TSA Rules for Vapes and e-Cigarettes (The Big Questions Answered) [2023]

As people return to traveling, a lot of passengers will be asking about the TSA rules for vapes, mods, and e-cigarettes.

The rules are relatively straightforward but there are some specific requirements that you need to be aware of when it comes to things like cartridges and batteries.

In this article, I’ll break down everything you need to know about bringing your vape pens or e-cigarettes through airport security.

What are the TSA rules for vapes and e-cigarettes?

TSA allows passengers to bring electronic cigarettes and similar devices (vaporizers, vape pens, mods, atomizers, and electronic nicotine delivery systems) through airport security as a carry-on.

However, these devices are prohibited in CHECKED baggage.

The FAA banned e-cigarettes in checked luggage in 2016 after there were reports of small fires that broke out in the cargo holds. So this restriction is for the safety of all passengers and crew.

Please do not attempt to get around this restriction as it will put everybody at risk.

Tip: Use the free app WalletFlo to help you travel the world for free by finding the best travel credit cards and promotions!

Bringing vapes and e-cigarettes through airport security

When taking your vapes and e-cigarettes through the airport, you can bring them inside your carry-on or inside a personal item (such as a backpack) no problem.

(I don’t recommend putting them in your pocket while in the airport because you might forget as you go through airport security scanners.)

Some airlines, such as American Airlines and Delta, recommended that you store them in a designated carry case that may have come with the original vape packaging.

If your mod/vaping device has multiple parts then it is recommended that you disassemble your vaporizer prior to entering the security line.

Even better is if you have all of the parts (atomizer, tank, mouth piece, batteries, etc.) neatly placed within a carrier for easy inspection.

When you are actually going through security, it’s recommended to remove your e-cigarette/vape, place it in a tray/bin, and put it through the x-ray scanner separately from your carry-on bag.

If you keep it in your bag, it could look suspicious and cause you to undergo additional screening.

Generally speaking, the larger your device the greater your chances of a TSA agent wanting to take a closer look.

If they want to take a closer inspection, just let them do their thing. If you don’t have any illegal substances, you don’t have anything to worry about.

Note that if you are bringing special pods or packs that contain liquid vape you need to comply with the liquids rule which I will talk about below.

Related: Bringing a lighter through airport security

Remove your vaping device from your carry-on when going through security for a smooth experience.

Liquid vape cartridges

Liquid cartridges such as JUULpods that click into the top of the JUUL devices and other similar containers that contain e “juices” are considered a liquid and, therefore, they will be subject to the TSA liquids 3-1-1 rule.

The liquids 3-1-1 rule requires all liquid containers to be 3.4 ounces (100ml) or smaller and for them to be stored in a quart sized bag (preferably a clear Ziploc bag).

This means that if you are transporting JUULpods or other juice packs, you need to transport them in a very specific way.

First, the vape cartridges need to be smaller than 100ml.

Many vape juice cartridges are much smaller than 100ml so it should not be difficult for you to find TSA compliant vape cartridges.

In some cases you may need to remove your vape cartridge from your device so that the device has no attachments containing liquid.

Second, you need to place these cartridges in a quart sized Ziploc bag.

The key thing here is that the cartridges must fit “comfortably” inside the bag which means the bag cannot be overstuffed or almost bursting at the seams.

If you do not have TSA Pre-Check, you will need to remove your liquids bag from your carry-on as you make your way through the airport screening process.

Because of this screening process you might be better off just transporting your pods in your checked baggage where you can transport unlimited quantities.

There are reports of the pods leaking at high altitudes so having them in a sealed bag is highly recommended. It is also better to transport a partially used cartridge that has room for the liquid to expand to avoid leakage.

Related: TSA Checklist (Tips & PDF)

Vaping pen

Checking your bag at the gate

Sometimes your plane may not have room for your carry-on, especially if you are towards the back of the boarding process.

If this happens to you and you are traveling with your vape, be sure that you remove your vape and batteries from your carry-on bag that they are checking because they will not be allowed as a checked item.

Related: Can You Take Cigarettes on a Plane?

Vape pen chargers

If you are bringing a power charger or power bank that contains a lithium ion battery it must also be packed in your carry-on bag.

This is because such battery packs can cause risks of explosions and fires in the cargo hold. So to be on the safe side, bring your spare batteries with you on your carry-on.

Keep in mind that TSA can apply extra scrutiny when traveling with multiple spare batteries because the batteries can pose a risk. This is especially true if your lithium batteries have more than 100 watt hours.

For that reason, you may want to only travel with one spare battery or pack your multiple batteries delicately so that they cannot come in to contact with each other.

Related: Bringing Batteries on a Plane: TSA’s Rules for Staying Charged Up

Flying with marijuana/THC vapes

With the growing legalization of marijuana in different states, a lot of travelers are now curious as to how they can legally fly when carrying marijuana on them.

The first thing to note is that marijuana is still illegal on the federal level which makes it illegal to fly with.

Reportedly, regardless of what airport you are departing, TSA’s response to finding marijuana will be the same.

“It is important for me to note that TSA’s response to the discovery of marijuana is the same in every state and at every airport – regardless of whether marijuana has been or is going to be legalized,” TSA spokesperson Lorie Dankers explained. 

“This also covers medical marijuana.”

But in practice it’s not clear that this is the case.

If you are flying from a state that has legal marijuana, such as Colorado, and you were caught with marijuana at the airport, it is possible that they will simply request for you to dispose of the cannabis.

But if you were traveling from an area where marijuana is not legalized, the response could be much different.

The bottom line is that this is still a bit of a gray area that is still developing and so there are basically no guarantees as to how TSA will react upon finding marijuana in your possession during the security screening process.

The second thing to note is that TSA is not actively looking to discover marijuana or other illegal drugs that might be in your possession. The TSA website states:

TSA’s screening procedures are focused on security and are designed to detect potential threats to aviation and passengers. Accordingly, TSA security officers do not search for marijuana or other illegal drugs

However, they do note that if illegal substances are discovered during the security screening process the TSA will refer the matter to a law-enforcement officer.

Many vapes containing THC are pretty discreet so they may not always be easily detected.

So if you are traveling with (small amounts) of marijuana/THC vape pens you may not encounter any problems but you should be prepared to have to dispose of your marijuana if it is detected by TSA and in a worst-case scenario, be prepared to explain why you have it in your possession to a law-enforcement officer.

Related: Can You Smoke Weed in a Hotel Room?

Related: Can You Bring Food on a Plane?

Vaping pen marijuana

The back up plan

Some travelers who are weary about losing items when going through security will bring a self-addressed envelope with postage so that they can mail off any item that would be confiscated.

I’ve personally never tried this before but I have seen reports online of people doing it successfully. While a rare occurrence, it could come in handy when a TSA agent uses discretion to confiscate your vape due to some unknown reason or suspicion (TSA agents have discretion to prevent you from bringing items through security).

I don’t see any reason why the self-addressed envelope route could not work in many instances but if you are trying to mail off illegal substances such as marijuana then it could obviously be very problematic (and illegal) so use common sense.

TSA rules for vapes FAQ

Can you vape in an airplane?

No, you are not allowed to vape inside an aircraft. This is to protect people from the devices’ second-hand vapor and to reduce the risk of a device malfunctioning. If you are caught vaping on a plane you could be subject to a large fine up to $4,000.

Do I need to turn my vape off during flight?

Many airlines require your vape to be turned off or to be placed in safety mode during flight.

Can you vape in an airplane lavatory?

No, you are not allowed to vape anywhere inside an aircraft.

Can I bring an e-cigarette as a carry-on?

Yes, e-cigarettes are allowed to be brought on a plane as a carry-on.

Why are vape pens not allowed and checked baggage?

Vape pens are not allowed in checked baggage because they present a hazardous risk. The batteries could be prone to exploding and catching fire in the cargo compartment.

Can you charge an e-cigarette in an airplane?

Many airlines will not allow you to charge an e-cigarette during flight and may require it to be powered off. You can ask a flight attendant but be prepared for them to tell you no.

Can I bring an e-cigarette on an international flight?

Some countries have banned e-cigarettes from flights and from importation so before attempting to travel with an e-cigarette on an international flight you should first verify that possession of the e-cigarette in the country is legal.

Can I travel with a vape containing THC?

While TSA does not actively seek out vapes containing THC, it is possible that if it is detected they will request for you to throw it out or refer you to airport authorities. This can even occur when departing from a state with legalized marijuana.

Do I have to declare my electronic cigarette?

No, you do not have to declare your electronic cigarette or vape. However, you should remove it from your carry-on and comply with the liquids rule if needed.

Do vapes leak on airplanes?

Cartridges containing liquids tend to leak at high altitudes as the liquid expands under the decreased air pressure. So it is recommended to not carry cartridges that are full with e-liquid. In addition, storing them in a sealed bag or container could be a good idea.

Can vapes set off the smoke alarm in a plane?

Yes, vapor can set off the smoke alarm on a plane which is another reason why you do not want to vape on a plane. Passengers have gotten into trouble with this in the past, so it’s something you don’t want to risk.

Final word

Traveling with an e-cigarette or vape through airport security is permitted so long as you comply with the liquid rules.

You want to pay extra attention to make sure you do not leave your cigarettes in your checked baggage because that could present major risks to the flight and also get you into legal trouble.

REAL ID Act: Explained with Detailed Timeline [2023]

You’ve probably seen the term REAL ID quite a few times over the past few years. It’s been in the news, on the blogs, and even at airports and other ports of entry.

Some people are surprised to find out that the REAL ID has been a thing for over 15 years!

But now, we seem to be closer than ever to the point when the REAL ID will be officially implemented so it definitely pays to know what it is all about.

Below, I’ll give you a breakdown of what the REAL ID is and talk about the background of how it came about. I’ll tell you everything you need to know about it including giving you a detailed recap of its timeline.

What is the REAL ID Act?

The REAL ID Act is an act of Congress intended to make state-issued drivers licenses and IDs more secure by helping to reduce fraud.

Specifically, the Real ID Act prohibits federal agencies from accepting drivers licenses and other ID cards issued by states and territories that do not comply with the REAL ID Act’s minimum standards.

The result is that people without compliant state IDs cannot access certain federal government facilities, nuclear power plants, and cannot board flights, unless they provide some type of alternative ID (such as a passport).

For your average traveler who is not visiting government facilities or nuclear power plants, the biggest and most notable change will be that you will not be able to rely on your drivers license to get you through TSA unless it is REAL ID compliant.

How to know if you have a REAL ID compliant ID

REAL ID-compliant licenses are marked by a star on the top of the card. It’s usually very easy to spot but if you aren’t 100% sure just contact your state driver’s licensing agency or local DMV.

Keep in mind that there are some IDs that do not have stars on top of the card that can still be accepted. For example, these may include enhanced driver’s licenses (EDLs) and enhanced IDs.

Only five U.S. states (Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Vermont, and Washington) offer EDLs.

Related: Can You Get Through TSA and Fly with No ID?


How to get a REAL ID compliant ID

If you need to get a REAL ID compliant ID, check out this official website from the DHS. You can then click on your state or territory and then you will be able to set up an appointment. You can also just contact your local DMV.

Be aware that you will need certain documents when you head to the DMV.

At a minimum, you must provide documentation showing:

  • 1) Full Legal Name
  • 2) Date of Birth
  • 3) Social Security Number
  • 4) Two Proofs of Address of Principal Residence and
  • 5) Lawful Status

Some locations may require you to submit even more documents which is why you want to contact the office nearest you.

REAL ID Act background

After the attacks of September 11, the US established the 9/11 commission to help find out ways to reduce future terrorist attacks.

One of the recommendations that came out of the report was a recommendation to establish federal standards for IDs.

“The federal government should set standards for the issuance of birth certificates and sources of identification, such as drivers licenses.”

Before 9/11, every state had its own set of rules for how IDs were provided and what information was showing on IDs, including security features. And these are not always the most robust requirements or processes.

Going back to the 1990s, many DMV’s struggled to deal with fraudulent actors who were seeking IDs for nefarious purposes, so this has been an ongoing problem.

However, they didn’t have the resources or the structure (or just the proper motivation) to successfully combat these and that is what the REAL ID initiative helped provide.

Related: TSA Pre-Check Guide (Application Process, Locations, Status)

What are the REAL ID Act requirements?

The REAL ID Act requirements primarily affect the agencies that are issuing the IDs and require them to comply with certain standards. Specifically, there are 39 REAL ID standards or benchmarks (although some argue there are 43).

