Solo traveler-carrying cash, electronics, pills through security-JFK

I have not traveled overseas in 15 years. The last time I traveled by plane was 5 years ago and I went through security at a small airport. I had to put my laptop and cell phone in a separate bin, took off my shoes, and sent my messenger bag through. I checked my (1) one other bag.

This summer, I am going to try to bring a carry on luggage piece (rolling) which will be filled to the absolute limit. In it...I am thinking about putting in my Ipad and camera. I will also have a messenger bag (cross body style) with a purse, netbook, Ipod, prescription (blood pressure med) and other pills plus Vitamin powder packets (all OTC). Additionally, I have decided I will feel more comfortable having about $500 in each currency of the country I plan to visit ($1000 total). I already read all the posts about the ATMs, called my banks, etc. The ATM fees for my banks are NOT very good and if I get my money through AAA there is no fee and the exchange rate seems decent.

Here is what I need to know...where and how do I pack the cash to get through security? I already read the stories about making sure not to be wearing a money belt when going through security. I also read some bad stories about people who had their purses, bags, electronics and even luggage stolen while they were going through security. Additionally...there are also some posts out there about people who suspect TSA of stealing cash right out of their carry ons? WHAT????!!!! HOW???!!!

I plan to lock my larger carry on. Should I lock the messenger bag also or does that tip off a possible thief who might be lurking and hoping to lift someone else's bag when it comes off the belt?
Any advice? I am traveling alone so no one to go through ahead of me and grab my stuff.

Posted by Sam
Green Bay
3504 posts

I would not worry too much. Thousands and thousands of people do this every day with no bad outcomes. The hand full of occurrences that happen every year point out how rare an event it is to get ripped off going through security. More likely, would be you getting distracted and walking away from the security line without all your belongings. That happens all the time, you can hear the people being paged to return to security to pick up their stuff. The security area where you pick up your things is covered with multiple video surveillance cameras.

Put your valuables in your purse or messenger bag just before you go through security, put it on the conveyor along with your shoes, belt, watch, etc, and retrieve them as you exit. You can check your cash and valuables right then and there and raise a stink immediately if something is amiss.

When you think about it, there are a lot of more likely bad things that could happen to you that you never give a thought to, like having a car accident on the way to the airport.

Posted by Ray
Portland, Oregon, USA
2174 posts

Lisaew,

not much has changed since you flew in my opinion.

Money

  • If you have a purse, put the $$$ in the purse and i really hope your purse can be fully closed. If not, get a different one for your travels. There are alot of loose hands overthere and they love to pickpocket people.
  • as far as the amount. there shouldnt be any issue with how much you have since its less than what countries look for.

STUFF
- you can put your e stuff in your bag, but just be prepared to pull it out and have to place it in a separate bin or on top of your shoes and/or carry ons. They usually have signs posted or will be barking out what to do before you get your turn. If they done like it, they will pull you aside and physically inspect your luggage or whatever is of concern.

- shoe removal. You still have to do that in the USA. The other countries have not done it yet. As far as the ones ive been to.

THEFTS

  • not happened to me or anyone i know of during the TSA searches. If they do, they have bigger kahunas than i have.
  • i do know that CHECKED IN baggage can be pilfered.

In my experience so far:
- i put all of my wearables in my carryon bag so that NOTHING is in my pockets or on me other than my clothes. Belts/buckles, watch, passport, necklace pouch go in my bag through security.

- the ONLY time i have been physically searched was when i forgot my necklace pouch. They did a quick check of my body/clothes and then focused on the necklace pouch. I told then i can take it out, but they had me leave it in and "feel" what was there.
- e stuff. I have put my cameras in my bags and have left them out in a bin with my shoes and stuff. again, if they dont like it, they will pull you aside and let you know what they want.

happy trails.

