How to carry passports in airports and recommendations for money belts?

We are first time US international travelers.

  1. How do most people carry their US passports when IN THE AIRPORTS when dealing with airport security checkpoints, etc. (i.e. just carry it in your hands, needing passport covers/folders, neck pouches, etc.?

((NEW Q)) 1.1. Do you wear your moneybelts (more like waist pouches) and/or NECK POUCHES with your passports thru security checkpoints AT THE AIRPORTS or does it have to come off for inspection/scanner?

  1. Any recommendations for men's money belt that works well with AIRPORT SECURITY CHECKPOINTS (i.e. Eagle Creek All Terrain Money Belt, etc)?

  2. Do most people (have to or automatically) remove their belts or belt buckles when going thru airport securities?

  3. Any other tips for airport security checkpoints and international traveling would be helpful also.

Thanks for your time and help.

PS-thanks for the responses so far and it's been a big help!

Posted by Tom
Hüttenfeld, Hessen, Germany
9134 posts

"1. How do most people carry their US passports when IN THE AIRPORTS when dealing with airport security checkpoints" Usually you keep it on your person while passing through security. There's usually posted instructions telling you exactly what to do.

"Do most people (have to or automatically) remove their belts or belt buckles when going thru airport securities?" It usually depends on the size of the belt buckle.

"4. Any other tips for airport security checkpoints and international traveling would be helpful also." Yes, just follow the instructions and try not to worry.

Posted by Ms. Jo
Frankfurt, Germany
4769 posts

I like to use a neck pouch. It is nice to have the tickets, passport and whatever cash I am bringing with me very handy and easy to reach. After security, I either leave it out or tuck it inside my shirt. It bulges a bit, but frankly I don't make many fashion statements anyway, so it doesn't matter much to me.

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
17792 posts

NWCouple,

As you're first time travellers, my first suggestion would be to read Europe Through The Back Door. That will answer a lot of your questions.

Regarding carrying your Passport in the airport, I normally carry it in a secure shirt pocket. However, when going through security you'll need to keep it with your boarding pass and you'll need to show both when you go through the boarding gate. After that you can put your Passport away until you arrive at destination.

You may be asked to actually take your belt off on rare occasions. Most of the time you'll just have to open it and hold the metallic parts out of the way while they scan.

Why do you want to carry large sums of cash? Carrying a smaller amount for travel expenses and then using ATM's in Europe is a much easier method.

Good luck & Happy travels!

Posted by Karen
Fort Wayne, IN, USA
1521 posts

First of all, you should have a money belt that will hold passport, cash, credit card. This can be an around the waist (under shirt/pants belt), or the hidden pocket, or the neckpouch. Don't mess with the leather dress belt. You won't be getting into this money belt very often, and never in public. It's only for deep storage. Carry a day's worth of cash, maybe $50-100, in a wallet like you do for everyday living. Since you need passport, tickets, etc while in transit, I'd use a neckpouch for that, and tuck it into your shirt on the plane. Then you can pack it away in your suitcase when you get there and just use your main moneybelt. Each of you should use this system; don't rely on the other to carry your stuff. You should not have to remove the hidden money belt. If you are questioned about it, just pull it out, show the contents, and they'll let you go through without hassle.

Posted by Brad
Gainesville, VA
7213 posts

If I'm going to need it, I have it in my hand. When I'm done with it, I make putting it away part of a bathroom run.

Posted by Ms. Jo
Frankfurt, Germany
4769 posts

Husband was in Milan last year, trying to do a quick check in with the scanner and his passport. Machine did not work so he put his passport in his pocket and walked to the regular check-in window. Passport was taken in just that couple of minutes walking from one spot to the next.

So, yeah, I like keeping mine in my neck pouch, not in my bag, or in my pocket.

Posted by Frank II
USA
4377 posts

I do exactly as Karen stated.

I put my passport and boarding pass in a neck wallet when it's not in my hand.

As far as moneybelts go, forget the one that is a belt. Won't hold anything but cash. If you're looking for travel belts you won't have to take off, Magellans has a few.

I used to wear my moneybelt, the hidden pocket type at all times. Unfortunately, with the new virtual strip search machines, you'll have to remove it if chosen to pole dance through security. Now, I put it in the darkest reaches of my carry-on bag and after security head to the nearest restroom to put it back on my body.

Posted by Grier
Carmel, IN
1058 posts

On travel days, I wear black slacks that have a deep zippered pocket and put my passport, money, credit cards, etc in the zipped pocket where it is easy to retrieve in the airport.