The state or territory issuing the ID must meet certain standards when issuing an ID such as:

  • Capture a photograph of the applicant
  • Store digital images of the applicants documents
  • Verify the documents with the authorities who issued them (e.g., verify with the Social Security administration)
  • Verify existing IDs issued by another state are terminated
  • Limit the validity of ID documents to eight years
  • Implement background checks of employees
  • Maintain a database of ID documents issued along with driver histories
  • Provide access to other states and territories (State-to State (S2S) Verification Service)

The applicant must provide documentation of the person’s full name, date of birth, and residential address.

They must have a Social Security number or document that they are not eligible for one and they need a document that they are a US national or a foreign national legally in the US.

An applicant will have to show at least two documents showing their address. If they present a birth certificate, it must be verified through the EVVE. Also, US passports and visas on foreign passports must be verified with the Department of State.

As for the actual ID card, the REAL ID Act requires it to contain the following information:

  • Full name
  • Date of birth
  • Gender
  • Photograph
  • Address
  • Signature
  • Document number
  • Security features
  • Machine readable technology

Interestingly, states can still issue non-REAL ID compliant IDs but they have to make it clear that the document is not accepted for federal purposes.

Related: TSA Liquid Rules Ultimate Guide (3-1-1 Explained)

Timeline of Real ID events

July 2004

The 9/11 Commission Report is published and recommends that the federal government create standards for the issuance of identification documents such as drivers licenses in order to improve national security.

December 2004

The Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 (IRTPA) is signed by President George W. Bush on December 17, 2004.

This required the federal government to set regulations for the minimum standards for federal acceptance of driver’s licenses and ID cards — the first time national standards had ever been applied to ID cards.

May 2005

On May 11, 2005, the REAL ID Act was signed into law by President George W. Bush. (REAL is capitalized but apparently does not have meaning as an acronym.)

According to the DHS, the “REAL ID is a coordinated effort by the states and the federal government to improve the reliability and accuracy of state-issued identification documents, which should inhibit terrorists’ ability to evade detection by using fraudulent identification.”

The REAL ID Act specified that the new rules would go into effect on May 11, 2008. However, there was widespread opposition by many governments and so the deadline was extended.

March 2007

The DHS published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for REAL ID and opposition by state governments begins to grow.

Several states believed compliance would be too expensive and burdensome.

They also rejected it largely on the grounds of individual liberty, limited government, and privacy concerns.

For example, they believed having data from every American consolidated would make people more vulnerable to identity theft. Others saw it as a potential violation of the 10th Amendment and a slippery slope to federal government control.

As a result some states enacted legislation to oppose the law and prevent the state from being forced to comply.

For example, Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer stated “No, nope, no way, hell no,” and signed one of the toughest anti-REAL ID state laws in the nation. Many other states like Maine and Utah had also done the same or similar.

July 2009

Due to all of the opposition and uncertainty, critics of the REAL ID, including the ACLU, declared that the REAL ID act was essentially dead.

“Real ID is essentially dead. It’s time for it to be formally repealed and replaced with a process that works, one that protects civil liberties and license security,” said Michael Macleod-Ball, Acting Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office.

This time frame was truly the low point for the REAL ID as 15 states had passed legislation prohibiting participation in the REAL ID program including: Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana, Maine, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Virginia, Washington, Oregon, and Missouri.

In addition, 10 other states had enacted resolutions that were against REAL ID including: Arkansas, Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, South Dakota and Tennessee.

it certainly was not looking great for the rea ID.

January 2011

Despite a lot of opposition and doubt during the first few years of the REAL ID Act, by January 2011, 11 jurisdictions were in compliance with all of the REAL ID benchmarks — a significant sign of progress for the REAL ID.

Some states were finding it less expensive than initially expected which was helping more states to get on board.

The ease of compliance was also largely a product of the REAL ID Program Office working closely over the years with AAMVA and the individual DMVs to ensure that the new implementations were practical.

This was a tricky relationship for many states because while the DMV offices were generally in favor of strengthening the security of their IDs, they also had to contend with the fact that their governors may have opposed the REAL ID Act. Not only that, but some DMV’s were even told to report to the governor any attempts by the DHS to secure REAL ID compliance.

December 2013

The DHS announced a “phased enforcement” plan for the REAL ID Act. The first three phases were to begin between April 2014 and October 2015.

These phases meant that the restrictions would go into place for certain government facilities such as the DHS headquarters, nuclear power plants, and restricted areas for federal facilities and some semi-restricted areas for other federal facilities.

The fourth phase was to apply to boarding federally regulated commercial aircraft.

It required individuals to have a REAL ID compliant ID to board an aircraft although they could also carry a second form of ID if they only had a non-compliant ID.

This was supposed to go into effect no sooner than 2016.

January 2016

In January 2016, the REAL ID took a large step forward when the DHS announced what was believed to be the final phase of implementation for REAL ID.

DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson announced that effective from January 22, 2018, passengers with a driver’s license or ID card issued by a state that is still not compliant with the REAL ID Act (unless that state has been granted an extension to comply with the Act) would need to show TSA an alternative form of acceptable identification for domestic air travel.

It was stated that starting on October 1, 2020, every air traveler would need a REAL ID compliant license or another acceptable form of identification.

July 2016

Things really begin to heat up starting July 15, 2016, when TSA, in coordination with airlines and airport stakeholders, started to issue web-based advisories and notifications to the traveling public.

On December 15, 2016, TSA then expanded the “marketing” outreach at its airport security checkpoints through signage and handouts.

Spring of 2017

Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly announced in the spring of 2017 that he remained committed to the enforcement of the REAL ID rules.

He also reiterated the January 2018 deadline set by Secretary Johnson, and DHS officials continued to state that the October 2020 deadline is still set.

Some states like Missouri in Alaska repeal state laws against the REAL ID.

August 2017

Missouri became the last state to commit to REAL ID compliance.

January 2018

REAL IDs are required for air travel for all states unless they have an extension. However, it appears that all states that were not in compliance at the time secured an extension so air travel was not impacted.

November 2019

Substantial progress was made by many states in jurisdictions to be compliant with the REAL ID act.

For example, 51 jurisdictions were compliant and only five jurisdictions—New Jersey, Oklahoma, Oregon, American Samoa, and Northern Mariana Islands—had extensions or were under review.

All jurisdictions were set up to begin issuing compliant licenses by the summer of 2020.

January 2020

At the end of January 2020, DHS reported that the states had collectively issued more than 95 million REAL ID-compliant driver’s licenses and ID cards. This represented about (34%) out of 276 million total cards.

At this point, REAL ID had come a long way with every jurisdiction set up to begin issuing compliant licenses very soon.

Unfortunately, the world was in the process of adjusting to a very unexpected threat….

March 2020

As the coronavirus pandemic began to erupt and caused DMV’s to temporarily close or cut down on personnel, and the deadline around the corner for the REAL ID, Congress decided that they would need to extend the deadline.

On March 23, 2020, President Trump announced he would be delaying the deadline.

And then a few days later, Congress approved a relief package (CARES Act) that included a push back of the deadline by at least one year.

DHS Secretary Chad Wolf then set a new deadline of October 1, 2021.

September 2020

On September 10, 2020, The Department of Homeland Security announced that after more than 15 years, all 50 states were now in full compliance with the REAL ID Act.

In addition, over 105 million REAL ID-compliant driver’s licenses and identification cards had been issued, representing about 38% of all card holders.

April 2021

On April 27, 2021, Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas announced the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) would be extending the REAL ID enforcement date by 19 months, from October 1, 2021 to May 3, 2023.

This delay was once again caused by the coronavirus pandemic, as many DMV offices were still operating with limited capacity.

December 2022

On December 5, 2022, it was announced that the REAL ID would once again be extended from May 3, 2023 to May 7, 2025.

This means that beginning May 7, 2025, “every traveler 18 years of age or older will need a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license or identification card, state-issued enhanced driver’s license, or another TSA-acceptable form of identification at TSA security checkpoints.”


Do minors have to comply with the REAL ID?

REAL ID applies to travelers 18 years of age or older.

When will the REAL ID be enforced?

The REAL ID is scheduled to be enforced on May 7, 2025.

How do I know if my ID is compliant?

REAL ID-compliant licenses are marked by a star on the top of the card. Some states may offer an enhanced driver’s license which will not have a star but will still be compliant.

Will I be able to fly if I don’t have a REAL ID-compliant license?

Yes, you will still be able to use alternative forms of ID to get through airport security. For example, you could use a passport.

Will my gender be on the REAL ID license?

Yes, gender is one of the required fields of the ID.

Do I need a REAL ID to visit any federal facility?

No, not every federal facility will require you to show a REAL ID.

Do I need a REAL ID to vote?

No, the Act does not apply to voting or registering to vote.

Does the REAL ID create a federal database?

No, states will continue to issue their own unique license and maintain their own records. However, they may share information with other states.

Final word

The REAL ID was created as a response to the attacks of 9/11 and has had a very long (and uphill) journey to get where it is today.

It is still not fully in effect, probably mostly due to the circumstances that followed the pandemic of 2020.

However, all of the states are now in full compliance with the REAL ID and more and more of these are getting issued every month.

Based on the traction that has finally developed and the amount of time that has passed since the outbreak of coronavirus, it’s likely that the next deadline will be the final deadline for the story of the REAL ID.


Exploring Fort Mackinac’s Rich History & Firing the Canon!

Mackinac Island in Michigan is a treasure trove of captivating history.

From its distinction as one of the earliest national parks in the United States to its transformation into a sought-after destination for travelers, it is steeped in historical significance.

Yet, one of the most intriguing and compelling narratives on the island unfolds within the walls of Fort Mackinac.

What is Fort Mackinac?

Fort Mackinac, situated on Mackinac Island in Michigan, is a historic military fort offering visitors a glimpse into the military history of the region and the role the fort played during the late 18th and early 19th centuries, including its involvement in the War of 1812.

Fort Mackinac: a brief history

Fort Mackinac has roots dating back to the late 1700s.

Before 1763, the French utilized Fort Michilimackinac, located on the mainland’s south shore of the Straits of Mackinac, to assert control over the region.

Following the Treaty of Paris in 1763, the British took control of the French fort but found it challenging to defend.

In response to these challenges, in 1780 Lieutenant Governor Patrick Sinclair took charge of the construction of a new fort made of limestone on the 150-foot limestone bluffs of Mackinac Island.

To create this new fort, various buildings were relocated from the mainland post of Michilimackinac, including the barracks, guardhouse, and provision storehouse.

The fort was strategically positioned to oversee the Straits of Mackinac, connecting Lake Michigan and Lake Huron, and played a pivotal role in regulating the lucrative fur trade. But it had its shortcomings as you’ll see.

Fort Mackinac

Eventually, in 1796, several years after the American victory in the Revolutionary War, the United States assumed control of the fort and it went on to play a substantial role in the region’s history, notably during the War of 1812.

In June 1812, as the War of 1812 commenced, Fort Mackinac was defended by a modest United States garrison consisting of roughly sixty men, led by Lieutenant Porter Hanks.

Unfortunately, Hanks and his men were unaware of the outbreak of the war due to a lack of communication.

In the early hours of July 17, 1812, a joint British and Native American expedition, led by British Captain Charles Roberts, launched a surprise assault on Fort Mackinac.

This force comprised 40 British soldiers along with 500 French Canadian and Native American allies, significantly outnumbering the US troops.

They disembarked on the northern tip of Mackinac Island, a location still accessible today and recognized as “British Landing.”

Fort Mackinac British Landing
British Landing

They then ascended to the island’s highest point, which afforded a commanding view of Fort Mackinac.

This area was eventually reclaimed by the United States and named Fort Holmes. And today, there is a recreated fort at this location that offers a fascinating historical experience well worth exploring.

Fort Mackinac Fort Holmes
Fort Holmes

But back to the invasion by the British….

Once the British were on the island’s high point they strategically positioned their cannons directly aimed at the fort, compelling its surrender in what marked the first land engagement of the War of 1812.

A couple of years later in August of 1814, there was another significant battle for the island that ended unfavorably for the Americans. Similar to the British approach, the American forces landed on the island’s northern side.

However, as they advanced toward the fort, they faced strong resistance and were ambushed by Native American allies, leading to the loss of 13 American soldiers, including their second-in-command, Major Andrew Holmes.

This battlefield is yet another location that you can visit when on the island.

Fort Mackinac

Fort Mackinac remained under the control of the British Empire for a significant period until the conclusion of the war when it was returned to the United States as part of the Treaty of Ghent in 1815.

Throughout the 19th century, Fort Mackinac continued to operate as a military post. However, by the late 1800s, its defensive role had become obsolete.

Instead, it found new purposes, such as serving as the headquarters for managing the national park established on Mackinac Island. Eventually, it was decommissioned in 1895, and the fort became a part of Michigan’s first State Park, as the focus on the island shifted to tourism.

