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How to Navigate Airport Security Without Losing Your Liquids -- Or Your Mind

With airlines charging for checked baggage, more travelers are carrying luggage on board. To learn how to speed up the line, we turned to a TSA expert for advice.

You're busted, buddy -- hand over the barbecue sauce. Surrender the salsa. Hold the mayo. Sounds funny, but in airport security inspection lines, such phrases aren't uncommon. According to officers of the Transportation Security Administration, you'd be surprised how many people try to smuggle sauce on board only to lose their liquids when they get in line.

Most travelers know the "3-1-1" rule: Passengers can carry liquids in three-ounce bottles or less (by volume) if these are placed in a one quart-sized clear plastic zip-top bag, placed separately in a bin; one per passenger. Still, some have questions about that and other airport security restrictions.

With airlines' charging for checked baggage, more travelers are carrying all their luggage on board, so security lines are longer, and the hassle seems to be multiplying. To learn how to make security move faster, we turned for advice to Officer Dan Parker, assistant federal security director for screening for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Rule of thumb: "If you can pour it, spread it, or smear it, you're better off leaving it at home," says Parker.

When in doubt, take it out. You may know that computer laptops and video cameras have to be removed from their cases to go through screening, but did you know that breathing machines, video game consoles, DVD players and many other electronic devices need to be taken from their cases, too?

Liquid meds. Any liquid or gel that may be reasonably expected to be for medical use (even those in large bottles) are allowed as carry-ons, prescription or not; howver, they'll hold up the line as officers are required to carefully test the contents of each bottle. So consider packing gel caps or tablets instead, and if you have to carry liquid medicines, have them outside your bag and ready to show the officers when you enter the screening area.

No snow globe zone. Snow globes and any other toys or bra or shoe inserts containing water or gel as a component can be confiscated. "We give away thousands of snow globes, along with everything else we confiscate, to a company that sells them to raise money for charities," says Officer Parker.

Sole-side down. Place your shoes in the bin this way. It facilitates the scanning process.

Size matters. Don't bring a big baggie if you carry on liquids. Only one-quart-sized bags are allowed in order to limit the number of 3-ounce bottles per passenger.

Big girls don't cry, and you shouldn't either. Crying, acting distraught, distracted or nervous -- these things can flag you with airport behavior detection agents. Once referred to as bereavement assistance officers, these agents are specially trained to spot suspicious behavior. Besides detaining dubious characters, they often are the first to nab drug traffickers and those smuggling items that aren't allowed.

Don't be sneaky with snakesÂ? or any other animals. You can't conceal critters in your carry-ons, so come clean about your pets. "We found once found a live snake hidden in a pillowcase," recalls Parker.

Gun Control. "We probably find 20 handguns a week, nationwide," says Parker. "Check with your airline or travel agent to see if firearms are permitted in checked baggage." Limitations and fees may apply, so it's best to leave weapons at home. "Once a lady here tried to come through with brass knuckles. She cried like a baby when we made her give them up -- said they were a family heirloom," recalls Parker. "We've seen it all."

For a list of Transportation Security Administration prohibited items and more information about airport security regulations, visit the TSA Web site at