Posted by Lexma
Denver
536 posts

For going through airports, we keep our passports, boarding passes, etc. in an inner pocket of my (deep) carryon bag. My concerns inside the airport are not so much pickpockets, as accidently leaving something somewhere due to having to show various documents. Usually, after each checkpoint, I replace everything and try to make sure DH sees me doing it. That way, when I say 5 minutes later, "did I put the passports back," he can say yes. Of course, I usually check myself anyway.

It is most common in airports outside the U.S. that you do NOT need to remove your shoes. In fact, I have seen people be instructed to put their shoes back on.

Posted by kg
Portland, OR, USA
47 posts

Like a poster above, when in the airport I put my passport in the deep pocket of my carry-on bag along with my money belt. I have a lock for that compartment of my bag, and so I can lock it if needed (e.g. in a crowded airport, etc).

I ditto the advice to not carry too much money with you to Europe--use ATMs once you are there.

Posted by jack
Sheboygan, Wisc., USA
927 posts

My wife and I both carry waist moneybelts.In addition I carry a neck belt.If we are going to need our passports then I carry both in my neck belt.Otherwise they are in our waist belts along with other things we dont need that day and all cash but what is needed that day.

Posted by Linda
Petaluma, Northern California
345 posts

1.I wear my RS money belt through security with my "deep storage" items that I won't need until arrival-- like Euros and extra credit cards and ATM card. I do not carry my passport in it on travel days. I do NOT reach into my money belt at checkpoints for documents. I have not removed it at a checkpoint (so far.) I just wear it and forget about it. (No guarantees about future security scans, but my point is do not use your money belt as a wallet.) I use RS money belt because it is softest, lightest, thinnest, most comfortable money belt I have found so far. Bonus, it's the cheapest but I'd buy it if it was the most expensive.

  1. I use the Rick Steves silk neck wallet to carry my passport, ticket, and other travel documents on air travel days-- not so much because of pickpockets but so I don't misplace my passport during all the paper shuffling at checkpoints. The reason I use the RS neck wallet instead of the fancy travel wallets is because it's lighter to pack (since I don't use it during the trip.) Since you can wear it under your shirt I am less likely to have to remove it. (Although I noticed I was called out for pat-down search the last time I had it on. Not sure if it was random or because of obvious neck wallet...)

  2. Magellan's has a nice travel belt that is reversible (black/brown) with a plastic buckle. Light, convenient for travel and no need to remove at security checkpoints. I suppose they have the one that holds cash too, but no experience with that one. But, I do recommend the travel belt or no belt at all. The less complicated your security routine is, the less frazzled you will be.

  3. Slip on shoes. No change in pockets. No water at TSA/US checkpoints-- even in the small bottles. Be organized. have your 3-1-1 bag, your laptop accessible. Remember to take off your jacket.

Posted by Paula
Toronto, ON, Canada
38 posts

Hi NW,

I carry my family's passports (there are three of us) in a money belt. It is a little bit of a hassle, but it gives me peace of mind knowing that they are safe.

I always ask the airport security if I need to remove the belt, the answer is usually no.

As for money, my husband and I usually bring about €300 with us from Canada and then use the bank machines in Europe when we run out.

I am not sure how the American banking system works but in Canada they charge us a $5.00 surcharge everytime we withdraw money, so we usually take out a couple of hundred each time.

I hope that you both have an amazing trip. Europe is wonderful, we go every other year for 2 months and we always have a great time.

Paula

Posted by Paul
Cedar, IA, USA
2383 posts

While I use a neck pouch, for airports, that is in my carry-on briefcase as is my passport and boarding pass. You really only need it for security and usually the gate.

Otherwise, dress to be metal free, nothing in pockets, no belts, easy off shoes. If you have medical metal (knees, hips, pins) have that card ready and tell the person at the detector, they'll send you right to pat down and scan rather than multiple trips through the detector.

Posted by Leigh
Kirkland, WA
4 posts

Normally, I do not wear a money belt.
1. For crowded places, I have a secure little pouch with a plastic zipper that holds my passport, two cards, and cash. I tie it to the inside waist of my slacks or jeans with fabric bias tape, which I've sewn in place. I step into a restroom stall to flip it over my waistband and load or unload various items.

2. I also wear a neck wallet that holds things I need to get at quickly and easily. I will pick up a few "hundred-dollar packs" of euros at AAA, and put most the currency in the neck wallet.