In the late 1950s, after restoration work that went on through the decades, Fort Mackinac opened as a living history museum.

Fort Mackinac view

How to get to Fort Mackinac

To visit Fort Mackinac, you must first make your way to Mackinac Island.

If you’re not familiar with the island, it’s important to note that automobiles are not permitted there. Instead, you’ll need to access the island by taking a ferry, boat, or flying in. It’s just a brief uphill walk from the downtown area to reach the fort’s south entrance. Alternatively, you can come from the north entrance.

An adult ticket is about $15 and comes with admission to other sites on the island. For more on pricing and admission you can go here.

Fort Mackinac exterior

Experiencing Fort Mackinac

Indeed, there is much to explore and experience at Fort Mackinac. When planning your visit, it’s advisable to allocate ample time to fully appreciate all that it has to offer.

Throughout the day, visitors have the opportunity to witness engaging historical demonstrations that transport them back in time.

These demonstrations often include captivating reenactments featuring period rifles like the Springfield model 1873.

Fort Mackinac

he firing of the renowned cannon, a 1841 model six-pounder is not to be missed!

Fort Mackinac canon demonstration

There is also a guided tour which will give you a great background into the evolution of the fort.

For the most part, you’re standing in the parade grounds so the tour doesn’t take you in and out of the buildings (which is probably a good thing because those are best explore in small groups).

Fort Mackinac tour

Visitors can plan ahead by calling to inquire about the scheduled times for these demonstrations.

Alternatively, while exploring the fort, keep an ear out for the uniformed workers dressed in 1880s Prussian-inspired uniforms, as they often make announcements regarding the timing of these events.

Furthermore, if you encounter these knowledgeable workers during their free moments, don’t hesitate to approach them with any questions you may have about the fort’s history. They are usually eager to share fascinating insights and historical tidbits.

Fort Mackinac tour

In addition to the scheduled demonstrations and shows, you have the freedom to embark on self-guided exploration throughout the fort.

As you explore, you’ll encounter a plethora of intriguing structures to enter and explore. Many of these sites feature interpretive panels and artifacts that provide valuable insights into the fort’s rich history, enhancing your learning experience.

Indeed, some of the structures within the fort are incredibly captivating, such as the Post Guardhouse, which once served as the detention area for prisoners. What makes it even more intriguing is the presence of graffiti dating back to the 1800s, left behind by the incarcerated individuals who were held in this room.

You’ll also have the opportunity to explore a variety of other historical buildings, each with its own unique significance. Some of these include the Soldiers Barracks, Post Schoolhouse, Officer’s Stone Quarters (which is Michigan’s oldest building, dating back to 1780), and the Commissary Building.

Fort Mackinac barracks

These structures offer a diverse range of insights into the fort’s history and the daily life of its inhabitants during different time periods.

Fort Mackinac tea room

One of the most intriguing and unforgettable experiences you can have at Fort Mackinac is the opportunity to be the one person who fires the cannon in the morning, for a little extra cost (~$60 extra).

As a history buff, this is an incredibly cool and memorable activity, well worth the investment. Plus, I’m pretty sure the money spent on this experience goes toward supporting the fort and its preservation, making it a win-win for history buffs and the fort’s continued maintenance.

Final word

For many people, Fort Mackinac stands as the highlight of their Mackinac Island experience.

Its rich history, well-preserved structures, and engaging historical demonstrations make it a must-visit destination for those exploring this unique and captivating island.

From its strategic location overlooking the straits to the intriguing artifacts and stories it houses, Fort Mackinac offers a glimpse into the past that truly enhances any visit to Mackinac Island.

The Boston Cooler Chronicles: Experiencing A Refreshing Detroit Tradition

When it comes to refreshing summer drinks, the Boston Cooler has to rank among the very best. Unknown to lots of people outside of the Midwest, it’s a Detroit staple for many.

But what’s the story behind this beverage, and how exactly does it relate to Detroit, Michigan?

In this article, we’ll delve into the intriguing origins of the Boston Cooler and even provide you with a step-by-step guide on how to craft this Midwest classic at home.

What is a Boston Cooler?

A Boston Cooler is a classic beverage that combines Vernors ginger ale and creamy vanilla ice cream, resulting in a delightful and refreshing treat. Its origins are somewhat disputed, but it’s now closely associated with Detroit, Michigan, where it gained popularity.

Boston Cooler mix

Boston Cooler History 

The origins of the Boston Cooler are a topic of some debate, particularly regarding who first coined the term.

However, one thing seems certain: this beverage has gone through several transformations before settling on the combination of Vernors and vanilla ice cream that we recognize today.

Many individuals attribute the creation of this delightful beverage to an establishment once situated along Boston Boulevard in Detroit, which, of course, would provide a logical explanation for its name, the “Boston Cooler.”

However, this connection appears to be more along the lines of a myth, and the term “Boston Cooler” has evolved over time with various interpretations and associations.

Boston Coolers may have been born in Massachusetts in the late 1800s as a cocktail of rum, lime, and soda water.

Around the same era, in 1889, an article on summer cocktails in New York mentioned a Boston Cooler recipe that combined ginger ale and sarsaparilla.

The article, with its tantalizingly long headline, enticed readers by describing the drinks as “Seductive Drinks that Come Like a Breeze from the Arctic—Cocktails that Are ‘Midsummer Poems’—A Recipe for a ‘Liquid Blizzard’ Suited to the Dog Days.”

Also, during the early 1900s when soda fountains were all of the rage, there were advertisements offering a “Boston Cooler,” which was a a scoop of ice cream in a half of a melon. Apparently, these treats were extremely popular.

Finally, when soda fountains were all of the rage, the term Boston Cooler became associated with various types of ice cream-soda concoctions that one could order at the soda fountains and ice cream shops.

So essentially, the Boston Cooler became the “generic term used in the early 20th century for any drink mixing ice cream and soda.” For instance, Hires, a root beer company, promoted their own version of the Boston Cooler.

Suffice it to say these drinks weren’t specific to Detroit or Michigan by any means.

But how then did they develop the D-town connection that is undeniable today? 

Well, a significant part of the answer lies with Vernors and a gentleman named Fred Sanders.

Fred Sanders was the visionary behind one of Detroit’s pioneering ice cream and confectionery shops. He’s been credited with introducing ice cream sodas to the Detroit scene during the 1800s.

What’s particularly noteworthy is his choice of a key ingredient: Detroit’s very own Vernors, a beverage concocted by local pharmacist James Vernor. To this day, Vernors is renowned for its potential stomach-soothing properties.

One version of history says that at this shop, the modern Boston Cooler’s precursor, the “Vernors Cream,” was invented.

Initially, this concoction would have consisted of a shot or two of sweet cream poured into a glass of Vernors Ginger Ale. Over time, its believed the cream was replaced with vanilla ice cream, giving rise to the creamy and refreshing Boston Cooler we know today.

Then fast forward to 1967. In that year, Vernors trademarked the Boston Cooler when they were introducing a Vernors Boston Cooler flavor ice cream bar, which apparently didn’t do so well.

However, it was likely at that point that the Boston Cooler-Detroit connection began to solidify and eventually outpace its association with other beverages and regions.

What’s in a Boston Cooler?

The beverage is made with two key ingredients: vanilla ice cream and ginger ale. 

To achieve an authentic Boston Cooler, it’s a must to use Vernors Ginger Ale.

Renowned for its mellow ginger profile complemented by a noticeable hint of vanilla, Vernors adds that extra layer of magic, bridging the gap between traditional ginger ale and the creamy goodness of cream soda.

As for the ice cream, some whip these up with generic vanilla or soft serve though some also strive for local ice cream brands like Stroh’s for their vanilla.

The ratio of ice cream to ginger ale may vary but it seems like the standard is something like 3 parts ice cream to one part ginger ale. This could be roughly 2 scoops of vanilla ice cream with one 8 oz Vernors.  

The last crucial step to making a Boston Cooler is to combine the ice cream with the ginger ale, but this isn’t your typical float where you simply plop ice cream scoops into a beverage.

Instead, you’ll want to blend these components into a smooth and creamy consistency that can be sipped through a straw, a distinct departure from the traditional float experience.

Some places make theirs more “shake like” than others but it’s usually different from a normal float even though you can find “Vernors floats” offered at some establishments. 

Boston Cooler

Where can you find Boston Coolers?

You can find Boston Coolers at ice cream shops and restaurants like burger joints around Detroit and other areas of Michigan.

We enjoyed a couple of fabulous Boston coolers from a burger place called Mercury Burgers, where they are served up in glasses and given the respect they deserve. 

But you can also find these at Detroit-area Dairy Queen’s and perhaps even McDonald’s. In fact, local McDonald’s stores once gave out free Boston Coolers on the city’s 315th anniversary in 2016.

Of course, you can also just make yours at home, as we did using Vernors and homemade vanilla ice cream from Kemp’s.

After blending all the ingredients together, we were left with a delightful concoction. The mellow ginger notes from the Vernors Ginger Ale harmoniously mingle with the luscious creaminess of the vanilla ice cream. It’s really the perfect beverage.

However, if your ice cream is straight out of the freezer, you might want to let it thaw for a little bit to ensure it’s wonderfully creamy. Some experts also suggest a special technique: pour about an inch of Vernors into the glass first, which helps create a fluffy foam.

Then, gently place two scoops of vanilla ice cream into the glass and carefully pour in the remaining Vernors. Stir the mixture until it reaches a smooth and harmonious consistency. This method guarantees a top-notch Boston Cooler experience!

Final word

The origin of the Boston Cooler is a complex and multifaceted tale, and its direct connection to Detroit is a matter of debate. However, it has undeniably cemented its status as a beloved Detroit staple over the years.

This delightful beverage, with its unique blend of Vernors Ginger Ale and creamy vanilla ice cream, shines brightest on scorching summer afternoons, offering a refreshing respite from the heat.

However, its appeal extends well beyond the summer months — the Boston Cooler is a versatile treat that can brighten your day year-round.

Can You Get Through TSA and Fly with No ID? [2023]

Okay, so you messed up and don’t have an ID but you need to catch a flight. What can you do? Well, you might be surprised to find out that you still might actually be able to board the plane even without an ID.

In this article, I will break down everything you need to know about getting through TSA without an ID. I’ll talk about both domestic and international flights and explain what the process is like for verifying your identity.

Can you get through TSA with no ID?

Yes, you can get through a TSA security checkpoint and board your plane without an ID. However, you will be subject to an identity verification process and also likely subjected to a heightened security screening. Keep reading below and I will break it all down for you.

Tip: Use the free app WalletFlo to help you travel the world for free by finding the best travel credit cards and promotions!

IDs accepted by TSA

Before jumping in to the steps of what to do when you don’t have a standard ID (e.g., a driver’s license), first you should make sure that you don’t have an alternative form of ID that is accepted by TSA. TSA accepts over a dozen different types of identification, so chances are you might have one of these on you already.

Below is a list of IDs accepted by TSA:

  • Driver’s licenses or other state photo identity cards issued by Department of Motor Vehicles (or equivalent)**
  • U.S. passport
  • U.S. passport card
  • DHS trusted traveler cards (Global Entry, NEXUS, SENTRI, FAST)
  • U.S. Department of Defense ID, including IDs issued to dependents
  • Permanent resident card
  • Border crossing card
  • State-issued Enhanced Driver’s License
  • Federally recognized, tribal-issued photo ID
  • HSPD-12 PIV card
  • Foreign government-issued passport
  • Canadian provincial driver’s license or Indian and Northern Affairs Canada card
  • Transportation worker identification credential
  • U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Employment Authorization Card (I-766)
  • U.S. Merchant Mariner Credential
  • Veteran Health Identification Card (VHIC)

Make sure that your name used for your booking matches your ID since changing your name on a ticket can be a challenge.

**Be aware that beginning May 7, 2025, if you plan to use your state issued ID or license to fly within the US, it needs to be REAL ID compliant. They extended the REAL ID deadline many times in the past but it appears that this time, there will be no extension so make sure you are ready.

If you’ve gone through all of those possibilities and you still do not have any qualifying form of identification then it is time to go through the identity verification process with TSA. Don’t worry — it’s usually not that bad!

Different ID cards
TSA accepts a lot of different forms of ID.

TSA Identification verification process

If you have not arrived to the airport yet, do your best to arrive to the airport extra early because the verification process could take a long time.

The standard recommended time for arriving before a domestic flight is two hours so logically you would want to arrive at least two hours prior to your departure. (I would shoot for 2.5 to 3 hours prior to the flight.)

But the time required might also depend on the type of airport you are at.