Posted by Douglas
Oak Park, Illinois
3014 posts

Actually, your concerns are not very valid, though there is nothing wrong with asking. With the tens of thousands of air passengers that go through TSA checkpoints everyday, finding a few examples of theft (supposed theft as faaaaar more people forget things at the checkpoints) means that you stand more chance of getting in an auto accident on the way to the airport (or winning the lottery). Just take normal precautions like locking your bags closed and keeping things well organized. Don't leave your bags out of your sight. If you have significant valuables that must be pulled out of the bag or off your body to go through the scanner, keep them in a separate opaque bag that can be pulled out into a bin but no one will see what's in it.

As you say, how would TSA agents steal things at the checkpoints when tons of people and other agents are everywhere?

Checked luggage left is a concern and does happen enough to never put anything too valuable inside. But it sounds like you are going all carryon.

Posted by Pam
Troy, Idaho, USA
1198 posts

I find things go better for me when I plan ahead as you are doing. Allowing myself extra time to get thru security and not letting the commotion rattle me is key. I always stop (out of the traffic stream) before I go thru and my plan when I get to the other side is to pick up my stuff and immediately get to benches or seats where I can recombobulate. I know the number of things I need to pick up. (usually 4, well 5 if you count each shoe, lol)

When leaving from home, I start with my money belt in my purse, but I am driving myself to a very small departure airport so it's easy. The screeners are used to dealing with novice travelers, families and school groups so are pretty efficient and a fairly mellow group for having a difficult job. Otherwise I step to the side once I get to the airport, take off my watch and stow it in my purse and make sure my pockets are completely empty. If I have worn my money belt to the airport, I go to the ladies room into a stall and put my moneybelt in the bottom of my purse and zip it closed. As you are doing with your messenger bag, I have also started putting my purse in a medium sized tote bag which I also zip up and use a carabiner clip to clip the zipper closed. I pull out my passport and boarding pass. Then when I approach security, the one thing I try to do is stage my things on the security belt. I get 2 bins. I put my tote bag/purse and sweater in one and my shoes and scarf in another. I send my carry-on thru first, then my purse/sweater bin, then my shoes/scarf bin.

I also put some thought into my travel outfit so it has minimal metal on it to decrease my chances of being wanded. If I decide to wear any jewelry, I have it in a ziplock in my purse which is where I put my watch. I did forget one time and went thru security without taking my watch off which caused an extra look. Fortunately my brother was behind me and was able to watch my belongings.

During the process, I also take a look at what other travelers are doing to see if I can pick up some hints. That kind of backfired one time as I was behind a gentleman in a suit whom I had assumed was a business man. It must have been his first flight in decades as he had to fumble to undo his belt, empty his pockets of change, take off his shoes etc. Yes, I actually learned from him too!

Have fun!

Posted by lisaew
Albany, NY
160 posts

Thank you all for the great advice and I took it all into consideration. I appreciate your generosity in taking time to reply with detail. I intend to take a carry on bag (rolling) that was not expensive plus messenger bag.

I welcome a critique of my tentative plan ....

Carry On Luggage-here are the concernable things I plan to put in there

---Document copies, vitamin packets and milk thistle supplement, corkscrew without knife, light purse (empty; rolls up), juice glass, camera, batteries (AA), card reader for camera, very small amount of inexpensive jewelry, safety pins, adaptors, phone charger, disposable razor.

Messenger Bag

Netbook (it is a mini-netbook...only about 11" long and 8 inches wide+mouse, IPad, cell phone
Chargers for the above in ziplock bag
Liquid sundry items in the regulation quart sized ziplock
Very Small makeup type bag where I will pack a feminine hygiene product plus my small travel wallet with credit cards along with currency for the second country I plan to visit (500-700)
Compression Socks (to wear on flight; will put them on in the airport restroom after security) with secret pockets where I will also have some US dollars and some currency from the country I plan to visit first. I sewed the pocket inside the sock and it faces to the inside of my leg.
Hand sanitizer sheets
Empty money belt
Bag with prescription, Ibuprofen, Baby Aspirin and Zantac
Passport, tickets (plane and train)
Watch (will take off and put it in there)

Do I just put the luggage and messenger bag on the belt? What do I have to remove from either? Do I have to remove the netbook, Ipad and liquids/sundry baggie? Do we have to remove all coats, sweaters? I know about removing the shoes but cannot remember the other stuff.