3. The remainder (for taxi fares, tips, metro fares, and snacks) goes in an inside breast pocket along with the plane ticket, the train tickets, and the International Driving Permit. Like many women, my handbag is for tissues, eyeglasses, and lipstick -- not for anything valuable.

ATMs are fine when there is one and it works. I have experienced a situation where this was not the case. I have been saved by kind bankers and the mechanism of a wire transfer. Always carry the direct number and the fax number of your local branch manager. May you never need to use them.

Posted by NWCouple
NW
2 posts

Thanks everyone for your help! If anyone can help answer 1.1 regarding if you wear your neck pouches carrying passports thru security checkpoints at airports or not would be of great help? Have a great day-NW.

Posted by Nancy
Bloomington, IL, USA
7683 posts

Paul, I was told by my doctor that they no longer issue any kind of cards verifying medical metal because security considers them too easy to counterfeit. Don't know if that's true, but that's what they said. My titanium plate and seven screws did not set off metal detectors at O'Hare, Miami, or San Jose, Costa Rica, though. Even if it had, I think the whopping scar might verify that it is a medical plate.

Posted by Frank II
USA
4377 posts

Normally, wearing the neck pouch through security shouldn't be a problem as it contains no metal.

However, with the rollout of the virtual peep show, you would have to remove it before going through that because if the operator, who is in another room, sees something "unusual," they are trained to foam at the mouth and call out SWAT. More than likely you'll have to take the neck wallet off in front of the TSO manning the machine, let him paw over it to make sure it doesn't contain any nuclear weapons, help himself tosome money if he's a good slight of hand expert, and then you'll carry it through the machine in your hand.

(Okay, the foaming at the mouth, SWAT, helping himself to money, and sleight of hand expert, aren't really true...more of a constitutional/political statement.)

Posted by Darcy
Lewiston, Idaho, USA
1202 posts

I usually use my Civita Day Pack as my carry-on under the seat in front of me so when I'm going through Security and hanging out at airports, I keep my RS waist money belt in my Civita bag tucked down the side a ways. My passport and E-ticket info/boarding pass go in the front pocket. To go through Security of course, the passport and ticket need to be handed to the Security Agent. Shortly before landing at the final destination, I put on the money belt. The passport goes in the money belt (in the bathroom) before I leave the airport. This works great for me!

Posted by Jim
Oklahoma City, OK, USA
430 posts

1) I do wear my money belt through security checkpoints in the airport -- but my passport is not in it. I carry my passport in my hand until through security.

NEVER NEVER NEVER reach into your money belt while in front of other people!! That's the point, it is supposed to be a secret. I wear my money belt with the pouch in the back, just below my belt line (it's more comfortable there for me). I also use the Eagle Creek belt that has an elastic band (again... I tend to expand when I breathe... or eat... so I need some give).

2) Any belt works fine with check points -- just don't put anything in it that you NEED or that will trigger the ALARM. (Cash, credit cards, photocopies in money belt -- a little cash in front left pocket -- passport in left hand.)

3) I have a belt that the buckle is easily removed. I put it in my carry on for security.

4) Other tips...

--- Travel LIGHT... not only for carrying once you get there, but for security! Less crap is less crap to worry about.

--- I travel in sandals, so am flexible when it comes to shoe policies (even on business travel -- shoes go in my carry on, sandals on feet... even in a suit... I like being comfy.)

--- If you can see the activity at security from a place out of the way before you get in line, stand a watch for a few minutes. Identify the rythm of this particular airport - they are all different. From what you see you can decide what needs to be in bag, in trays, in bowls, in hand, etc...

--- Pack LIGHT!! Did I say that already? LIGHT!

Posted by Madelia
Opal, USA
70 posts

Because of what happened to me in the Athens, Greece, airport, I will no longer wear my moneypouch through security! For years I wore it like a shoulder holster through security checks with no problem. At Athens, many travelers were setting off the alarm when they walked though the scanner. Of course, I set it off, too. I was "patted down" by a female TSA agent who found the moneypouch. I showed it to her, but that was not good enough! It had to come off of me & be put through the x-ray machine. What happened next was "interesting"! The woman was very impatient and demanding that I hand it over. I could not get it off without unbuttoning my blouse and taking off the sleeve on that side! I tried to hide behind my husband while I was doing this! Naturally, this was a warm day and I was not wearing a camisole under my blouse! After the ordeal was over, I tried to laugh to keep from crying! From now on I will put my money pouch in my purse or carryon bag when going through security!