If you are at a well-equipped, larger airport with lots of resources the agents there probably have more experience with this identity verification process and so the process could be much more streamlined.

That may not be the case at a much smaller, regional airport. You could imagine how long the process described below could take if you are dealing with a TSA agent who has never had to deal with the verification process before.

If you are already at the airport and just realized that you do not have your ID, hopefully you are not in a rush. If you have very limited time (30 minutes to get to boarding) there’s a chance that there will not be enough time for them to verify your identity and you may want to go ahead and just reschedule your flight if possible.

But if you do have time to spare then it could be worth it to go through the identity verification process.

Related: TSA Checklist (Tips & PDF)

Tucson international airport entrance

Identity Verification Call Center (IVCC)

If you realize that you do not have an ID your first step is to approach a TSA agent and let them know that you do not have an ID and that you would like to go through the verification process so that you can still board your flight.

They are likely going to ask you for the following:

  • Name
  • A photo
  • Address
  • Phone number
  • Social Security Number
  • Date of birth

They will also request for you to supply two forms of secondary ID. The secondary form of ID can take a lot of different forms and these include:

  • Library card
  • Business card
  • Social Security card
  • Student ID
  • Mail
  • Credit cards
  • Photo of an ID
  • Voter registration card
  • Prescription with your name on the label

If your wallet or ID was stolen then it would be very helpful for you to have a police report to back up your claim. If you are traveling with family members who do have an ID and you have photos of you together with them that can also help bolster your case.

The more documents you can supply, the better.

In some cases, showing some of the above documents may be enough for your identity to be verified but in other cases it might not be enough.

TSA states that, “If your identity cannot be verified with the provided documentation, you may be required to go through an alternative identity verification process, which includes collecting information such as your name, current address, and other personal information, and asking personal questions to help confirm your identity.”

You may also be asked to fill out a special form.

If your identity cannot be verified then a TSA agent may resort to the Identity Verification Call Center (IVCC).

In this situation, an agent on the other side of the phone will attempt to verify your identity and possibly ask you some personal questions. They will accomplish this by running your name against a database and looking for you to confirm answers to questions.

These questions could be similar to those identity verification questions that pop up when you attempt to do something like check your credit score on Credit Karma. But they also could be more random or a little bit deeper so be prepared to jog your memory as best you can.

If you are not able to answer the questions accurately or if you simply refuse to then you will not be able to proceed through the TSA security checkpoint and therefore you will not board your flight.

It’s worth pointing out that if you are traveling with an outstanding arrest warrant and you have to go through the identification verification process there is a good chance your warrant will be discovered and you could be arrested.

Get through security

After you have verified your identity, your journey is not complete. You will still need to go through the airport security checkpoint but you can expect to have to go through heightened security.

Most likely, a TSA agent will ask you to step aside while they go through the extra security steps with you. The exact process that you will have to go through will depend on the discretion of the TSA agents but some things that you can expect to encounter include:

  • Invasive pat down
  • Thorough search of all your belongings which means you will likely have to remove objects from your luggage
  • Extra x-ray scans
  • Swabs

The process will likely be similar to what you would experience if you were to have SSSS on your boarding pass.

I’m not sure what happens if you don’t have an ID but you have TSA Pre-Check, which normally allows you to bypass the main security line. I highly doubt that they would allow you to get in the Pre-Check line but stranger things have probably happened.

Related: TSA No Fly List Explained 

TSA agent searching a man
Expect a more invasive search if you do not have an ID.

Boarding the plane

Once you get through the security checkpoint, you can finally make your way to the gate for boarding. Your boarding pass should have a note that you do not have an ID on you and that should be enough to substitute for your ID to get you on a plane.

If you want to visit an airport lounge like a Centurion Lounge typically they will ask to see your identification. It’s not clear to me if airport lounges will allow you to enter without a valid ID. But you would think that if your TSA authenticated identity is good enough for boarding an airplane, it should be good enough to stroll into a lounge.

Once you arrive at the gate area, I would recommend to quickly check in with an agent at the gate and let them know that you have a boarding pass with no ID but that you have been verified by TSA.

That should help prevent any confusion at the time of boarding just in case the agents are not familiar with how to deal with the process.

Don’t try anything “funny”

If you don’t have your ID with you or any other secondary forms of ID, you might be tempted to try to sneak your way through security or try some other type of “funny business.”

This is a very bad idea because in addition to a potential criminal violation, you could also get hit with a civil fine from TSA.

So even if you are under stress trying to figure things out, don’t make any false statements or do anything that could be construed as you trying to circumvent security.

International flights

The situation is much different for international flights. You must have a passport to leave the country in almost every circumstance. Therefore, if you do not have a passport then you will almost certainly be grounded.

If you are currently abroad and you do not have a passport you should contact the local embassy or consulate and they will be able to help you based on your needs.

In some cases, they can issue you a limited-validity passport that allows you to gain entry back into the US but does not come with full travel privileges to visit other countries. If you don’t have an ID and there is an urgent emergency you should be able to get your request expedited.


Can you get a refund if you forget your ID?

Unfortunately, most airlines will not refund your ticket if you simply lost your ID. You may be able to negotiate with them so that you can board a later flight.

What age is required to have an ID to fly?

TSA does not require children under 18 to provide identification when traveling with a companion that has acceptable identification.

Can I travel with an expired ID?

Acceptable forms of ID cannot be more than 12 months past the identified expiration date. However, TSA has made exceptions and you can read more about expired IDs here.

What counts as a secondary form of ID?

There are a lot of different types of documents that can qualify as a secondary form of ID and some of these include:

Library card
Business card
Social Security card
Student ID
Credit cards
Photo of an ID
Prescription with your name on the label

Final word

Getting through TSA without an ID requires you to jump through a few extra hoops. As long as you give yourself enough time and comply with the process, you should still be able to board your plane without major issues. However, if you are departing on an international flight you likely will not be able to board your plane without a valid passport.

TSA Medication Rules for Flying on Planes [2023]

Traveling through airport security can already be a pretty nerve-racking experience. But when you are also worried about getting your necessary medical items through security and onto a plane for a flight, it can be even more anxiety inducing. Luckily, there are some pretty lenient TSA rules and guidelines when it comes to flying with your medication.

In this article, I will tell you everything you need to know about TSA medication rules and flying on a plane with medication. I’ll go over the rules for things like prescription medications, pills and liquid medication and other situations like over the counter (OTC) drugs. 

What are the TSA rules for flying with medication on a plane?

TSA will allow you to travel with your medication but there are some restrictions that you need to be aware of, especially if brining medical liquids. Below, I will go through some of the most common restrictions that might apply to you and tell you how you can go about them when flying with medication. 

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Does TSA have a limit on the amount of medication I can bring on a plane?

TSA does not have a limit on the amount of medication that you can bring on a plane whenever the medication is in solid form, such as pills. So if you have a need to travel with multiple bottles of pills then you should not be limited to a certain amounts of pills or bottles. 

If you have an outrageous amount of medication on you then you might be subject to additional screening. However, in many cases as long as they can x-ray your medication they will not require you to undergo additional screening.

If you do not want your medication exposed to the x-ray machine then just let the TSA agent knows this and they will allow you to go through a different type of screening (note that this could take more time and require you to open up all of your bottles).

Note: Medical Nitroglycerin medicines are allowed.

Related: Can TSA Ask About Your Medical Condition?

Tablets and pills
You can bring your medication in pill or solid form in “unlimited amounts” as long as it is screened.

What are the TSA rules for traveling with liquid medication on a plane?

If you are not aware, TSA has a rule that forbids you from bringing in liquids than can’t fit in 3.4 ounce containers. Also, these containers must fit into a quart size bag (typically a clear Ziploc bag).

This is known as the “TSA 3-1-1 rule” and you will be required to remove the bag from your carry-on unless you have TSA Pre-Check (which I highly recommend). 

TSA does not enforce the liquids rule for medically required liquids (and gels and aerosols). They also don’t require you to put your medically necessary liquids into a liquids bag.

However, they do have some limitations on liquid medication.

They require you to only bring “reasonable quantities” and state that the liquids rule exemption only allows certain items to be carried on the aircraft when the item is declared and it is:

  1. Required during your flight and/or at your travel destination;
  2. Not available at the airport in the sterile area (after the screening checkpoint) and/or;
  3. Not available at your travel destination.

Reasonable quantities for your trip

When you are bringing your liquid medications through security the TSA 3-1-1 rule does not apply. Instead, TSA will allow you to bring in “reasonable quantities for you trip.” This is a subjective definition so there is going to be room for agent discretion. 

Therefore, try not to go too far with your liquid medications if you think that you might be bringing in an unreasonable amount. It is a very good idea to have a clear stated purpose for why you need that quantity of liquid medication. And it might even be a better idea if you have a signed doctor’s note explaining why you need that much medication.

It could probably help your cause if you can explain your dosage requirements in relation to the quantity of medication you are bringing. For example, if you require 10g of medication per day and you are bringing 100g with you on a ten day trip, that makes total sense.

But if you require 10g of the medication per day and you are bringing 3,000g with you for a weekend trip that could be a different story….

At some point TSA added more clarity to this rule when they stated that the medication would need to not be available at the airport in the sterile area (after the screening checkpoint) and/or not available at your travel destination.

I don’t really like this rule because essentially a TSA agent could force you to throw out a large bottle of NyQuil just because it would be available at an outrageous price within the airport. Also, sometimes it’s difficult to know whether or not something will be available at your destination so it is just smart thinking to bring it with you. Nevertheless, those are the rules.

Notify the agents 

TSA also states that you should notify the TSA agent about your liquid medication before you go through security screening.

Personally, I have flown with liquid medication many times before and have never notified TSA about it nor have they given me any push back (there’s a prescription on the medication bottle).

Even though that is how I have done it in the past, I would recommend disclosing your medication just to make things easier. This is especially the case if you’re traveling with accessories associated with your liquid medication such as freezer packs, IV bags, pumps, and syringes.

If TSA does notice your liquids or you tell them about them, the medically required liquids will be subjected to additional screening that could include being asked to open the container. They might pour the substance into another container, test out a small sample of the medication, or swab it for explosives.

So just be prepared to pop the top if you are asked to. 

Note: You will not have to put your liquid medications into a Ziploc bag.

Related: Can You Bring CBD on a Plane? (TSA Rules)

Liquid medication bottles
Medically required liquids are not subject to the TSA 3-1-1 Rule.

How to pack medication for a flight in a carry-on or checked bag

TSA will allow you to bring your medication onto a plane via carry-on or checked baggage.

Obviously, you will not have access to your checked baggage when you are flying in the plane so if you are in doubt about whether or not you might need access to your medication, then I highly recommend that you pack it in your carry-on. 

Plus, remember if your checked bag containing your meds gets lost your medication is also lost.

If you bring your medication as a carry-on you should not be required to show or declare that you are bringing medication, unless you are bringing liquid medication or certain other types of medical instruments like syringes.

(Some travelers inform the TSA agents about all medications they are bringing but that does not always seem to be required in my experience.)

When packing pills or medication I would try to keep them organized in a clear plastic bag just to make things easy at all times.

Try to pack that bag in an easily accessible area within your carry-on so that you can quickly retrieve it if you need to declare or allow inspection for any of your medications.

Also, it’s a good idea for your medications to be labeled to facilitate the security process. (Labeling your meds is not required but it is recommended by TSA.)

When packed in a carry-on and going through a security checkpoint your medication can undergo a visual or X-ray screening (you can choose).

Does TSA require pills to be in a prescription bottle?

Believe it or not TSA does not require your pills to be in a prescription bottle or to show them a copy of your prescription. The catch is that states have different laws regarding how you can legally travel with prescription items.

Some states might require you to carry your pills and a bottle with a prescription and therefore it is always a good idea to keep your pills in a bottle with a prescription label if possible or at least keep the prescription with you if you are using a pill container/organizer. 

Also, many countries have very strict rules on prescription medication so be sure to keep up with the latest laws before departing the country. Some might require you to submit a letter from a physician and some countries such as those in the Middle East have very strict laws regarding bringing in certain types of medications.

It is not very difficult to find stories about US tourists getting locked up abroad in prison for bringing medications through the airport. Read more about traveling internationally with medication here.

One interesting thing about prescriptions is that if you forget your ID you can actually use your prescription labels to help verify your identity.

Tip: Ask your pharmacist for extra containers with your name and the medication information on them if you want to carry smaller amounts of drugs with you.

It’s always a good idea to have your prescription on you.

What are the TSA rules for flying on a plane with injectable medication?

You are allowed to travel with injectable medication on a plane. You may also bring unused syringes when they are accompanied by injectable medication. You must declare these items to security officers at the checkpoint for inspection. TSA also recommends, but does not require, that your medications be labeled so it’s a good idea to go with their recommendation. 

