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Monday, February 11, 2013

Why Are TSA-Friendly Bags Important?

Red eyes from rising for early flights, heavy luggage digging into sore backs -- no one enjoys a long TSA line. Most of us worry about whether the scissors or shampoo bottle belongs in checked luggage or carry-on, but we don't always think to check if the bag itself is "TSA-friendly."

We should, and here's why.

1. Save Time

Americans spend about 37 billion hours each year waiting in line, according to the New York Times, and we feel every minute of it: last year a man in a post-office line actually stabbed another customer he thought had cut in front of him. While hopefully none of your fellow travelers will knife you for taking ten minutes to fumble with your laptop, TSA lines drag on enough already. Sticky zippers, wrapped packages, and oversized carry-on too big for the x-ray machine just exacerbate the problem. For laptops, the TSA says bringing the computer by itself in a butterfly-style, trifold, or sleeve-style laptop bag allows the x-ray machine to show exactly what's inside--and the TSA officer never needs to open the case.

2. Save Money--Prevent Damaged/Stolen Goods

TSA employees are concerned about public safety, not about those fragile eye-glasses or that pesky luggage lock--and they have a horrible record of reimbursement for damaged goods. In 2009, the TSA reimbursed passengers just 21 cents for each $100 claimed. Don't overstuff bags or cramp them with weirdly-shaped items, and don't bring bags with sticky or hard-to-open zippers--the harder it is to get in, the more likely a frustrated TSA agent might break something by accident. Bag sensitive film separately, and avoid wrapping that gift or souvenir: the TSA officer may have to unwrap it, and chances are he doesn't care as much about giving Aunt Sally a beautiful package as you do.

Organized bags also help avert theft. According to a TSA agent who stole more than $800,000 of carry-on goods, most common theft occurs while passengers leave their bags to go through metal detectors. With jumbled, disorganized packing, passengers don't notice anything's missing until too late: follow TSA guidelines to pack easy-to-check, organized bags so that you know exactly what you're carrying--or missing--at all times.

3. Avert Danger Like a Hero

Airport screeners already suffer the highest injury rate of all non-military federal employees, according to an AP Press report in 2004--and there's no point in making their job harder still. TSA-friendly bags and packing materials prevent injuries incurred during opening, searching, or carrying baggage. The TSA requests that travelers sheath or securely wrap all sharp objects in checked baggage to prevent injury to inspections officers, and TSA-friendly locks save screeners from having to slice through steel--which can easily result in slippage and painful cuts. Both SafeSkies and TravelSentry produce locks which open with universal TSA-certified keys; prices usually clock in between $11 and $15.

Becoming TSA-friendly takes a bit of foresight--Alienware, Briggs & Riley, and others do manufacture high-quality TSA-friendly laptop-cases and backpacks, but these can range upwards of $80. If you are a thrifty traveler, you may want to consider simply carrying two bags, one with organized, easy-to-open compartments and another just containing a laptop. For checked bags, select suitcases with multiple, easily-organized compartments and TSA-friendly locks that work with the universal transit services key. Remember, solid materials means less chance something will get stuck in the x-ray machine or rip all over the floor: double-check zippers and tender seams before departing.

Enjoy your flight!

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