Monday, February 13, 2012

Flying with electronics

These days, most of us travel everywhere with electronics of some kind, whether it's a cell-phone, a laptop, an mp3 player, hand-held games, a camera, or something else. And if you're a parent going on a plane, you are probably counting on some of these devices to keep your kids entertained on board.

When traveling by plane, there are several things to keep in mind when it comes to bringing your electronics along.

Hand luggage or checked luggage?
Most electronics can be packed in both your carry-on and your checked luggage. However, if it's something that is very valuable to you and also somewhat fragile, as many pieces of electronic equipment are, then I'd suggest packing them in your hand luggage.

The reason for this is that checked luggage on any flight is not treated very gently. Your luggage can also be delayed, lost, or even opened and ransacked. Hand luggage doesn't always get a smooth ride either, but at least it's close to you where you can keep an eye on it. Bringing your electronics in your carry-on can potentially make your hand luggage heavier and bulkier than you would like, but I think it's still the better way to keep your electronics safe.

Going through security
Going through the security checkpoints at an airport can slow you down a lot when you're catching a flight, though there are ways to make the process speedier. Some electronics, especially laptop computers, can be a bit of a hassle at security. This is because they will have to be removed from your carry-on before going through the x-ray machine.

If you are bringing a laptop, be ready to remove it from your hand luggage:
  • Keep it easily accessible so that it's easy to remove from your bag, and easy to put back in there after inspection.
  • Get a "Checkpoint Friendly" laptop bag. In theory, using one of these bags means you won't have to remove the laptop from it. However, from experience I can say that sometimes you will still be asked to remove it. (I've tried with both a checkpoint friendly backpack and a checkpoint friendly laptop sleeve). This might be because these bags are still new to many screeners.

Tips for specific electronics
Here are some tips and specific information for traveling with common electronic devices in your hand-luggage. Remember that even though you can bring many electronics on board, their use can be restricted during the flight.
  • Cellphones - Mobile phones can be brought in your hand luggage, and don't usually have to be removed from your bag when you go through security. All airlines restrict the use of cell-phones during flights. 
  • Tablets & E-readers - iPads and other tablets, and e-readers like the Kindle, usually do not have to be removed from your hand luggage at security. As with cell-phones, their use might be restricted during the flight.
  • Laptops - As mentioned, laptops usually have to be removed from your hand luggage before they go through the x-ray machine at security. I've read about passengers being asked to turn on their laptops as well, though I've never actually had that happen to me, or seen it happen to anyone else during my travels.
  • Cameras & camcorders - These can usually stay in your hand-luggage, and with digital cameras and camcorders you don't have to worry about film being ruined when going through the x-ray machine! (Yes kids, once upon a time there was such a thing as "film" in people's cameras...) If you are bringing undeveloped film, the recommended procedure is that you bring it in your hand-luggage and ask the screener to inspect it by hand.
  • Portable DVD players, mp3 players & GPS - Usually these can stay in your hand luggage when you go through security.
  • Gaming consoles (Nintendo 3DS, PSP and similar) - According to the Canadian Transport Authority's website, these have to be removed from your carry-on for inspection. However, I have seen them allowed through security checkpoints while still inside a carry-on.
For more information, talk to your airline, or check out these websites:

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