How to Keep a Cool Head and Stay Safe as Summer Travel Heats Up

Family FlightAn unprecedented number of travelers are ready to take to the skies this summer. U.S. airlines expect 257.4 million people to fly between June 1 and August 31, a 3.4% increase from last summer’s record of 248.8 million. Even before the season officially began, TSA set a new record for airline passengers and crew members screened in a single day, with nearly 2.8 million people passing through airport checkpoints on May 24, the Friday before Memorial Day — and the day before that was the TSA’s sixth-busiest day ever. Since those sky-high statistics can add up to more crowding, confusion and security risks at our nation’s airports, LAAPOA wants to remind everyone embarking on a much-needed vacation this summer to follow some simple guidelines that will help you travel smart and stay safe.

Even before you leave, there are things you can do to protect yourself. Burglary and theft rates tend to increase during the summer months, when criminals know people are likely to be out of town, so take your home security seriously. Bring high-value outdoor items like bicycles, grills and lawnmowers inside a garage or shed, and close and lock all doors and windows (no matter how hot it is). Make your residence look like it’s still occupied by putting lights on timers, canceling mail and newspapers, and asking a trusted neighbor to keep the yard tidy, pick up any unexpected deliveries, and generally keep an eye on things. It’s also a good idea to avoid broadcasting your absence on social media, or sharing details with taxi or rideshare drivers transporting you to the airport.

In addition, pack safely. Make sure you know what’s in your bag by completely emptying it before you begin; lots of guns and other weapons end up at airports because people forget they had them stored in their luggage from previous trips. Then, review the TSA guidelines and be aware of what you can and can’t bring through security or aboard a plane. Of particular relevance for warm-weather travel: Sunscreen, insect repellant, and gel and spray deodorant must be limited to 3.4 ounces in carry-ons (but stick deodorant or stick sunblock of any size is OK). If you’re going camping, note that pickaxes, hiking poles, hatchets and knives are only permitted in checked luggage; propane tanks, many fire starters and most bear repellants are prohibited. And with July 4 approaching, remember that fireworks are not allowed on aircraft at all.

We may think of warmer weather as smooth sailing, but it can still be volatile — in fact, a majority of airports suffer more delays in summer than in winter, so watch the forecast for tornadoes, thunderstorms and even extreme heat, which can ground aircraft. Stay up to date on any conditions that may affect your trip, including traffic on the way to the airport (especially since summer is also road construction season in many places!). Plan to arrive at least two hours before domestic flights and three hours before international flights, particularly at LAX, which is expected to be one of the nation’s busiest airports this season and is undergoing continuous construction.

When you arrive at the airport, secure your car if you’re parking long-term by choosing a well-lit spot in a heavily traveled area, locking all doors and windows, and making sure you don’t leave any valuables behind. As you move through the airport, keep your luggage in hand or in sight at all times, and ensure that it’s well-labeled with your name and contact information. Don’t agree to watch a stranger’s luggage or transport items on someone else’s behalf, and do report unattended baggage or any other questionable objects or activities you witness. Watch your wallet and be sure to put your ID away as soon as you clear security. Stay awake and alert as much as you can, especially if you’re traveling alone. And while the chances of a mass shooting or other violent incident are low, be extra vigilant in crowded areas outside security — get through them as quickly as possible, and if you do hear a loud noise or commotion, move away from it, try to find safety and always obey the instructions of law enforcement personnel.

Airports can be chaotic places, full of people struggling with their suitcases as they wait with frustration in long lines and sprint to catch their planes. It’s all too easy to get tunnel vision while you try to figure out where you’re going and hurry toward your gate, and it’s all too tempting to move into “vacation brain” mode early as you daydream about the fun and relaxation ahead. But rushed and distracted travelers are most vulnerable to danger, so keep your wits about you and pack your patience and common sense along with your swimsuit and sunglasses. Getting there on time is important, but so is getting there safely.

Precautions shouldn’t end when you reach your destination, either. If your travel itinerary is taking camping or hiking in wilderness areas or you’re planning a staycation to enjoy one of our many local parks, you also need to be prepared and follow safety protocols. Research the area you’ll be visiting to learn about its specific conditions, rules and potential hazards, but basic guidelines include sticking to the trails, resisting the temptation to feed or approach wildlife, and bringing the proper gear along with a paper map or compass and enough food and water. With fire season starting, be extra mindful to only build campfires in designated areas and make sure you extinguish them completely. And above all, pay attention! There have been many recent fatal incidents in parks across the nation where sightseers fell from cliffs, were swept away by flash floods, were attacked by wild animals or crashed their cars while trying to take photographs. Stay focused on what’s happening around you at all times.

As always, LAAPOA members are committed to our sworn duty of protecting our airports and our city, and we are proud to work in partnership with our community to make travel as smooth and secure as possible, year-round. No matter if you’re traveling abroad or hiking a scenic trail, we urge everyone to plan ahead, watch your surroundings and protect yourself — so you can enjoy your summer adventure, safely.