Also...are we allowed to stuff whatever we can fit into the liquids/sundries bag as long as the bottles are not more than 3 ounces each?

Thank you so much!

Posted by lisaew
Albany, NY
160 posts

Ooops....I forgot the mention I will have a RFID slashproof cross body purse (for use on my trip when I am going to crowded tourist areas) Even though it will weigh down my messenger bag, I am thinking I should put it into the messenger bag.. Do I put my makeup bag and socks into that purse and then put that purse into messenger bag before I send it through security? Or is it better to have the makeup bag and socks just loose in the messenger bag?

Posted by Kristen
Chicago
492 posts

Two questions: Why the netbook and the Ipad? Can you take on or the other? And why a juice glass? There are some collapsible water bottles that take up far less space.

Each of those things are small but when you are carrying on, every bit of space helps. And the less electronics to keep track of, the better.

EDIT: The only thing you would have to take out are the liquids. And be prepared to take out the netbook and ipad. I always ask in the security line- some places want them separate, some don't

Posted by lisaew
Albany, NY
160 posts

Thank you again for the great advice and insight.

About the Ipad + Netbook...I do not need to bring both but I prefer E-reading and web surfing on the Ipad and doing written work and photo work on the netbook. I am not "sold" on bringing both. If I have to bring one, it would have to be the netbook because I do need to check and type many emails when I am on the trip.

As for the sock thing...I saw a security "sock" with a zipper sewn in it but I am making my own with a pocket sewn inside the leg and velcro closure. I am hoping this will be a good way to carry cash/credit cards (in a ziplock bag), in addition to the money belt.

Posted by Pam
Troy, Idaho, USA
1198 posts

Put your carry on on the belt, but put your messenger bag in a bin. In my experience you need to remove your sweater/jacket, so put that in one of your bins. Shoes go in a bin. 3-1-1 liquids bag (yes you can put as much in it as it will hold and still zip. Carry an extra.) into one of the 2 bins. You dont want the bins jammed full, so spread out into 2 bins.

I am guessing you have either snaps or some kind of zipper in your compression socks so that is why you don't want to wear them thru security? I would not bother to put your dollars in your secret pocket. Just stash them in the bottom of your purse in your messenger bag or does your cross-body purse have a zipper pocket inside the main compartment? If so I would put them there.

Posted by Frank
Tresana, Highlands Ranch, CO, USA
12055 posts

I think you have been reading too much and listening to the wrong people. Your preparation may be more than over kill.

I will have a RFID slashproof cross body purse (for use on my trip when I am going to crowded tourist areas)

You don't need either. The RFID thing is mostly marketing hype and same for slashproof purses or steel cable straps. We have spent close to 20 years in some of great pickpockets capitols of the world and haven't lost a thing or had anything slashed nor do I know of anyone who has that experience. I do think you need to easy off. And I don't understand why you think it is necessary to carry so much cash especially in foreign currency.

Posted by Sarah
St. Louis, MO USA
1558 posts

How long is your trip? Which countries are you visiting? Why will your carry-on be "filled to the absolute limit"? Rick Steves provides a good packing list for women on this website which you can modify to suit your needs, but it's very helpful in preventing travelers from overpacking. If an emergency arises and you need more clothes than what you brought, you can buy clothes wherever you are. Bringing lots of clothes in case of an emergency or just for the sake of variety, is not the way you want to travel.

Put the cash in your money belt and put the money belt in your messenger bag when you go through security. The compression / security socks are overkill.

Are you bringing a light purse, a slash-proof bag, and a messenger bag? That's too many items which all serve the same purpose. As others have said, the slash-proof bag is a waste of money. Bring one day bag. I like messenger-type cross-body bags by LeSportSac because they're lightweight, roomy, and durable.

