Are you flying this Thanksgiving holiday weekend and don't want the government to frisk your private parts? While there is no way to ensure that the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) won't require you to undergo one of its new and controversial pat-downs, there are steps you can take to minimize your chances.
"You definitely want to make sure that you have nothing that might set off the metal detector," said George Hobica, president of airfarewatchdog.com.
Most travelers will not undergo the intensive pat-downs.
Only those passengers who refuse to go through the new full-body scanners (they are only in place at 70 airports; click here for a full list of those airports) or those who trigger an alarm on the more traditional metal detectors will have to undergo the pat-downs.
That has always been the case. But starting this month, the TSA changed its procedures for how the pat-downs are conducted. The new methods are much more invasive, with same-gender screeners feeling under breasts and up passengers' thighs to their crotches.
The TSA estimates that 2 million people fly each day but that the agency has received only approximately 2,330 complaints specific to these pat-downs since the procedure went into effect nationwide on Nov. 1. Put another way, the White House says roughly 340,000 people have been subjected to more intense searches, 1 percent of the 34 million travelers since the new procedures took effect.
Still, the idea of some random stranger touching areas usually reserved for lovers and doctors has caused quite a stir. Or at least a good headline or two.
"Some [TSA screeners] might go over the line. Some people just don't like to be touched," Hobica said, summing up the controversy. "The sad fact is that a determined terrorist could stuff enough high-powered explosive into a body cavity to bring down an airplane, and other than doing a full cavity search, which would never happen, body scanners are the next best thing."
Anne Banas, executive editor of travel Web site SmarterTravel, says "there's not a ton you can do" to avoid the pat-downs but that good preparation can lower your odds.
"Be really, really smart before leaving the house," she said.
That means putting any spare change and jewelry in your carry-on bag long before the security line. Take off your belt, have shoes that can easily slip off and don't have more than the allowed liquid amounts in your bag. That laptop needs to be taken out of the bag and placed in a tray as you approach the X-ray machine.
To be safe, passengers should avoid clothing with excessive zippers, underwire bras and women are advised to avoid wearing tight skirts -- apparently screeners can't reach where they need to. Pants are advised instead.
Remember, the TSA is doing these pat-downs at all 450 commercial airports across the country, regardless of whether or not they have the full-body scanners.
Other things to remember: if you have screws or plates in your body, you should declare it upfront to the screener to avoid any confusion. And, it's a bit early for Christmas gifts, but if you are traveling with goodies, do not wrap them. Wait until you get to your destination.