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What if I need to keep my medication refrigerated when flying? 

If you need to keep your medication refrigerated you can use “ice packs, freezer packs, gel packs, and other accessories” to keep your medication cool. You will need to present these at the screening checkpoint in a frozen or partially-frozen state.

It would be a good idea to do a “test run” to see how long your packs can stay refrigerated, especially if you are going to be dealing with a long layover or flight. Some airplanes may have refrigeration but I would not count on that.

Does TSA allow over the counter medication on a plane?

TSA will allow you to bring over the counter medication on a plane, which means you’ll be fine to bring along things like: Tylenol, Advil, Aleve, ibuprofen, etc. Just remember that the rules pertaining to liquids will apply to OTC drugs unless they are medically necessary.

I always advise people to put their medication in a clear plastic bag just to make things easier when making your way through airport security.

Related: Does TSA Check For Arrest Warrants?

What about flying with other items?

If you have questions about bringing other types of items through TSA airport security screening (like food or alcohol), make sure to check out the articles below: 


Can you take prescription medication on a plane?

Yes, prescription medication is allowed on planes.

Does my medication have to be in original bottles when flying?

No, your medication does not have to be in the original bottle. However, it’s usually a good idea to have a prescription on hand just in case you’re questioned about the medication.

Can you “sneak” pills on airplane?

It’s best to be upfront about bringing medication through TSA, especially because TSA is pretty flexible about what medications you can bring through and all medication must be screened. If you are trying to sneak illegal drugs through TSA security you could be referred to law enforcement.

Can I take a pill organizer on a plane?

Yes, you can bring your pill organizer on a plane with your pills inside.

Can I bring someone else’s prescription on a plane?

TSA does not require you to show your prescription so it could be possible to bring someone else’s prescription meds with you on a plane. However, it’s a good idea to make sure you are complying with state laws regarding prescription drugs when traveling. In some cases, it may be illegal to possess controlled substances prescribed to someone else.

Can you fly with cough syrup?

Yes, cough syrup will be considered a liquid so you should “declare” it when going through TSA, especially if it is above 3.4 ounces.

Can you bring testosterone gel on a plane?

Yes, you can bring testosterone gel on a plane. While you may not need your prescription it never hurts to bring it along.

Can I bring needles (syringes) on a plane?

TSA states used syringes are allowed when transported in Sharps disposal container or other similar hard-surface container. Unused syringes are allowed when accompanied by injectable medication. You must declare these items to security officers at the checkpoint for inspection.

Final word

As you can probably tell, TSA rules regarding medication are actually pretty lenient. They allow you to bring an unlimited amount of pills and solid drugs and they don’t even require you to show or disclose that you are bringing those drugs through the airport and onto the plane. 

They also will allow you to go above the liquids rule if you are willing to allow them to inspect your drugs if necessary. And they don’t even require you to show your prescription for drugs. Therefore if you are planning to travel through the airport with your medication you may not have as difficult a time as you may have imagined. 

Ultimate Preboarding Guide: Who Qualifies & What the Law States [2023]

Are you trying to figure out what passengers qualify for preboarding and how the whole process works?

In this article, we rounded up the policies for different US airlines and also clarified the law regarding your rights to preboarding. Below, you’ll see exactly what federal law mandates and what type of passengers will qualify for preboarding.

Passengers who qualify for pre-boarding

There are two different ways to qualify for preboarding.

The first way to qualify is to fall into a category that is recognized by federal law and that requires the airlines to provide you with preboarding.

The second way to qualify is to fall into a category that is specific to the airline you’re flying with (and not mandated by law).

Let’s take a look at these different categories.

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Those who need additional time or assistance to board

If you are someone who needs additional time or assistance to board the plane, stow your accessibility equipment, or be seated you qualify as someone who can use preboarding.

So this goes well beyond only people who need wheelchairs and includes a very broad spectrum of people.

As I will explain below, this is mandated by law and is not an airline-specific policy.

Unaccompanied minors

Unaccompanied minors are those passengers usually under the age of 16 who are flying without an adult.

Not every airline allows unaccompanied minors but for those that do, they should allow the unaccompanied minor to utilize preboarding.

Unfortunately, airlines are kind of bad about clearly including unaccompanied minors in their preboarding policy pages so sometimes you may need to verify this by calling in.

Active military with ID

Active military members are usually granted preboarding.

Some airlines state that you will need to show your military ID but others do not — still it is probably a good idea to have it on you. It does not appear that you will have to be in uniform to use this but again you may want to clarify. Sometimes it comes down to the discretion of the gate agents.

Families with children under the age of 2

If you are a family with a child under the age of two you should qualify for preboarding with some airlines. You’ll want to clarify with the airline as to how many members of your family can join in with preboarding.

Elite members

Some airlines like United Airlines lump top elite members in with preboarding.

Personally, I’m not a fan of airlines doing this because it makes things a little bit more confusing than they need to be and it just is asking for DOT trouble.

As you’ll see below, when elite members are in preboarding those who need assistance should be called up before the elite members.

Remember — many people who utilize preboarding will not be able to sit in the emergency exit rows since those passengers cannot have mobility issues.

 Boarding area for American Airlines.
Boarding area for American Airlines.

What the law states

Preboarding is not merely an optional courtesy offered by airlines. Instead, the right to utilize preboarding is required by federal law.

Specifically, 14 CFR §382.93 states:

As a carrier, you must offer preboarding to passengers with a disability who self-identify at the gate as needing additional time or assistance to board, stow accessibility equipment, or be seated.

The Department of Transportation has provided additional clarification on who qualifies as preboarding. These include people who:

  • need a specific seat assignment
  • need to stow their personal folding wheelchairs
  • need additional time or assistance to board, stow accessibility equipment, or be seated

The DOT states that these passengers must be boarded before all other individuals that qualify for other types of preboarding or priority boarding.

It is the Enforcement Office’s view that section 382.93 requires carriers to board passengers with disabilities who self-identify at the gate as needing to preboard for one of the listed reasons to board the plane before all other passengers, including first class passengers, elite-level passengers, members of the military, passengers with small children, etc.

It’s worth noting that airlines are not required to make a general announcement for preboarding.

However, if they make an announcement for other types of classes of passengers they are “strongly encouraged” to also make an announcement for persons with disabilities the opportunity to preboard.

This is just all the more reason to be proactive and to arrive early before boarding so that you can arrange for your preboarding.

To account for potential long lines, I would advise arriving around 20 minutes or more prior to boarding to work things out.

You can usually find your boarding time on your boarding pass but the boarding time will vary based on the size of your aircraft and your route. Generally, boarding starts about 30 minutes to 50 minutes prior to takeoff.

Scales of justice and Gavel
Federal law mandates preboarding for some passengers.

Where to request preboarding

You can make your request for preboarding during the online booking process sometimes by selecting that you will need additional assistance.

You can also request preboarding at the ticket counter or at the gate. (The ticket counter is where you drop your bags off and the gate is where you lineup for boarding.) Personally, I would always make my request at the gate since that is when your closest to boarding.

If you think you will need to request preboarding at the airport, you may want to arrive just a little bit early in order to take care of your request. Sometimes the gate areas can get very busy and hectic and if you arrive early you can avoid the madness.

You can simply tell the gate agent that you want to request preboarding “for medical reasons” and that should be enough in the majority of cases.

Keep in mind that the law is clear that your status as a preboarder is a matter of self identification.

In theory, if you identify as someone who needs additional time or assistance to get into your seat, the airline should not have any say on whether or not your claim is valid.

Busy boarding area
You can request preboarding at the gate. Arrive early to avoid crowds.

Disclosing medical conditions

You do not need to supply a medical letter from your doctor or medical records to qualify for preboarding. You also don’t need to get into specifics regarding your medical condition.

All you need to do is express that you identify as an individual who needs additional time or assistance to board.

Some airlines like Spirit Airlines do a good job of making this clear.

They state:

We do not require information concerning the extent of your disability, but the more facts you can share with us, the better we are able to assist you and meet your individual needs. Should you require assistance to or from the gate, we offer a meet and assist service (see below).

What medical conditions qualify?

The law does not specify specific conditions that qualify for preboarding. In addition, airlines don’t have a published list of conditions that qualify either.

Instead, it comes down to whether or not your condition causes you to need the additional assistance that qualifies for preboarding.

Physical conditions

If you have a debilitating condition that causes you to need a wheelchair that is an obvious case that qualifies for preboarding. Also, if you have a visual impairment it’s pretty obvious you may need assistance.

But there are many other conditions that warrant people needing extra assistance that are not always so obvious.

For example, there are many people who deal with “invisible illnesses.”

Conditions like chronic pain, arthritis, dysautonomia, fibromyalgia, neuropathy, etc., are often not detectable by your physical appearance but they can still cause you great discomfort and slow you down when trying to board in a narrow cabin with narrow seats.

One bad pull on your luggage or arch in your back could trigger a bad flareup that could mess you up for weeks or even months. So for people dealing with that type of reality, they absolutely do qualify as needing extra time or assistance to board.

Mental health conditions

A big point of debate is whether or not mental health conditions should qualify someone for preboarding.

The law states that you qualify for preboarding if you need “additional time or assistance to board, stow accessibility equipment, or be seated.”

It’s very feasible to imagine someone with a severe anxiety disorder that needs extra time to board without dealing with the rush of a normal boarding procedure.

If someone like this were triggered into a panic attack, that could absolutely slow down boarding and result in a potentially disastrous outcome.

So from that sense, I believe people with certain (severe) bonafide mental health conditions should be able to qualify for preboarding.

However, airlines don’t really make it easy to get guidance on this issue and so this is probably a very case-by-case type of situation.

Can other passengers preboard with you?

A popular question is whether or not other passengers can preboard with you. Most of the airlines are not explicit about how they handle this so you just need to clarify this with the gate agent.

Most likely, they will handle this similar to Southwest which allows one person from your party to accompany the customer with a disability.

They state:

We will allow one travel companion to act as an “attendant” and preboard with a Customer with a disability. In most cases, the Customer requires assistance from only one other person, and any additional family members or friends are asked to board with their assigned group.

That seems like a pretty reasonable policy for the vast majority of individuals who need preboarding.

As the companion accompanying the person in need of assistance, you might get odd looks or responses from gate agents. I once accompanied Brad the day after he had a shoulder/side procedure done in order to help him stow his heavy luggage and the gate agent gave me a scowl during the boarding process as if I didn’t need preboarding….

In the event an airline is more generous and allows more than one companion, I would advise you to avoid taking advantage of this and trying to lump all of your family members into preboarding because that will contribute to the stigma that people utilizing preboarding already face.

And that brings me to the next point….

Dealing with the preboarding stigma

The unfortunate reality is that there is sometimes a stigma on those who use preboarding. It’s not usually directed towards those who are in need of obvious assistance such as those in wheelchairs.

Instead, it’s usually directed at people with invisible illnesses or to those who accompany people in need of preboarding.

One reason for this is that some passengers fraudulently take advantage of preboarding.

They don’t actually require true assistance or extra time but they enjoy the privilege of being able to board before others and take advantage of overhead storage bin space.

Unfortunately, due to the nature of some illnesses and conditions and how we value medical privacy in the US, I don’t really see a solution as to how to weed these people out.

So my advice is to simply not utilize preboarding unless you really think it is necessary. And if you are using it, try to keep to yourself and avoid trying to measure how other passengers feel about you.

There is no need for you to explain yourself or to seek validation from others and if they feel a certain type of way about are you using preboarding, just let them be and move on. Some people will always find something to complain about.

Filing a DOT complaint

If you have been denied preboarding or subject to scrutiny that you believe is unjustified or unlawful you may have a basis for filing a DOT complaint. If you would like to file a DOT complaint you can do that here.

Before filing a complaint, you might want to just contact customer service for the airline and try to resolve it with them first. The airline may even offer you compensation.

However, if you don’t get anywhere or you feel like this is a systemic issue, it might be worth filing a complaint so that others don’t have to deal with your same experience.

If you do end up filing a DOT complaint, DOT requires airlines to acknowledge consumer complaints within 30 days of receiving them and to send consumers written responses addressing these complaints within 60 days of receiving them.

US airlines preboarding policies

As you’ll see below, each airline provides a different level of detail and information regarding who qualifies as pre-boarding.

Alaska Airlines

  • Guests with disabilities who need help or a little more time to board
  • Families with children under the age of 2
  • Active members of the military

Link to Alaska’s policy

American Airlines

  • Customers who need special assistance and families with children under 2 years old can ask to board early at the gate.