Don't put anything of value in your suitcase. Even though you plan to carry it on, the overhead bins may be full by the time you board the plane. In that case, the airline requires people to gate-check their bigger carry-ons. There's no reason to lock the bag if there's nothing valuable in it. If you're worried about the zippers separating, tie them together with twist ties until you arrive at your destination. Don't worry about locking your messenger bag either. (How would you do that?) Everything of value (i.e. what you need to get into, around, and out of Europe) should be in your money belt under your clothes.

When I'm on vacation in Europe, I keep a day's worth of cash in my day bag. All other valuables (cash, credit cards, passport, etc.) goes in my money belt.

Posted by lisaew
Albany, NY
160 posts

Thank you everyone. I appreciate the advice. I admit I start reading stuff online and then get a bit paranoid. Because it has been so long since I have traveled overseas, I wanted to be prepared and I knew I would get some good advice here. I also have never done "carry on only" so I am a carry on newbie. I was inspired by the articles on this site so this whole carry on business is new to me. I have always taken a very large checked bag and put everything in it...including expensive cameras, electronics, etc. Never had a problem with my bag being opened but I know things have changed.

I do have a question about OTC pills...does a person have to carry them in the container that they come in or can they be put in pill boxes? I am talking about baby aspirin, Ibuprofen, Zantac, Milk Thistle. I plan to take the prescription in the original container and Emergen-C packets. But...wondering about the others. When I have traveled domestically the past few years, I always checked my bags and took only a purse on board and always had a pillbox in the purse.

Posted by Jean
Mill Creek, WA, USA
435 posts

Lisa,

The best advice I can give you is to reduce how much you're planning to bring in order to place everything in one suitcase. That includes your coat, your purse, everything. Yes, you can do it, and you will also feel much more secure through the train station as you can easily step up into the train with one free hand....avoiding any "help" with your suitcase and no free dangling purse. Take along some Woolite packets, and you can easily wash some clothes in the hotel sink to reduce the suitcase bulkiness.

As you approach the security conveyor belt, place your ipad & camera in a bin, and your Ziploc bag of liquids in a bin with your shoes. Shoes are Bin #1, Suitcase is #2, Electronics are Bin #3. It will allow you to step into your shoes & grab your liquids to place quickly into your front suitcase zipper pocket, then replace your electronics.

I don't place copies of my passport in my suitcase. Instead, I e-mail a scan of my passport to myself & a relative in case I need quick access to it.

If you've decided to carry so much cash, I would place it inside your moneybelt when you're in the airplane bathroom before landing. Personally, I'd rather pay a little more in transaction fees than to worry & mess with a thick amount of 20Euro bills that you won't even be using until halfway through your trip and fumbling with them while using the other currency - just another chance for mishap.

This must be a very special trip if you haven't been overseas in 15 years! Limiting what you bring will reduce your overall stress, so you can concentrate on your wonderful trip! Enjoy!

Posted by Ray
Portland, Oregon, USA
2174 posts

lisaew,

"I do have a question about OTC pills...does a person have to carry them in the container that they come in or can they be put in pill boxes? I am talking about baby aspirin, Ibuprofen, Zantac, Milk Thistle. I plan to take the prescription in the original container and Emergen-C packets. But...wondering about the others. When I have traveled domestically the past few years, I always checked my bags and took only a purse on board and always had a pillbox in the purse."

For the Over The Counter (OTC) stuff, i bought a aspirin container a tad smaller than a pop can and dumped most of the aspirin into another container. I use the aspirin container to put other OTC meds and have that in my carry on luggage. The only issue is that there is no "dosage" info for the other OTC stuff.

I always use the original bottle for prescriptions. If you have a large bottle, you can ask your pharmacy if they can put it in a smaller bottle. They offered for me but it was the smallest they had.

so far no agency has had any issues with my packing of the OTCs nor have they asked to inspect it. but there is always a first time too.

happy trails.