Posted by Paul
Cedar, IA, USA
2383 posts

In reply to the medical metal and card issue, I agree, they are easy to duplicate, but I did have a friend that had a hip replaced in the last few months, and did get a statement if not a card explaining the hip implant. I also agree that many security people will not accept the card, I wouldn't, my point though is that many medical metal devices do set off the detector, and the easiest, most courteous action is to inform the TSA guy, maybe by flashing a card if you have one, that it may be the device. They then take you directly to pat-down and hand scan, rather than having you check pockets and go through the detector multiple times, delaying others. In your case, titanium is a very light, less dense metal, and is most likely very thin, it is very certainly possible that detectors are not sensitive enough (though they may change sensitivity levels and whole body scanners may see something different) to pick up the plate.

Posted by Sharon
TX
505 posts

I wear neck pouch with passport at airport. Easier to retrieve. After that, passport goes into money belt. Don't wear a belt with a buckle or anything that could trigger an issue or cause a slow down. Once we are over there, instead of a money belt that fits around the waist, my husband wears a money wallet that hangs from his belt inside his slacks. Rick Steves has those, too, now.
Have a wonderful trip! Remember, travel light, and all the issues will be MUCH less stressful.

Posted by Swan
Napa, CA
2858 posts

I wear the under-the-pants money belt. Going thru security, I have my passport, driver's license and plane ticket in my hand and as soon as they've seen my passport I tuck it back into my moneybelt and make sure my moneybelt is out of sight under my pants.

I was once required to put the moneybelt on the scanner. I don't want to lose possession of my passport even for that, so as long as there is no metal in the moneybelt, such as coins, I pass thru without a problem.

I carry a wallet and keep that in my pocket. No problem. I try to make sure all coins and keys are on the scanner and not in my pockets. Last flight, I was required to take my driver's license out of its handy plastic holder. Now my DL is held in my wallet "bare."

There is so much stuff to handle at security, (don't forget that quart-size plastic bag of liquids) it's difficult to be smooth about it. I use the Rick Steves silk moneybelt. An empty plastic water bottle is handy; it can be filled at a drinking fountain after clearing security.

I reorganize my stuff after I pass thru security. Usually while putting my shoes back on.

I like to arrive at the airport 2 1/2 to 3 hours early so I can go thru security without panic.

I suggest that belts with metal buckles simply be left off until after security.

Posted by Jim
Oklahoma City, OK, USA
430 posts

Madelia -- Very good points. If someone wears their money belt in such a way that it cannot be removed easily in the event of a detailed search, it would be best not to wear it at all. Do as you and another poster said -- put it deep in your carry-on for security, then put it back on your person as part of a restroom stop once in the terminal.

Swan -- "I like to arrive at the airport 2 1/2 to 3 hours early so I can go thru security without panic." This advice of yours may be the best, smartest, advice posted so far. You can't put a price on 'calmness' -- and the only sure-fire way to ensure calm is provide lots of time.

I'd hate to start a 2 week European vacation frustrated and rushed.

Posted by Frank II
USA
4377 posts

My new security routine is simple.

Everything I would normally carry on my person on the aircraft goes into a gallon sized ziploc bag--wallet, keys, coins, moneybelt, etc. This then goes inside my carry-on.

This way, when I get to security, all I have to do is put my bag on the belt, my shoes, my 3-1-1 bag in a tray, a coat if I'm wearing one, and go. NO fiddling with little items.

The only thing in my hand is my passport and boarding pass. There is nothing else on me except my clothes. If you are asked to go through secondary screening and agree to go into the imaging machine--you can't have anything on your person underneath or inside your clothes. You cannot say, "Oh, I'm just going to run to the restroom to remove my moneybelt."

Once past security, I put on my shoes, tuck the 3-1-1 bag into an outside pocket of my carry-on, put on my coat, and walk to the nearest restroom. It's there that I transfer the items from the ziploc to me. I don't do this in plain sight of everyone.

Posted by Madelia
Opal, USA
70 posts

I believe more than one post above mentions carrying your passport in your hand through security. At Athens, even that was not allowed! We were told to put it in the bin going through the x-ray machine. I suppose rules vary according to different airports.

Posted by Ms. Jo
Frankfurt, Germany
4769 posts

This is why I like having the neck pouch. It is out in the open, it has all my important documents, like tickets, boarding pass, passport and money. You take it off, put it the tray, it gets x-rayed and you put it back on. Nothing is going to happen to your stuff, going through the machine and with all those security guards watching it. Then you put it back on. Very simple, very safe, everything is always easy to reach. Frank has the good idea with the baggie too. We always have all that stuff ready to go at home. All pockets empty, etc. Going through security has always been a breeze since we are prepared.