When booking you may be able to:

  • Request wheelchair service
  • State if you’re traveling with your own mobility device
  • Request individual assistance if you have a hearing, vision, cognitive or developmental disability
  • State if you’re traveling with a service animal. Keep in mind, notice and approval is required at least 48 hours before your flight.

Link to AA’s policy

American Airlines aircraft.

Delta Airlines

  • Customers needing assistance or additional time to board
  • Active duty US military with ID

Link to Delta’s policy

Delta airlines seats


  • Includes anyone needing wheelchair or other boarding assistance and unaccompanied minors.

Link to Frontier’s policy

Hawaiian Airlines

  • Guests needing assistance
  • Unaccompanied minors

Link to Hawaiian’s policy

Hawaiian Airlines boarding area


  • For customers with disabilities

Link to JetBlue’s policy

Southwest Airlines

“Preboarding is available for Customers who have a specific seating need to accommodate their disability and/or need assistance in boarding the aircraft or stowing an assistive device.”

Something interesting about Southwest is that they state that if “a Customer with a disability simply needs a little extra time to board, we will permit the Customer to board before Family Boarding, between the “A” and “B” groups.”

I honestly don’t understand how that is compliant with the DOT since the law clearly states that if you need extra time (not just assistance) you should be able to take advantage of preboarding.

I’m wondering if due to the nontraditional boarding system Southwest utilizes, they have negotiated some sort of DOT middle ground.

Nevertheless, if you need extra time to board on Southwest they will issue you a new boarding pass with an extra time designation. This will allow you to board before family boarding.

Another interesting thing about Southwest is that they state that if you want to request preboarding you should do it at the ticket counter or departure gate where agents “are trained to ask fact-finding questions to determine if the Customer meets the qualifications described above.”

That sounds a bit intrusive given that the law is all about allowing self identifying passengers to use preboarding if they believe they need assistance or extra time. Do you really need a “fact-finding” process for that as if they were on trial?

Note: Customers who are preboarding because of a need for a specific seat onboard the aircraft should speak with the Operations (Boarding) Agent prior to the start of preboarding to alert the Agent to the seating need.

Link to Southwest’s policy

Spirit Airlines

  • Preboarding is available for Guests who wish to have a little more time on board to settle into their seats. Guests must inform the agent at the gate of their desire to preboard and be present at the gate prior to the boarding process.

Link to Spirit Airlines

United Airlines

  • Unaccompanied minors
  • Customers with disabilities
  • Active members of the military
  • United Global Services® members
  • Families traveling with children age 2 and younger
  • Premier® 1K® members

Link to United Airlines policy

Final word

As you can see, many people can qualify for preboarding.

Although some people think this is just a policy offered by airlines, preboarding for people who need extra assistance is actually required by federal law. In addition, other passengers may fall into the preboarding category depending on the airline’s policy.

If you need preboarding, the best route to take is to arrive early for boarding and to notify the agent at the gate that you identify as someone who needs extra time or assistance to board.

If you feel the need to reveal the extent of your medical condition you can do so but you are under no obligation to reveal details about your medical diagnosis.

Frankenmuth, Michigan: Tourist Trap or Worth the Visit?

If you appreciate distinctive towns, particularly those infused with German culture, Frankenmuth is sure to captivate your interest. This quaint locale, rich in history, provides a taste of Germany right in the heart of Michigan.

But is it merely a tourist trap or a destination worth exploring? Our recent brief visit to Frankenmuth provided us with some insights.

What is Frankenmuth, Michigan?

Frankenmuth, often referred to as “Michigan’s Little Bavaria,” is a quaint and compact city celebrated for its strong German heritage and architectural style. It is renowned for its vibrant array of festivals and events, as well as for housing the world’s largest Christmas store.

Frankenmuth history: brief overview

The city derives its name from a fusion of the German terms “Franken” and “Muth,” which translate to “Franconia” and “courage” in English. Thus the name Frankenmuth actually means “courage of the Franconians.”

This nomenclature is tied to its history, which has its roots in the 1840s.

In 1840, a German missionary by the name of Frederick Wyneken was stationed in the upper Midwest.

He penned a letter addressed to Lutherans across Germany, seeking assistance while describing the challenges faced by German pioneers in his region. He emphasized their pressing needs, including a shortage of pastors, churches, and schools.

Wilhelm Loehe, pastor of the country church in Neuendettelsau, Mittelfranken, Kingdom of Bavaria, was moved by the letter and wanted to send a missionary congregation to give comfort to the German pioneers but to also show the Native Americans in the region “Wie gut und schön es ist bei Jesu zu sein” (How wonderful it is to live with Jesus).

So Loehe selected Pastor August Craemer to be the mission’s leader and he would lead a group of 15 German Lutherans consisting of mostly mostly farmers from around Neuendettelsau.

After a tumultuous 50-day sailing experience across the Atlantic where they dealt with terrible weather and illnesses, they reached New York Harbor on June 8, 1845.

Subsequently they embarked on a journey via steamboats and trains, ultimately reaching Bay City and then trekking miles through forest, thickets, and swamps to Frankenmuth.

The settlers were drawn to Frankenmuth by its rolling hills and lush forests, which reminded them of their native Mittelfranken.

After paying $1,700 to purchase 680 acres of Chippewa Indian Reservation land from the federal government, they began building their settlement, which involved lot of land clearing and some rough times with one person writing home, “The most miserable village in Bavaria has palaces by comparison.”

At the outset, their settlement had a mostly religious motive, aiming to establish a Lutheran mission for Native Americans. However, the Native American population in the area was subsequently displaced and moved away to better hunting grounds, leading to an early abandonment in their mission efforts.

Nevertheless, immigration from Germany continued to contribute to the region’s population through the decades and Pastor Loehe also organized three other colonies in Michigan in the nearby area like current-day Richville.

The settlers residing in this region remained steadfast in their allegiance to Germany and the Kingdom of Bavaria while living on American soil.

Frankenmuth achieved official city status in 1959, around the time when the tourism industry began to quickly rise, and today its known for being a tourist hot spot with waterparks and festive shops and restaurants.

Frankenmuth, Michigan

Our experience visiting Frankenmuth

Frankenmuth is a small city with most of its sites pretty close to each other making it an easy destination to explore even if you are just passing through.

The “hub” of Frankenmuth — at least for tourists — is on Main Street where you can find Zehnder’s of Frankenmuth, a place known for its family style fried chicken dinners.

We did not have the opportunity to test out their chicken but I have heard mixed reports. Some have talked about it as if it’s nothing special while others have raved about it, so I’d imagine it’s worth giving it a shot at least once.

They also have a market on the bottom level that’s definitely worth checking out, as you can find a lot of different tasty pastries, breads, and other fixings.

Just on the other side of the street you will find the Bavarian Inn Restaurant (not to be confused with the Bavarian Inn Lodge which is on the other side of the river). This is another well-established restaurant that also has a bakery and chocolate shop underneath it. If you’re looking for a delicious soft pretzel this is where you can find them.

You can take a stroll down the street where you will encounter the Frankenmuth Visitor & Welcome Center, which can help you plan out your visit. If you are a fan of cheeses then be sure to stop at the Frankenmuth Cheese Haus.

Frankenmuth Cheese Haus

If you’re interested in exploring more of the city’s history there is the Frankenmuth Historical Museum housed in a former hotel from 1905. Another museum worth investigating is the Military and Space Heroes Museum.

You’ll find several other restaurants and shops along Main Street and there is a parking lot that runs in the back of lots of these buildings so it’s easy to get from one end to the other even if you don’t prefer to walk.

The Cass River meanders through the city and you can even hop on a Bavarian Belle Riverboat tour if you’d like.

Frankenmuth, Michigan

A few bridges cross the river but make sure you take time to cross over the beautiful wooden covered bridge, which you can do in your vehicle or by foot. Mind the low speed limit of 7 mph!

Frankenmuth, Michigan covered bridge

On the south side of the river you’ll find the Frankenmuth River Place Shops. This is essentially an outdoor mall that is filled with Bavarian style architecture buildings.

In actuality, the Bavarian-inspired architecture found throughout the town offers a creative interpretation, somewhat reminiscent of a Disney-fied version of Bavaria. It’s a captivating and unique sight to behold, even though it may not be an exact replica of the original Bavarian architecture.

You’ll find over 40 shops and attractions in this area, including local family-owned businesses and national retail chains. Many of them are dog friendly which you will know by the red paw print on the outside of the store.

Frankenmuth, Michigan
Frankenmuth, Michigan

After you get done exploring this portion of the town, you can take a short drive a few minutes south to arrive at the famous Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland. This place is known for being the “largest Christmas store in the world.” For anyone who is a fan of Christmas, it’s worth checking out.

Frankenmuth, Michigan christmas

The store is incredibly vast, overflowing with ornaments, lights, decorations, and an abundance of holiday items. It’s quite easy to find yourself navigating its expansive aisles.

Whether you’re looking for personalized ornaments and stockings or searching for practically any Christmas-related item you can envision, this store has you covered. It’s particularly appealing for those celebrating a traditional Christian-style Christmas, offering nativity sets and similar Biblical-themed items.

But even if you simply crave the festive spirit of Christmas, this is the ideal destination to immerse yourself year-round in all things merry and bright.

Frankenmuth, Michigan christmas

While the year-round attractions are interesting, Frankenmuth is also very well known for the special events that take place during holidays.

As you might imagine, Oktoberfest is a major event that starts here every September. And they also have big Christmas and winter events like Zehnder’s Snowfest and Dog Bowl, the largest Olympic-style event for dogs.

Basically, before heading up check your calendar and see what is potentially around the corner as it could really enhance your visit!

Final word

Overall, I thought Frankenmuth was a really interesting stop. Despite its evident touristy and theme park-like ambiance, I wouldn’t categorize it as a tourist trap. This is because it possesses genuine historical significance and offers real value to visitors with its unique sights, food, etc.

Some people make this a multi-night vacation spot which I could see being worth it for some (especially during festivals and special events) although I would probably opt for a day trip in most cases. And as mentioned, if you’re like us and just passing through it can be worthwhile stop.

TSA No Fly List Explained (How Your Name Gets on A Watchlist) [2023]

For many people, there is a lot of mystery surrounding the TSA’s No Fly List. They wonder how exactly the list works and what happens if your name gets put on the list?

In this article, I will shed light on the entire process.

You’ll see how watchlist nominations are made, verified, and placed on the No Fly List. I’ll also highlight a number of related watchlists that are similar to the TSA No Fly List but serve slightly different purposes.

It’s worth noting that a lot of this process is secretive and subject to change but I have taken almost all information only from government sources and declassified documents.

How it all starts

In order to really grasp how the TSA No Fly List works, you need to understand how the bigger picture process functions with respect to identifying potential terrorists.

I’ll walk you through all of the key departments and steps that are involved below.

Terrorist Screening Database (TSDB)

There is something known as the Terrorist Screening Database (TSDB) which is the main database that is commonly referred to as the “terrorist watchlist.”

(This is NOT the No Fly List but it plays a major role in placing people on that list as will be shown below.)

The TSDB is maintained by the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Center (TSC), which plays the central role in maintaining the current No Fly List that TSA uses.

TSDB nomination process

How does your name get on the TSDB?

It all starts with personnel called “originators.”

Originators work in places like intelligence and law-enforcement agencies or even at embassies and consulates.

These people nominate individuals that are classed together as “known or suspected terrorists” (KSTs).

There are specific definitions for people who fall under these classifications.

A “known” terrorist is:

an individual whom the U.S. government knows is engaged, has been engaged, or who intends to engage in terrorism and/or terrorist activity, including an individual:

(a) who has been charged, arrested, indicted, or convicted for a crime related to terrorism by U.S. government or foreign government authorities; or

(b) identified as a terrorist or member of a designated foreign terrorist organization pursuant to statute, Executive Order, or international legal obligation pursuant to a United Nations Security Council Resolution.

A “suspected” terrorist is:

an individual who is reasonably suspected to be, or has been, engaged in conduct constituting, in preparation for, in aid of, or related to terrorism and/or terrorist activities based on an articulable and reasonable suspicion

At the time of nomination, originators can recommend that the individual be included on a specific TSDB derivative list such as the No Fly List.

The KSTs nominated for the terrorist watchlist are then vetted by agents at either the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) or the FBI.


During the vetting process, the NCTC maintains a database known as: the Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment (TIDE).

TIDE is the U.S. government’s “central repository of information on international terrorist identities.”

The TIDE list is pretty large and in 2013 it contained the identities of approximately 1.1 million people of which 25,000 were US citizens and lawful permanent residents.

This list focuses on international terrorists.

Domestic terrorists are directly referred to NCTC by the FBI (they do not end up in TIDE as far as I can tell).