Posted by Charlie
Honolulu/Seattle, HI/WA, USA
2015 posts

I have gone to Europe for a month in 11 of the last 12 years and leave again for there later this month.
I have never taken any US cash with me to Europe. The exchange rates and fees are just too high here in the US. I use a debit card tied to a checking account at a local credit union to get local currency from ATM machines starting at my arrival airport. ATM machines are now all over Europe. My CU charges a total of 1% for exchange fees. Many folks on this web site list debit cards with no fees. Why would you consider packing a juice glass and a corkscrew in your carry-on. Unless you absolutely need them during your flight, put them in your checked luggage. I take both prescription medicines and OTC stuff whenever I fly, I keep all of the prescription ones in original (or reused) bottles that have the pharmacy labels on them. The OTC stuff I put into empty bottles and put a label on them stating what each is.
I have to go thru the "pat-down" security screening since I have an implanted mechanical device that will not continue to work properly if exposed to magnets. Since I often fly by myself, perhaps half of my 12 +/- flights a year, I have to wait for a TSA agent to arrive for the "pat-down". In those cases, I refuse to put my belongings thru the screening machine either until the agent arrives, or another TSA agent offers to take charge of my belongings coming out of the machine. The only time that policy caused a problem, I just asked to see a supervisor and explained my situation and the problem was taken care of.
I hope you have a chance to read RS's "Europe thru the Back Door" book which is highly recommended to first timers or those returning after an absence like yours. I would also recommend that you get good guide books for the two countries that you may be visiting. I would encourage you to look over all of RS web site as there are lots of good information on packing light, currency exchange, and travel tips.
If you come back to post again, the more specific information you can provide, the better answers you will get from the many experienced folks who volunteer here. Happy Travels

Posted by steve
troy, ny
303 posts

Lisa, are you flying out of Albany and connecting at JFK? I flew out of Albany last September (connected via Detroit) and never had a problem. I purchased euro in advance and had them in a wallet that was in my pocket. I threw that along with my shoes, belt, and messenger bag in the tote and they came through security with no issues. I purchased a travel wallet more like a money clip, so all the money was visible. I did not hide it in the messenger bag, just threw it in the tote with everything else. You should be fine. I also never used a money belt in Europe, just the cross body bag.

Posted by lisaew
Albany, NY
160 posts

Thank you again, everyone. I appreciate the detailed advice. I am taking a mini bus to JFK and going through security there...not taking a plane from Albany.

Just to make sure I have this right...prescription stays in original bottle with pharmacy label. OTC can be taken out of their bottles and packages and put into one container all mixed up? For example...baby aspirin, Ibuprofen, Zantac, Milk Thistle, Vitamin D all in one bottle? I will have Emergen-C powder in packets but that will come with a label.

A friend of mine who travels overseas a lot suggested that I put my foreign currency in some sock or makeup bag buried inside my carry on luggage and only have what I need for that day in my messenger bag. That seems to make sense to me.

Posted by Pam
Troy, Idaho, USA
1198 posts

I would probably not do that, only because you might get on the plane, find there is no room in the overhead bins and be forced to gate check. You don't want to be fumbling around to rescue valuables from your bag before it gets out of your sight.

Posted by travelpeon
1 posts

I signed up for an account just to reply to this ;) I travel a few times a year, often go solo, am female, and here's a few things I've learned over the years.

Wear your entire travel outfit (including compression socks) and remove all jewelry & watches prior to arriving at the airport.

  • Tuck the jewelry, watches, & loose items in a ziplock baggie and put it in a secure part of your personal item. You can put them back on at the gate, on the plane, or take a moment to sit after security screening.
  • If you've tried on the compression socks, you've probably observed that they're not easy to get on. Banging about in an airport stall trying to get them on without a foot in the toilet or stepping on the dirty bathroom floor with bare feet is a good scene for a sitcom, bad for real life. Put them on before the airport.
  • If you wear a belt and pants will stay up without it, also tuck that away prior to arriving at the airport.

