Traveling during the holiday season is a giant pain in the arse, but mama wants to see you, and it would be uncouth not to pay her a visit during the holidays. So you travel -- amidst 117,000 other daily jetsetters coming into and flying out of Miami International Airport, the star of its very own Travel Channel realty show called Airport 24/7: Miami.
To help keep you sane during the holiday hullabaloo, Lauren Stover, director of security at Miami International Airport, has a few travel tips. A quick word for the wise: Leave the fruitcake, the kilo of cocaine, and the holiday fowl at home.
What should people know about traveling with gifts?
Keep them unwrapped. Don't wrap gifts. Don't bring wrapped gifts to the TSA checkpoint because they may have to unwrap them to do an inspection. I would also advise buying the gifts post-security here at MIA. We have some great things to offer. If people like food gifts, we have it here! From candies and cookies to sauces and jams to caviar.
What top tips would you give holiday travelers coming to Miami International Airport?
Get dressed after you go through security. People shouldn't worry about how they look when they go through the security process. People should not worry what they look like on the front end of the house. Just go ahead and get dressed post-security with the bling, with the accessories. Put all that jewelry, accessories, the bling in a plastic bag and stick it in your carry-on.
Another valuable tip I have: Always travel with your valuables in your carry-on. Don't ever check valuables in your checked luggage.
What's some of the craziest stuff you've seen people try to bring into the airport during the holiday season?
We've had people try to bring whole cooked turkeys through the checkpoint, and that just kind of makes a little mess when it's not properly wrapped, and I don't even know if a turkey is on a prohibited list. I don't think it is. People try to bring cooked foods and things like that. Unless it's properly contained we don't need it ending up spilling into our screening equipment.
It's almost a given that someone's going to go mental while waiting in an airport security line. What stress relievers do you all provide?
Cause it is a stressful time of year, we offer a manicure, a pedicure. We have facials at our Jetsetter Spa. We have a non-denominational chapel, if someone wants some quiet time.
Any chance holiday jet-setters traveling through MIA will get a Travel Channel cameo?
They're going to film whatever happens. We never know what each day is going to present to us. They'll be there to film it, and you guys will be there to watch it. And hopefully folks will understand what it takes to run a major international airport.
There's so much going on behind the scenes at airports that travelers just don't know about. Tell me about some of the organized chaos.
We have various types of canines out here, from currency-sniffing canines to narcotics-sniffing canines to drug-sniffing canines to canines that detect products that are not allowed into the United States. So this airport has essentially gone to the dogs. [laughs]
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You've called MIA the entrance to Latin America. Tell me about the cocaine.
We do intercept narcotics here at the airport as would any major international airport. We're not unique in Miami. The reason why we're in the news is because we're doing the intercepts. We catch it. If we don't catch it, you don't hear about it. The reason you hear about it in Miami, is because we're catching it.
Do you have any last tips and thoughts for holiday travelers?
Don't travel with fruitcakes. I don't even know who eats fruitcakes anymore. It doesn't help us in the screening process. I haven't been fond of green and red cherries. Fruitcakes are the only type of edible item that can last 100 years and still be good. That's another food item we suggest people not travel with.