I Survived 23 Tech-Challenged Travel Hours During the Electronics Ban — Here Are My Tips

It's frustrating — and oh so boring — but preparedness makes all the difference.

If we're being honest, we can all admit to freaking out mentally when we're separated from our electronics, even briefly. (And that's why we're still wondering who are all these people leaving their laptops at security?) So, what happens when you are faced with a new travel ban that demands checking all of your electronics for your 22-hour journey from Bangkok to New York City?

I’m about to tell you — because I just went through it.

Off the bat, the electronics ban is frustrating, mostly due to having to check all of your expensive, beloved, entertaining items — laptops, Kindles, cameras, and iPads — below deck. And it’s also frustrating because not everyone gets the memo. Expect longer lines, as people vent and then scramble. Expect additional customs checks and even planeside checks. Expect different policies per airline and changes to allowances as weeks go by.

My experience is mercifully over, but should you be headed for one of the flights affected by this travel ban, here are some tips, thoughts, tricks, and advice to make the frustrations a little less so.

The details

Effective since late March and with no end-date in sight, you cannot take any electronic larger than an iPhone 7 into the cabin on flights from these 10 countries into America: Egypt, Jordan, Qatar, Kuwait, Morocco, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey.

It only affects eight carriers: Royal Jordanian Airlines, Egypt Air, Turkish Airlines, Saudi Arabian Airlines, Kuwait Airways, Royal Air Maroc, Qatar Airways, Emirates and Etihad Airways.

If you are flying an American carrier, you can keep your electronics. This is very interesting (ahem) when you consider that places with large terror cells (hi, Somalia) are not on the list. Also, both Dubai and Saudi Arabia have U.S.A.-compliant customs security. So compliant, in fact, that you actually clear customs there, not in America.

The rub

For some of these carriers, you will have to check all your devices at point-of-origin, too. I was flying Etihad, which is frustratingly point of origin. Emirates and Turkish Airlines will allow you to take electronics to the gate, and then check them plane side.

Translation

My arrival to the airport (about two hours and 30 minutes before my flight, to account for very long lines) meant I was now without any form of electronics for not just my flight from Abu Dhabi to New York, but also for every single minute of my entire trip.

This included three hours in Bangkok’s airport, a six-hour flight from Bangkok to Abu Dhabi, a four-hour layover in Abu Dhabi, and then my huge, 14-hour leg from Abu Dhabi to NYC.

Total time? Nearly 23 hours with no electronics except an iPhone. First world problems, but I know your palms are sweating just thinking about it.

What I managed to get away with

I kept my Kindle Paperwhite in my carryon. I wanted to test, for the purposes of this story, whether it would be confiscated. It has a cracked screen and needs replacing, so losing it wouldn’t have been a tragedy. I told the gate agent that I was going to keep it in my carryon. She informed me it “might be taken.”

Going through every security line, I placed it in a bin and made it known that I had it. It was never taken away or even questioned. I would not take this chance with a laptop or something you would not be happy to give up.

Pro tip: Prepare your luggage for any outcome.

I was already overseas when this ban came into effect. I had a Nikon750 camera with me, and two large lenses. I also had a MacBook Pro 13-inch laptop, as well as the aforementioned Kindle Paperwhite, two portable hard-drives, camera batteries, and a tripod. Before the ban, these all fit nicely in my carryon Thule camera backpack. It’s amazing for hauling electronics.

I decided to purchase a cheap duffle in Bangkok. I placed the tripod and the majority of my clothes in that, then used my remaining clothes to cushion the lenses, laptop, and camera, and placed those in my hard-side, original rolling luggage by Away. Everything got home in one piece.

Note: If it had not, I had zero recourse with the airlines. Because this is an American government ban, the airlines are not responsible for anything that breaks. Frustrating, right?

They will also place fragile stickers all over your checked luggage upon request. Absolutely request!

Battling the boredom

A coloring book and colored pencils purchased at the Hudson News helped relieve a few mind-numbing hours. Advil? Check. Sleep mask? Check. Ear plugs? I actually wore them at one point in the lounge too.

And, I read on my forbidden Kindle.

Like I said, I only took the Kindle as a test for this article and because I was happy to relinquish it. I’m not going to lie — it really helped save my sanity.

To wrap up, here are a few awesome books that I highly recommend buying or downloading if you find yourself facing 23 hours with no electronics. Stay safe (and sane) out there, fellow travelers!

Great books for long-haul flights, by genre

Horror: The Troop by Nick Cutter

A fast-paced, no-gore-spared story that’s also rife with poignant, coming-of-age moments. Let’s call it a scary, thrilling combination of Stand By Me and Patient Zero.

Travel memoir: Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven by Susan Jane Gilman

When the excitement of exploring the world in your early twenties with your best friend takes an insane and dramatic twist! The descriptions of Hong Kong and China will have you longing to book a flight and the plot will have you totally engrossed.

Chick lit: Wedding Night by Sophie Kinsella

Sometimes when you have 23 hours of travel, you don’t want to overthink it. Or, really think at all. This book is delightful, well-written, funny, entertaining, and pretty relatable for most women.

New release: You by Caroline Kepnes

A story from the point-of-view of a stalker won’t leave you without laughs. He’s a charming, eloquent, creepy and a weirdly loveable protagonist. This is also one you can also likely find in the airport, as it’s a new and popular release.

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