Posted by Charles
Katy, Texas, USA
204 posts

Recently I put my moneybelt, etc in the box they handed me and put it on the belt. I also had a camera bag as carryon. As I was demonstrating the camera I noticed the man behind me was watching very closely. I thought it was interest in the camera, a very good one. As I gathered my stuff on the other side of the screening I saw the man previously behind me step ahead quickly, swipe his hand thru my box and walk swiftly away, WITH MY MONEYBELT AND PASSPORT. I said, "Stop him!" and pointed. One of the security standing a little ways past the security check point held his hand out and stopped the man. He looked very casually surprised and said, "Oh, is this yours?", handed it to the guard and walked swiftly away. No one but me tried to stop him but the guard stopped ME and asked if I had checked the contents. By the time I had the man was gone. What are your conclusions?

Posted by Michael Schneider
New Paltz, NY
6840 posts

You keep a days spending money in your wallet/purse. If that doesn't last the day and you need more cash out of your money belt, simply do it during a bathroom break.

Posted by Frank II
USA
4377 posts

I admit I'm somewhat compulsive when it comes to security.

So, besides my moneybelt, I keep my "daily" requirements in one of these:

Pacsafe Walletsafe

Pacsafe has also come out with their own version of a "hidden pocket":

Pacsafe Coversafe

Posted by Corey
Norristown
54 posts

This may sound like a silly question, but I just can't figure it out logically. I understand that the point of moneybelts/neck pouches is to be hidden so that only you know they are there. So no one should see you reaching into them. But when you're out and about during the day, shopping, etc... what on earth do you do when you need money from the pouch?!

Posted by Brendon
Auburn, Washington, USA
497 posts

I bought my moneybelt yesterday at Rick Steve's store. I weigh over 300 pounds and it fits perfectly, so I would go with one of his.

Posted by Janis
Grapevine, TX, USA
872 posts

There is a company called Bison (REI carries this brand) that makes a belt with a buckle that I supposed is sturdy "plastic" that will go through security without setting off an alarm. I have never had to remove mine going through security.

Posted by Ms. Jo
Frankfurt, Germany
4769 posts

I don't care if anyone sees my neck pouch. It doesn't matter if they see it. One doesn't get mugged here very often. The name of the game is to keep the hands of pick-pockets away from your valuables. Usually I put it inside my shirt, when traveling to my hotel, but other than that, it can be outside my shirt. Once I get off the plane and into my hotel, I do not carry my passport around with me, nor my plane tickets or train tickets. I wear a messenger bag that has my wallet in it. The way it is fastened with the flap that goes all the way over, plus the inside zippers, it isn't going to be easy for anyone to get into.

Just wondering has anyone seen the guys on stage or tv that can take off your necktie, your belt and your watch without you ever noticing it? Fascinates me. Pick-pockets can be just as good.

Posted by Margaret
Clarkston, USA
192 posts

I have a fake knee, replacement done 4 years ago.
I was given a card (like a credit card) with photo and info.
NOBODY ever wants to see it!

I almost always set off the beepers. I have taken to standing just at the entrance of the scanner and saying to the person there, "I will probably set this off as I have a knee replacement." Then I walk thru, it goes berserk, and they send me over to the corner to be wanded. Sometimes I even roll up my pants leg so the lovely scar is visible.

My watch and my MedicAlert necklace always go beep also. Next time I'll put them in the 3-1-1 bag. I put them in the little 'change tray' last week and they slid out onto the floor and nobody noticed but me and they wouldn't let me get them. It was a couple of minutes before I could get a security person to listen to me and retrieve them.

I used the RS neck pouch on a long trip a few years ago and it was okay but it got so sweaty.

My only real complaints about travelling in Europe are, no 'handicapped' potties (high seats), no ice water, and having to be so darn careful about purses, etc. But the scenery and history are sure great!

Posted by Pauline
British Columbia, Canada
188 posts

Thanks for the suggestion about the ziplock bag. I passed that on to my husband on his current trip to the US and he said it worked flawlessly. He emptied his pockets, took off his watch and medic-alert necklace and placed everything into his ziplock which he then put inside his carryon (which we are now allowed to carry on). I think this is also a more secure solution to having one's wallet, etc. highly visible in the trays.