If your name ends up in TIDE it does not necessarily end up in the TSDB. And that is where the verification process comes in.

TSC verification

To make it into the TSDB, a nomination vetted by either NCTC or the FBI has to (1) meet the “reasonable suspicion watchlisting standard” and (2) have sufficient identifiers.

The final eligibility determination is made by the TSC.

Reasonable suspicion

The reasonable suspicion criteria is met by articulable facts and rational inferences made from those facts.

When the facts and inferences form a reasonable determination that the person is suspected of having ties to terrorist activity that person is added to the TSDB.

Guesses or hunches alone cannot support reasonable suspicion. Also, one cannot be designated a KST based on protected classes like national origin, ethnicity, or religion.


After the reasonable suspicion criteria is met, there must also be sufficient identifiers.

To be included on the TSDB, a record must have a last name “and at least one additional piece of identifying information (for example a first name or date of birth).”

The vast majority of nominations land up on the TSDB. In fact, it appears that only about 1% of nominations are rejected.

Exporting the information

The TSC obviously doesn’t just collect and build the TSDP for no reason.

Instead, they export the watchlist information to different federal agencies so that they can conduct terrorist screening.

The information exported is typically just the identifying information so that the sensitive/classified intel does not get shared with too many people.

This happens in real time so when a new name is added it will appear with the other federal agencies within seconds.

There are five different federal agencies that receive TSDP records:

  • Department of State
  • Transportation Security Administration (TSA) [DHS]
  • Customs and Border Protection
  • FBI
  • Department of Defense

Each agency has its own use of the information and will receive a tailored set of records based on how they use the information.

For example, the Department of State uses the information to process passports and visas.

Customs and Border Protection uses it to screen arriving travelers and determine if they should be admitted into the US.

TSA utilizes this information for the Secure Flight program which provides screening to:

identify known or suspected terrorists or other individuals who may be a threat to transportation or national security, to prevent some identified individuals from gaining access to airports and airplanes where they may jeopardize the lives of passengers, and to ensure that other identified individuals receive enhanced physical screening prior to accessing airport sterile areas or boarding an aircraft

Department of state building.
A handful of government entities utilize records from the TSDB.

TSA and the TSDB

The derivative TSDB lists the TSA actively is involved with include three different lists:

  • No Fly List
  • Selectee List
  • Expanded Selectee List

These derivative lists are special because they are the only watchlists that have their own minimum substantive derogatory criteria requirements.

These requirements are much more more stringent than the TSDB’s “known or reasonably suspected” standard. In addition, the No Fly and Selectee lists have the “narrowest minimum biographic inclusion criteria of all TSDB watch lists.”

No Fly List

Back in the day, TSA maintained the No Fly and Selectee lists.

However, in January 2005 maintenance and responsibility for the lists was transferred to the TSC. So it would probably be more accurate to call it the TSC No Fly List rather than the TSA No Fly List.

TSA states, “The No Fly List is a small subset of the U.S. government Terrorist Screening Database (also known as the terrorist watchlist) that contains the identity information of known or suspected terrorists.”

Individuals on the list “are not allowed to board a commercial aircraft flying into, out of, over, or within United States airspace; this also includes point-to-point international flights operated by U.S carriers.”

This list is not as big as you might think.

In 2014, only about 8% of the TSDB identities, totaling around 64,000, were on the No Fly List.

A 2013 NCTC document gives us some insight into the criteria for adding someone to the No Fly List.

It says that any person regardless of citizenship who represents:

  • a threat of committing an act of international terrorism (as defined by 18 U.S.C. § 2331(1)) or domestic terrorism (as defined by 18 U.S.C. § 2331(5)) with respect to an aircraft or
  • a threat of committing an act of domestic terrorism with respect to the homeland or
  • a threat of committing an act of international terrorism against a US government facility abroad and associated or support personnel, including US embassies, consulate and missions, military installations, US ships, US aircraft, etc, or
  • a threat of engaging in or conducting a violent act of terrorism and who is operationally capable of doing so

The fourth criteria adds flexibility to adding people to the list and targets people who do not pose a threat to civil aviation, the homeland, or US facilities.

It focuses on the term “operationally capable” which means that is based on credible intelligence the person reasonably appears to have the ability, knowledge, opportunity, and intent or is actively seeking the opportunity to engage in a violent act of terrorism.

An example would be someone attempting to obtain an IED but simply conducting internet research concerning IEDs would not be sufficient without additional activity.

That’s really important for people like me who like to (innocently) research these type of things!

Other factors that would indicate someone is “operationally capable” would be a subject who has:

  • Terrorist training or instruction to receive military training by a terrorist group
  • Indicated intent to participate in planning or conducting an attack
  • Expressed desire to become a martyr
  • Repeated contact with a known terrorist who recruits or facilitates trouble of operatives

Selectee List

The same 2013 document provides guidance on the Selectee List.

It states that any person regardless of citizenship who does not meet the criteria for inclusion on the No Fly List and who:

  • Is a member of a foreign or domestic terrorist organization designated pursuant to statute or executive order and
  • Is associated with terrorist activity

The Selectee List includes individuals who must undergo additional security screening before being allowed to board a commercial aircraft.

This is the dreaded SSSS check.

In some cases individuals are randomly assigned this so if you are like myself you probably have experienced this on a couple of occasions.

Like the No Fly List, this list is also small and in 2014 only had 24,000 people on it which amounted to about 3% of the TSDB.

Me getting a random SSSS check.

Expanded Selectee List

This list was created as an extra security measure after the failed underwear bomber of 2009, which also sparked the beginning of TSA body scanners.

Reportedly, this list screens against all TSDB records that includes a person’s first and last name and date of birth that are not already on the no-fly or selectee lists.

People on this list could be subjected to the same type of screening as those found on the Selectee List.

It seems like this list is used at times of heightened terrorism threats although there is still a lot of mystery behind this list, in my opinion.

TSA Watch List

My research also showed that it looks like TSA has its own TSA Watch List.

Nominations from this list may come from within TSA, from other DHS Components, or from other government agencies (federal, state, local, and international).

These lists are used to “mitigate threats to transportation or national security posed by individuals who are not on a TSDB watch list but who nonetheless present a threat to transportation or national security.”

This appears to be more of a real time decision.

For example, if someone is repeatedly attempting to evade TSA screening they could be put on this list even though their name is not in the TSDB.

Based on my research it looks like this is a very small list. Maybe 20 people might be on this list at a given time.

Other watchlists

There are other (non-No Fly List) watchlists that TSA may be involved with in these include the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Do Not Board List which does not allow certain persons to travel due to public health concerns (such as infectious tuberculosis and measles).

It does not appear that coronavirus qualifies for this list although you should still not fly if you have Covid. Update: people with coronavirus have been added to this list.

How TSDB screening works

So you’ve seen how your name could end up on a watch list.

But how does the screening process actually interact with that watch list?

There are multiple ways that your name could be screened against the TSDB.

  • Arriving in the US at a port of entry
  • Getting pulled over by local or state police
  • Visa applications reviewed by the Department of State

These checks are constantly happening with more than 1 billion likely being made every year.

If a screening yields a match this is known as an “encounter.”

A screener would receive notification of the match and then contact TSC, who are of course available 24/7.

The TSC has access to more information than the screeners do so they are able to dig a little bit deeper when verifying the match.

If there is a match or if the TSC cannot arrive at a conclusion, the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Operations Unit coordinates how the government will respond.

For example, they could send agents to a given location to apprehend somebody right on the spot.

In other cases, they may just come to interview the individual and add that intel to the records in the TSDB.

If a name is on a no-fly list I imagine the response could be denying them the ability to book a ticket or board a plane but it would probably depend on how high of a priority the person is to authorities.

In some cases, they may plan to bring the subject into custody.

Doing all of these checks can get extremely time-consuming and require a lot of resources.

This is one reason why we saw the TSA Pre-Check program emerge because they wanted to free up screening personnel so that they could focus on passengers with unknown records.


Some people unfortunately have the bad luck of having a name that is the same or similar to others on some of these watchlists.

When they try to fly to an airport they could be subject to SSSS screening every single time.

Luckily they do (usually) have the ability to obtain a redress number which allows the airlines to properly identify them.

It’s possible that these individuals may still have issues with things like online check-in or using automated kiosk.

But some people are even more unlucky and are denied entry back into the US.

You can find a long list of instances where people were falsely identified as terrorists and struggled to work with the government to get back or to ever board a plane.

Usually it seems like these cases are eventually resolved but sometimes they involve a pretty painful process and costly and lengthy legal proceedings.

There are also constant legal actions being brought against the government arguing that these watchlists are unconstitutional, in part because there is not a satisfactory way to challenge one’s status on the list.

How to know if you’re on the No Fly List

According to the ACLU, if you are denied boarding you can submit a standard form to the Department of Homeland Security Traveler Redress Inquiry Program (DHS TRIP) who will then relay the information to the TSC.

If you were placed on the No Fly List and are a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident, “DHS TRIP will send you a letter informing you of your status on the No Fly List and providing the option to submit and receive additional information.”

You might be able to find out general information as to why you were placed on the list but it may be impossible to get specifics for national security reasons.

You won’t be able to challenge the determination at a live hearing but you can submit a written response along with supporting materials to challenge your status.

The government will then review your submission and inform you of any changing determination.

If you are NOT a US citizen or lawful permanent resident, it is much more difficult to know your status.

You can submit a challenge but you may not get a definitive answer as to your status. Pretty much all you can do to see if you have been removed from the list is attempt to purchase an airline ticket and board a plane.

Individual airlines

Individual airlines have their own No Fly Lists that operate independently from the TSA or other government agencies.

Typically, you can find the guidelines for how the No Fly List works in the contract of carriage for an airline.

Recently, we have seen more people get put on no-fly list with individual airlines by not abiding by policies regarding things like wearing a mask.

Other mistakes like trying to bring ammunition on a plane can get you on an airline’s No Fly List.

How many people end up on the No Fly List for individual airlines?

It’s kind of hard to tell because the airlines don’t publicize this data but according to Insider, a spokesperson for United told them that “they’ve banned 615 people from the airline since implementing their mandatory mask policy in early May.”

Delta has apparently added 700 passengers as well.

TSA No Fly List FAQ

Does TSA control the No Fly List?

TSA utilizes the No Fly List but the list and larger database it relies upon is managed by the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Center (TSC).

How many people are on the TSA No Fly List?

In 2014, there were around 64,000 people on the No Fly List.

How do you get on the No Fly List?

Individuals are first placed in the TSDB as a “known or suspected terrorists” (KSTs) and then there must be an additional finding that the individual represents a specific type of threat relating to international or domestic terrorism.

Do you get notified if you are on the No Fly List?

No, in order to protect national security interests the US government currently does not notify you when you are placed on the No Fly List. However, US citizens and lawful permanent residents denied boarding can receive notification about their status from DHS TRIP and challenge their status. Foreign citizens have a much more difficult time getting clarification about their status.

Final word

When it comes to government watch lists there is probably always going to be a large amount of mystery going on behind the curtain. But when it comes to the No Fly List we actually know a good amount of how names end up on that list.

Southwest Boarding Groups Explained: From A-List to Group C! [2023]

Are you wondering how exactly Southwest boarding groups work?

This article will show you everything you need to know about the Southwest boarding process.

I’ll also show you different ways that you can get priority boarding and cover things like family boarding and military boarding. I’ll also give you some details about Southwest seating (charts, maps, etc.) and some tips for getting the best seats.

How many boarding groups does Southwest have?

Southwest has three main boarding groups:

  • Boarding group A
  • Boarding group B
  • Boarding group C

If you want to understand the Southwest boarding process though, you’ll need to understand much more than the three boarding groups. Keep reading below for more info on the boarding process!

Tip: Use the free app WalletFlo to help you travel the world for free by finding the best travel credit cards and promotions!

How does Southwest boarding work?

When you check-in for your flight, you’ll be assigned a boarding group (A, B, or C) and within that boarding group you’ll be assigned a number (1 through 60).

So for example, you might be assigned A50, which means you’ll be the 50th person to board within Group A.

It could vary depending on the airport, but generally, you’ll see monitors or signs showing you where to stand for your group. The signs will typically say something like “A 1-30” or “A 31-60.”

An “A 1-30” sign would mean that if you have an A boarding pass and your boarding number is 30 or under (e.g., A25), that is where you need to go to line up.

You should also see some silver posts marked with numbers which will tell you where to stand. These numbers are usually marked in increments of five.

So if you have A50, you’ll locate the post that might have something like “50 to 55” marked and that is where you will need to go.