--

The order in which to load things on the belt - sandwich your valuables

  1. Shoes & coats in bin, so you can pull them off the belt first and put on shoes & coat, freeing hands to grab your most valuable item. It also blocks people in front of you from reaching into the machine and grabbing your valuables off the belt.
  2. Valuables, including your personal item. Some airports want this in a bin, others don't if it is heavy enough to make it through on its own. Make sure your bag is zipped shut. A good place to tuck cash is a hard to access portion of your personal item (deep inside, secure interior pocket, etc).
  3. Carry-on, so people behind you can't just grab your valuables while you get screened.

I usually use best judgement on if I want to ask the agent to keep my stuff out of the scanner zone while I'm waiting in the line for screening. I don't like my stuff to get out of synch with me as that makes it harder to keep an eye on it. One improvement of the body scanners is the change in protocol for many US airports; they now hold up the bags to match up to the person going through the machine.

If you get pulled aside for secondary screening/wanding, politely ask for your things to remain within sight. This is a normal request. If they need to re-scan an item, it is often ok to help remove it or allow them to remove the item in question in front of you. Security will put it on the belt and the bag it came from on the belt, "cutting the queue" to feed it back through the scanner. You should keep your already scanned items near you and also keep an eye on the item going back through.

Consolidate your bags so you only have two. Airlines generally only permit two items but more importantly, two hands for two bags is about my attention span's limit. Any more than two and I tend to forget an item somewhere. Usually an inconvenient somewhere. I've lost a lot more than I've had stolen and a quick poll of friends who travel frequently has also revealed the same. Don't be your own worst enemy on this one.

Last piece of advice - keep calm. It isn't hard to get flustered, impatient, anxious, or angered and that's when it is easy to forget stuff or redirect attention from your possessions.

Posted by Toni
Charlotte, NC, USA
2951 posts

TSA does NOT require that meds be in original bottle or label. Whether or not inspectors in other countries will worry about how you have your pills organized is always a question- but we've NEVER been asked about meds we were carrying.
Personally, I've never had a problem taking meds into other countries for my personal use (and we've had more than 40 international trips)
It is the INFORMATION that is important- more in case you have a medical emergency, or need a refill (lost meds, trip extended...) You should have the brand name of the medication (ambien, etc.) and the generic name, and if no generic, a "chemical" name as brand names are not always the same.

There are lots of ways to organize your meds. You can ask your pharmacist to print you an extra label (or use the one they give you that is with the 'side effects" printout) and put it on a small Ziploc type bag, then put the medication in the bag. Alternatively, some pharmacies will prepare blister packs with all your meds grouped according to when you take them (example, day 1, am in one blister, day 1 lunch next, day 1 pm next, etc) and put all labels on the top of the sheet. You could use a pill organizer and put the labels from the pharmacy on one sheet of paper with the organizer. Plenty of other options would work, too.

I carry an information sheet with the above info (one for me, one for hubby) and I also list my Dr's phone #s, pharmacy's #, and emergency contact info as well a list medical conditions, surgeries /dates. If you become ill while traveling, or need a refill because you lost meds, etc. it could be vital. Feel free to private message me if you want a sample copy of the info sheet. Also, note that liquid meds of more than 3 oz should NOT be placed in your 3-1-1 bag, but should be in their own baggie, in original bottle. These are the only meds that must be in original container.

I always take generics for : naproxen (Aleve), aspirin, Benadryl, omeprazole (Prilosec), cough gel caps (Nyquil/Dayquil), and Dramamine. Additionally, I take plenty of our prescription meds. I also have a small first aid ‘kit’ in a quart baggie with band aids of assorted sizes, gauze pads, adhesive tape, seri-strips, dental floss, alcohol wipes, hand wipes, and small packets of Neosporin and cortisone cream. I use the small Ziploc type bags (Rite aid carries them in their travel section) to hold the pills for each day, then put them inside a larger baggie to organize (hubby’s prescriptions in one, mine in another, and "as needed" otc’s in a third). Takes very little space.

