Other changes include: some airports have stopped curb-side baggage check, anything vaguely resembling a knife or lighter may or may not be confiscated (although lighters suddenly stopped being dangerous a year ago), you're sometimes only allowed one carry-on plus a purse, briefcase, diaper bag or the like, non-passengers aren't allowed past security, all passengers must have a document that looks like a boarding pass at most airports to get past security, you may have to put your toothpaste and shampoo in a baggie that may have to be a one quart size, some parking areas close to terminals are closed. But check-in clerks no longer ask you whether you packed your own suitcase.
Be wary of “friendly” strangers. There have been reports of alleged sexual assaults at tourist resorts carried out by resort staff and, in some cases, by other tourists. Women travelling alone are often harassed. Refrain from excessive drinking, especially at all-inclusive resorts. Although most hotels and resorts are well guarded, ensure that your hotel room doors and windows are secure.
Cases of sexual assault against female travellers have been reported. Always travel in groups and avoid isolated areas, including unsupervised beaches, especially at night. Never leave food or drinks unattended or in the care of strangers. Be wary of accepting snacks, beverages, gum or cigarettes from new acquaintances, as they may contain drugs that could put you at risk of sexual assault.
Be wary of “friendly” strangers. There have been reports of alleged sexual assaults at tourist resorts carried out by resort staff and, in some cases, by other tourists. Women travelling alone are often harassed. Refrain from excessive drinking, especially at all-inclusive resorts. Although most hotels and resorts are well guarded, ensure that your hotel room doors and windows are secure.
Passengers are subject to much more extensive screening than in the past, including screening of checked baggage at check-in time, and, according to news reports pat downs that approach groping. Airlines recommend arriving at least an hour earlier than before. In my experience the extra delay is rarely more than 15 minutes, even with the extra baggage screening, although I usually fly out of smaller airports, not big hubs where you can get the killer two hour lines. The TSA has handed back screening at a surprising number of airports to private contractors, all of whom wear outfits intended to look like TSA uniforms. There is remarkable inconsistency in procedures from one airport to another, particularly with respect to your shoes, is worse than ever. Don't put your shoes in a bin, do put your shoes in a bin, and they all insist very loudly that whatever their rule is has always been the rule everywhere. A variety of extra cost "trusted traveller" plans may allow people to get through the screening faster, or may just involve waiting in a different line. The TSA makes no promises. If you don't want to go through the X-ray machines, whose safety is nowhere near as clear as the TSA would like you to believe, you can get a light body massage instead. They have a web site with estimated wait times based on averages in previous months, not real time numbers.
Citizens from countries participating in the US Visa Waiver Program who wish to travel by air to the United States must obtain prior approval through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA). ESTA is used by the U.S. government to screen eligible residents of Visa Waiver Program (VWP) countries before they board a plane to the U.S to determine whether or not they pose a law enforcement or security risk. VWP passengers are encouraged to apply for an ESTA when beginning to plan travel to the United States, using the convenient ESTA online form External site which may not meet accessibility guidelines. Passengers will be required to present proof of ESTA registration at time of check in and those who have not obtained prior approval via ESTA before departure will be denied boarding.
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After security checkpoints close for the night, all passengers are restricted to the landside areas, and must re-clear security the next day when the checkpoints open. Travellers report that there are some armrest-free benches in the pre-security departure area, but warn that sleep becomes problematic with the early AM opening of the security checkpoints. The nearby arrivals area is quieter and darker, but all seating here reportedly comes with armrests. For uninterrupted sleep, there are hotels near the airport. See Airport Hotels in the airport guide below.
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