Southwest boarding post

You will then stand in that space and as the other four passengers start to accumulate in that area you will usually sort yourselves out by asking each other what boarding spot they have.

If you have A50, you will be in front of that little “50 to 55” section but if you had something like A53 you would be in the middle. Not all passengers care about getting in the exact order but some do.

Once you find where you need to stand, you’ll simply wait for them to start boarding and proceed to make your way to the plane. Once you’re inside the plane, you can choose any seat since seats are not assigned with Southwest.

As unconventional as it might sound from other airlines like United, the boarding procedures are usually pretty smooth.

Southwest planes at airport

What order does Southwest board its planes?

Although there are only three boarding groups, the actual boarding pass issuance process is actually more complex.

Below is the order that boarding passes will be issued, which also determines the order that you will board the plane.

Note that Southwest will usually not call for people to board by these categories. For example, they are not going to ask for all the “A-List” or “EarlyBird” members to board.

Instead, they will call groups up by boarding pass group number. You will hear something like, “now boarding all passengers with Group A boarding passes numbered one through 30.”

So below is the order that you can expect boarding passes to be issued/the order boarding will go.

Passengers already on the plane

Some passengers may already be on the plane depending on the origin of the flight. But if some passengers got off the plane for a layover, they might be among the first to board.

This means that you could have a Business Select ticket, and still have several people board before you depending on the size of the crowds.


Preboarding is available for “customers who have a specific seating need to accommodate their disability and/or need assistance in boarding the aircraft or stowing an assistive device.”

(Those with service animals will usually be included in this group as well.)

This is also when unaccompanied minors board the plane.

Other passengers who might board at this time are those with large camera equipment, instruments, and certain other select people like those who need an extra seat.

This group will be able to board before anybody else despite whatever boarding group or boarding number they are issued.

Because of the open seat policy for Southwest, passengers using preboarding may come under more scrutiny than other airlines.

So if you want to use preboarding with Southwest, it’s a good idea to inquire at the check-in counter about getting that on your boarding pass. In addition, you can also add a special service request to your booking.

Business Select

The next individuals to board are those who purchased Business Select fares. (This will be the first group to be issued boarding passes beginning with Group A.)

Southwest doesn’t offer a traditional first class but they do offer Business Select fares, which offer you the highest earning rate for Rapid Rewards. (More on those tickets below).

After passengers who have purchased Business Select fares, those who were upgraded to Business Select will be issued boarding passes.

A-list Preferred

The next to get boarding passes will be A-List Preferred, which is the top-tier elite status offered by Southwest.

You can qualify for A-List Preferred by flying 50 one-way qualifying segments or earning 70,000 qualifying points.

Once you qualify for A-List Preferred, you’ll receive a 100% bonus on Rapid Rewards earned, priority check-in, and security lane access. You’ll also get free in-flight wifi (on planes equipped with wifi) and the ability to get on earlier flights for free.


A-list is the bottom-tier elite status just below A-List Preferred and so they get boarding passes right after A-List Preferred.

A-List can be achieved by flying 25 one-way qualifying segments or earning 35,000 qualifying points.

Once you qualify for A-List, you’ll receive a 25% bonus on Rapid Rewards earned, priority check-in, and security lane access.


The next passengers to get boarding passes will be those with EarlyBird.

Southwest EarlyBird automatically checks you in 36 hours prior to departure and while it does not guarantee an A boarding spot, it will offer you a much better chance of getting a window or aisle seat. Be aware that recently, Southwest Airlines made a change so that Early Bird Check-in is not available on all flights.

Read more below on whether or not it’s worth it.

Boarding Group A/B

After EarlyBird passengers are issued boarding passes then boarding passes are issued based on the number of slots left over for Group A.

As mentioned, it is possible that there are no Group A boarding spots left for some EarlyBird passengers so the next boarding passes issued could be for Group B.

Also, some people falling into certain categories below might always be able to board right after Group A.

Need extra time

Something interesting about Southwest is that they state that if “a Customer with a disability simply needs a little extra time to board, we will permit the Customer to board before Family Boarding, between the “A” and “B” groups.”

Technically, this goes against the rules for preboarding because even people who only need a little extra time during boarding should qualify for preboarding.

Family boarding

If you are traveling with a kid 6 or under, you should be able to board in between Group A and Group B (this is the family boarding time).

A-List (last minute)

Also, if you’re A-List and you purchased a last minute ticket you’ll be able to board between Group A and Group B.


And finally, military members (usually in uniform but not always) can board between Group A and Group B. If you’re not traveling in your uniform, consider showing your military ID to a gate agent and inquiring about priority boarding.

Boarding Group B

Once boarding Group A is filled up, then boarding Group B boarding passes will be issued.

If you’re in boarding Group B, you can still get a decent seat if you’re in B1 to B30, but the closer you get to boarding Group C, the tougher it’s going to be to get your desired seat.

However, if you’re okay with sitting in the rear of the plane, it will be easier to find desirable seats or seats together.

Boarding Group C

Once boarding Group B is filled up, then boarding Group C boarding passes will be issued.

Most of the time if you’re in Group C, it’s going to be very difficult to get a window seat or aisle seat. Head towards the back for your best odds.


Standbys will be the last to board.

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hg9a8jRGsVM[/embedyt]

Southwest boarding area

Companion Pass Boarding

The Southwest Companion Pass allows a partner to fly for free with you for up to two full calendar years and it’s one of the most valuable travel perks sought by many.

When you utilize the Companion Pass you and your partner will not necessarily get boarding passes right next to each other. Southwest did run a trial allowing companions to board next to each other but I’m unaware of the results of the trial.

Why do boarding groups matter?

Besides just being able to board the plane quicker and choose your desired seat (window or aisle), there are two specific reasons why you’d want a higher boarding pass.


Southwest has a generous baggage policy where they allow you to check two bags for free.

As for carry-ons, it’s the same baggage policy that most other major airlines have for their standard tickets: 1 personal item and 1 carry-on.

So by getting a better boarding position, you’ll be able to guarantee that you’ll have overhead storage for your bags.

Emergency row seats

Emergency exit rows on Southwest planes have extra legroom and/or have rows with only two seats which are great for couples.

By securing a higher boarding pass, your flight can become a lot more enjoyable as you’ll have more room.

Southwest usually flies 737-700s and 737-800s and the 737-800s have more emergency exit rows with only two seats, so it’s a good idea to check ahead of time (if possible) to see which type of aircraft you are flying on.

Southwest seats

Southwest seating details (seating chart)

If you’re flying Southwest, chances are you’ll be flying on a 737-700 or a 737-800.

You might be wondering about how much room you’ll have with your Southwest seating and here’s what you can expect:

  • 737-700 — Pitch (leg room): 31 inches; width 17 inches
  • 737-800 — Pitch (leg room): 32 to 33 inches; width 17 inches
  • 737-800MAX — Pitch (leg room): 32 to 33 inches; width 17.8 inches

So as you can see, when it comes to Southwest seating, you’ll get more leg room with the 737-800 according to SeatGuru and you’ll have a wider seat with the 737-800 Max.

.8 inches might now sound like that much but every little bit helps when you’re flying. You can view the Southwest seating charts here

Southwest seats

Get the best seat selection (Southwest priority boarding)

There are a few ways that you can secure “priority boarding” with Southwest.

I put that in quotations because there aren’t true priority boarding groups but there are some ways you can effectively get priority boarding and get the best seat selection.

Business Select

If you purchase a Business Select fare, you’ll be guaranteed a boarding position A1 to A15.

Business Select fares are usually just a little bit more expensive than Anytime fares but they allow you to earn more points and also offer the following benefits:

  • Guaranteed A1-A15 boarding
  • Fly By lane access
  • Free premium drink
  • 12 Rapid Rewards per dollar spent
  • Fully refundable fare

You can read more on whether or not Business Select fares are worth it here

Upgrade to Business Select

Instead of purchasing Business Select fares you can also upgrade.

The cost to upgrade to Business Select varies from $30 to $50 per segment, depending on the route.

To upgrade, simply approach the ticket counter or desk at the departure gate and inquire about the upgrade.

Sometimes they make you upgrade at the gate reserved for your flight but other times you can do it at check-in or at another Southwest gate.

Southwest should be able to tell you exactly what boarding number you’d receive before you upgrade so you can see if it’s worth it.

Update: you can now upgrade online at the time of check-in!

The Southwest Priority Credit Card offers up to four upgrades to priority boarding (A1 to A15) based on availability per year.

Among other benefits, it also offers a $75 annual credit, 20% back on in-flight drinks, WiFi, messaging, and movies, and 20% back on in-flight drinks, WiFi, messaging, and movies. It’s not a bad way to cover those upgrades to Business Select if you only need to cover a few of those a year. 

Southwest EarlyBird

Another option to secure a priority boarding position is to go with Southwest EarlyBird.

This will automatically check you in 36 hours prior to departure.

EarlyBird does not guarantee an A boarding pass but it will almost always get you a boarding pass that will allow you to get an aisle or window seat.

For the most part, you should be able to get a window seat or aisle seat just by checking in yourself 24 hours before your flight. (It’s often possible to get an A boarding pass checking in on your own.)

However, if you won’t be available to check in 24 hours prior or you don’t think that you’ll remember then EarlyBird could be worth it.

EarlyBird used to cost $10 each way and then it was increased to $15 each way. But recently, the pricing was changed to dynamic pricing so it could cost up to $25.

Good News: The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card now offers two annual credits for Southwest EarlyBird!

You can read more about whether or not Southwest EarlyBird is worth it here.

Can you save seats on Southwest?

There’s a lot of debate as to whether or not its acceptable to save seats on Southwest flights.

For the most part it does seem to be frowned upon but you can usually save seats within reason.

Generally, saving seats at the rear of the plane is not an issue, especially if you’re trying to keep your family together.

With that said, if you have a very large group, you might be inviting some issues since saving multiple rows can get a little messy at times.

Also, you don’t want to save seats in the front of the plane, as that might lead to confrontations. In addition, it’s usually not a good idea to save seats in the emergency exit rows as those are usually in high demand.

Tip: One trick I’ve done in the past is to get the flight attendant to occupy a seat as people board and people will usually pass over that seat.

Tip: Use the free app WalletFlo to help you travel the world for free by finding the best travel credit cards and promotions!

Can groups board together?

Southwest will allow you to board in groups even if your boarding passes are not directly before or after each other.

The catch is that they want you to board with the member who has the lowest boarding pass.

So for example, let’s say there are three of you and you have the following boarding passes:

  • A25
  • A60
  • B30

Southwest will ask that A25 and A60 board with B30.

This is to preserve the “integrity” of the boarding process since it actually doesn’t affect the boarding waiting time of any of the other passengers.

How to print a Southwest boarding pass?

You can easily print your boarding pass by checking in online.

You can print your boarding pass online at Southwest.com or at the airport using a self-service kiosk on the day of departure.

Southwest also allows you to board with a electronic or mobile boarding passes. You can request a mobile boarding pass at the time of check-in on Southwest.com, the Southwest.com mobile site, or the Southwest mobile app for iPhone or Android.

But note that mobile boarding passes are not currently available to passengers traveling on international flights.

Southwest Tips

If you want to learn more tips about flying for Southwest click here.

Also, if you want to earn more Rapid Rewards, be sure to check out the Southwest Shopping Portal

Southwest boarding FAQ

How can I get the best boarding group?

You can get the best boarding group on Southwest by purchasing or upgrading to Business Select. Upgrading will cost you $30-$50 per segment.

You can also get a better boarding position by having A-List status.

By purchasing EarlyBird, you can also increase your odds of getting in the first boarding group although it is not guaranteed.

How do I choose my seat before the flight?

Southwest does not allow you to select your seat prior to the flight.

Is it okay to save seats on Southwest?

Opinions are mixed on saving seats with Southwest Airlines. The best advice is to save seats in the back of the plane if you must and try to avoid saving multiple rows at a time when flying with a large group.

When does A-list board?

A-List will board directly after Business Select. First, A-List Preferred will board and then following them A-List will board.

When do families board?

Family boarding (which is offered to families traveling with a kid 6 or under), allows you to board between Group A and Group B.

What boarding group do I need for a window or aisle seat?

Typically, if you have a boarding position under B30 you should be able to find a window or aisle seat. The further back in the plane you decide to sit, the more likely you will find a window or aisle seat.

When do standbys board?

Standby passengers will be the last to board.

How much legroom do you have on Southwest?

You generally will have 31 to 32 inches of legroom.

Does Southwest have a special boarding policy for coronavirus?

No, Southwest stopped doing the special boarding process in March 2021.

Final word

Southwest boarding policies are pretty straight forward.

There are a few ways that you can get priority boarding though they all come with different degrees of assurance.

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