Because of Homeland Security restrictions and high fuel costs, flying on your vacation is quite different than it was a few years ago.
First, it is best to lock in your airfare as soon as your travel plans are set. Fares continue to go up as airlines cut down on the number of flights available to many destinations and fuel prices rise.
Second, some carriers are now charging to check a second piece of luggage, so plan your clothing needs for your trip carefully and try to cram everything into one suitcase.
One airline, American, is now charging $35 for the first piece of checked luggage. Ask your airline if they have adopted this policy when buying your airfare.
I personally don't like carrying a lot of hand luggage. I hate what I'm carrying before I even board my flight. I place most of my needs in a checked bag, leaving me free at the airports. I usually carry only a briefcase with passport, reading material, glasses and cell phone. I see passengers carrying everything but the kitchen sink and I wonder why.
Days ahead of departure, I start making a checklist of the items I wish to take on the trip, such as medications, camera, cell phone, toilet articles, shoes and clothing. It always amazes me how the list grows over the days before packing time.
Many people begin packing days before they leave. For me, it works best if I pack on the same day of departure, even if I have to get up an hour earlier than I would, if I had packed the day before.
Plan to arrive at the airport at least two hours before your flight departure. Some international flights want you there three hours before flight time. Your airline will instruct you. It is usually easier to check your baggage curbside if possible. Some carriers want you to take them to the check-in counter inside. Curb checking charge is now $2 per bag. That does not include the tip.
Now the fun begins ... going through security. Sometimes there is a line to pass through Check Point Charlie and sometimes not. It all depends on the time of day. Mornings and late afternoons, except on weekends are usually the busiest.
Be prepared to remove your shoes, place all y our hand-carry items on the conveyer belt, which will pass your articles under the X-ray. You may have to go through a more detailed search process as the TSAs go over you with a device, which detects metal objects.
You can carry liquids, gels and aerosols, but they must be in containers that are 3 ounces in size or smaller. Larger containers must be placed in checked luggage. All items must be placed in a quart-size, zip-top, clear plastic bag. Fold over sandwich bags are not allowed. Each traveler may use only one, quart-size, zip-top bag. Remember, you no longer are allowed to lock your suitcases (Isn't this fun?)
You are permitted to bring solid cosmetics and personal hygiene items such as lipstick, lip balm, etc. Creams and lotions can only be in 3-ounce, or smaller, containers, which includes bug sprays. No knives are allowed, but scissors, if they are 4 inches or shorter, are permitted.
No guns or ammunition can be carried on, however, you may be able to check these with some airlines. Tools must also be checked. Lighters may be carried on, but not checked. No matches are allowed in either case.
You may carry on food and beverages, except bottles brought from home.
Before you go, check the Homeland Security Web site for travel information and call your airline for additional information.
When you get to the airport, if you have "done wrong," security will throw things away or send them back to your home for a charge of $16 for a very small package.
Flying isn't fun anymore, but I hope your vacation will be.