Posted by Sarah
St. Louis, MO USA
1558 posts

As Pam and I mentioned above, don't put cash or any valuables in a bag that may be checked. It's a long shot that TSA or anyone else will go through your bag and steal anything, but it happens often enough that many of us don't do it. We aren't paranoid but we do use common sense.

I like money belts because all the important travel and financial materials are in one place, and that one place is on your body most of the time.

You're worrying too much about all this.

Posted by Karen
Santa Rosa, CA
726 posts

Couple of comments from a frequent traveler:

1) Pack your carry on assuming you might have to gate check the bag- so no cash, no credit card #'s, no electronics. If you are in one of the last boarding groups, it's possible that the overhead bins can be full.

2) If you do "overstuff" your carry on, it may not fit in the overheads. Not sure what airline you are flying, but I heard that United is cracking down on the bag dimensions.

3) The TSA (always) and airlines (sometimes) really do mean 2 carry-ons. I use a backpack as a brief case and also carry a small purse (8"x6"x2") plus my rollerbag and the TSA always notices, so I put my purse in my backpack.

Posted by Diane
Westford, MA
103 posts

My approach is like Karen's. My purse & coat are inside my boarding bag. My carry-on luggage doesn't contain any valuables. This equals 2 pieces.

My experiences of the past three weeks.
1. Delta flight to France: The last ten people had to check their carry-on luggage as the bins were full. Prior to this occuring the flight attendants turned away a handful of people whose bags were over stuffed or over sized, and those people had to check that bag. But others slipped by when flight attendants were occupied assisiting someone else. I empathized with those whose carry-ons were the proper size and had to check their luggage through.

On the return flight people tried to carry-on their one luggage piece, a boarding bag, a shopping bag, and coat & a purse. Many had to check the luggage piece and again some got away with carrying on all their stuff.

My observation is travelers are trying to take advantage of the new oversized bins on Delta that allow you to vertically store your luggage piece above you in the overhead bins.

  1. JFK: Shoes had to be placed onto the conveyor belt and not placed in a bin. All electronics & valuables on your body (money, wallets, watches) had to be placed into bins. The written TSA regulation doesn't state you have to remove your wallet or money yet this practice continues all across the U.S.

  2. I agree with others on the don't over stuff your carry-on luggage, and keep valuables with you.

Posted by lisaew
Albany, NY
160 posts

Thank you all for the detailed advice. I still cannot think of a reason not to put valuables in the "legal" sized carry on luggage versus a purse except for the possibility of a "gate check" and I appreciate your warnings on this. Wouldn't that gate check happen after you go through security and after you board the plane? If it does happen, what process does that gate checked bag go through? I am more concerned about the possible "gate check" in Milan on my way back to the USA on Alitalia or being ripped off by Alitalia because my bag is not "carry on legal" versus the plane from USA to Zurich on the way over via Delta. Nothing against Alitalia but I rarely read anything good about this airline.

Posted by Laura B
San Francisco
611 posts

Coming home, I just plan to check the bigger bag and keep valuable/ cash/fragile items with me. If the checked bag gets lost on the way home, I have an entire closet of clothes waiting for me until the airline finds the bag and delivers it -- no problem! (And after four weeks of wearing, those clothes could use a vacation as well!) But if I get home and my cash is in the missing bag ... problems!!!
Of course, this works better if your flight goes directly to your home airport where you clear customs; if you have to connect to another flight in the U.S. you have to physically claim the checked bag and put it on another conveyer belt for the next flight (although the bag is technically "checked through" to your final destination.) We flew Alitalia out of Venice to AMS and KLM AMS to SFO with two checked bags and everything arrived unharmed with no effort on our part. No locks on the bags, either.

Posted by MarieB
120 posts

["I still cannot think of a reason not to put valuables in the "legal" sized carry on luggage versus a purse except for the possibility of a "gate check" ]

Lisa, when travelers suggested putting your valuables into a smaller purse or bag (such as your travelon), they mean, in case your other carry on "must be gate checked," you won't need to fumble with your most important things like money, cards, passport, a few personal items, etc. and an electronic.

