a cochlear implant which does not like magnatism. I also have a pinched nerve in one hip, which caused the doc to tell me to wear loose pants, and suspenders. (Metal clips) There were 120 people in line behind me when I got to the screening point. I had time to count them waiting for the pat down. You guessed it: the screener insisted I remove the suspenders. When he did the rub down of upper leg, pants came down.
    No “Oops” or “I am Sorry.” He finished his rub down, pat down, and cleared me to go on. In full view of 120 innocent people.
    My son consoled me. “Dad,” he said, “This is San Francisco. For the Bay to Breakers run people pay $50 apiece to run from Fhisherman’s Wharf to Golden Gate park, stark naked. No big deal.”
    Obviously no big deal for TSA.

  19. alf

    January 24, 2013 at 7:56 AM

    Never use second hand luggage. You dont know who had what in said case. Drug dogs can pick up the smell of drugs long after they are gone and you are left looking very silly and also never lend your suitcase to anyone ..ever.

    • Joe

      January 24, 2013 at 9:18 AM

      Good call alf!

  20. Bryan

    January 25, 2013 at 6:16 AM

    For me my EDC is a follows wallet with a credit card blade right rear pocket along with knife #1 then knife #2 left rear Glock 26 small of my back, keys right front with knife #3 flashlight left hip in holster and cell in left front pocket. Now I was going through Burbank,Ca airport to Lubbock,Tx before I left the house I made sure I had no knives in my pockets or my gun. The day was already a bad one considering I left my DL on the scanner because I had to send a copy to somebody the night before. So I made sure I had no weapons it wasn’t until I was going through the checkpoint that I noticed the TSA gathering around the baggae X-Ray that I remembered I had left my Spiderco Credit card Blade in my wallet. I was promptly taken out of line and brought to another room where I was searched more thoroughly. And long story short I relinquished the blade that I’ve had for about 10 years feeling a little violated and almost missed my plane.

  21. James

    February 4, 2013 at 1:33 PM

    Flew to Disney in Florida with Buck #110 in luggage from Kennedy airport NY. Wore it through out trip,just like at home. Forgot to repack it and had it on belt through entire return trip. No one noticed.Big hoopla leaving NY, nothing coming back.
    Same with my Texas hunting trip. An escort to make sure our rifles were checked thru to the plane. On arrival back at Kennedy, they were just thrown on the luggage conveyor for anyone to grab and run off with. NY is SPECIAL ;b

  22. Melissa

    February 5, 2013 at 2:33 PM

    If you need infant formula buy the RTF individual bottles! Good luck with expressed breast milk!

    On another note I had a suitcase pulled a few years ago. I worked for an adult novelty home party company. Apparently all that ummm…. Wiring and batteries can be considered he makings of a bomb! Imagine their surprise when they opened that suitcase considering how many new items I picked up at our convention 😉 my friends had a blast with it as I am terrified of planes to begin with so I took a sedative and I had to “explain myself” to the TSA agents to prove my point I put the wiggle male part head band on my head and yelled “yep I sell sex toys! Anyone interested just ask me for my card!” They rushed me through after that

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