It is up to you, you can lock the carry on, or have the TSA locks handy just in case you do need to gate check. It keeps the zipper from coming undone. If all you read is bad things about Alitalia, was there another airline you would feel more comfortable with?

Posted by lisaew
Albany, NY
160 posts

I cannot change my flights without it costing a lot of money. I got a good deal on my flights through Amex. Delta to Zurich and then Alitalia on the flight back to the USA. I did not realize that they do not let you pick your seats on Alitalia until after I purchased my ticket. I am flying economy. They had me smack dab in the middle of the 5 seats in the middle ;-). When I called to change the seats I was told "You are lucky we only have one aisle seat left." So, I was able to change my seat. But, then I did read that the airline had some inconsistencies with regard to what that make a person check versus carry on also.

Posted by MarieB
120 posts

Lisa, Oh okay. I offered some suggestions. I do worry that you are taking too much because you are traveling solo. Try to not let all the bad things that a few may have experienced affect your thoughts.

You should be: "Hey, I am going to Italy and Switzerland!" Yay!!

I do understand your concerns, but I think you are driving yourself crazy for almost nothing. Please go with a cautious mindset of course, but not over think or overkill. It will make you constantly nervous, and then mistakes can happen.

While on your travels, you can always come to the forum, remember what I wrote another time, "the backdoor is always open." :) You can always PM a friend here to let off steam if you need. But really, I hope you would be enjoying beautiful Italy and Switzerland and all that each country has to offer!

I flew AA partnered with BA for my trip to Italy. I had great flights, good seats and wonderful seat mates (to and fro). I had one connection/layover at Heathrow. I loved it! Window shopping, people watching - to me it was fascinating, lol, and it passed the time.

Funny story, well to me: On my way over to Italy, my fellow passengers were flying to London (back home) - both gentlemen were "just that" and very sweet. We exchanged pleasantries a bit, then they either listened to their music or napped. The seat mate that sat next to the window, he banged his head on the OH. (The nurturer in me, lol, asked if he was ok and suggested what he could do to minimize a bruise) The other mate who sat in the middle, he had just come from a wedding (a couple days previous) and was returning home.

On the connection to Italy from Heathrow, the young man who was my seat mate, asked if I wanted the window seat - we had the empty, middle seat to ourselves. I thanked him and told him no, he could have it. We also exchanged a few pleasantries, he was Italian and "going back home" after visiting a friend in London. He asked where my friend lived, he told me he is not that far from there. "Small world - big neighborhood" All the young men wished me well in my travels and were excited for me that I was traveling to Italy to visit my friend :)

During my visit to my friend in Italy, we went to Sicily - we learned that next time pack light. Even though we watched out for each other and our luggage, it still does not make you absolutely "free." I understand the reasons why you are or need to take some things, but I am concerned that because you are so nervous, you are overloading yourself with too much to keep track of....

I do wish you the best Lisa. (hug)

Posted by lisaew
Albany, NY
160 posts

Thanks so much, Marie! I appreciate the experiences and advice and your generosity of taking the time to reply. I love reading the stories. I always made a lot of friends in my travels also. I am traveling very light in the clothes and shoes dept. and plan to discard some things (like old underwear and tshirts) along the way so that I have room in the luggage on the flight back home. I absolutely cannot be without at least two Internet devices plus I need my paper copies of things and paper weighs a lot. I like my little notebooks as I do not want to whip out the Ipod every time I need to look something up. It is the heavy camera stuff that I am still debating in my mind....to bring or not to bring. I have exchanged some PMs with some very gracious people on this site (thank you Rick Steves forum :-) who are also photographers so hopefully I will have a plan about taking pics before I go.

Posted by lisaew
Albany, NY
160 posts

I have to have my paper...I know I sound like an old person but that is what is weighing me down. I do not want to be fumbling on some E-device at Milan Centrale and then have some pickpocket child distract me. My paper notebooks and guidebooks never fail me and are also easy to view in a restroom stall.