Keys are an everyday essential, but they’re a little bit of a challenge when traveling. You might be wondering what to do with your keys when boarding a flight.
The TSA allows passengers to bring keys on a plane in their carry-on or checked luggage. It’s not uncommon for people to lose their checked bags, so I recommend packing your keys in your carry-on bag. If you usually have your keys in your pocket, remember to take them out when you go through security.
Most metals will trigger an alarm, forcing the TSA to search your person.
To avoid getting intimate with a TSA agent, put your keys (and other metallic objects) in your bag before stepping through the metal detectors.
How To Pack Your Keys
As long as your keys aren’t on your person when you go through the metal detectors, you can put them either inside your bag or in the bin for x-ray scanning.
I don’t recommend putting them at the bottom of your carry-on, as you’ll have trouble finding them and then panic about it later.
If your bag has an internal zipped pocket, I suggest putting your keys in there. That way, they’re easy to access when you need them but secure enough that they won’t get lost.
Having your keys in an easy-to-reach pocket will also make it simpler if they trigger something on the x-ray and the TSA needs to see them.
Importantly, make sure you don’t have a keychain that could be mistaken for a weapon. If you have a mini-Swiss Army knife or anything like that attached to your keys, remove it before going to the airport.
Do Keys Trigger the Alarm?
Keys always trigger a metal detector, explaining why you should take them out of your pockets during screening.
Before you even reach the scanners, security personnel will remind you – repeatedly – to place all metal objects (including your keys) inside the bin for the x-ray.
If your keys are already in your bag, you probably won’t have to take them out.
(I’ve traveled hundreds of times with my house keys in my purse and have never been asked to show them to anyone.)
If you’ve placed your keys in the bin, they’ll go through the scanner and come out the other side with the rest of your stuff.
Whatever you do, DO NOT forget to pick up your keys.
For some reason, it’s incredibly common for people to misplace their keys at security, and it’s awkward and time-consuming to double back and fetch them once you realize they’re gone.
Do I Need to Leave My Car Keys at the Airport Parking Lot?
Whether you must leave your keys with the attendants at airport parking varies by the type of lot.
Depending on the airport, you usually have three options for where to leave your car (well, four, if you count hotel parking).
You can leave your car in the long-term parking lot attached to the terminal, leave it at an off-site car park nearby, or use a valet parking service.
When using a valet parking service, you will have to give them your keys because they do the parking for you.
Off-site parking is generally more cost-efficient, and most lots provide shuttle services to the departure areas of the airport.
In most cases, when self-parking, you won’t have to leave your keys, but contact the parking provider to confirm.
Parking providers that require your keys will keep them safe and always give them back when you return.
Should I Bring Keys on a Plane?
Whether or not you bring keys on a plane is a personal choice.
If you’re the type of person who is constantly misplacing important items, it’s probably better to leave your keys at home with someone you trust.
Keys are essential, and losing them can lead to a lengthy (and potentially expensive) replacement process.
On the other hand, if you like having your most essential items with you when traveling, you should carry your keys.
Remember to keep an eye on them (and other personal items like passports and ID) when you’re at the airport.
Loose keys are less than ideal, so I strongly suggest using a key chain. If you’re looking for an extra layer of security, attach them to a tracking device like an Apple Airtag.
The truth is, you won’t need your keys on your flight, so whether you want to bring them on the plane is a totally subjective decision.
Traveling with keys is far from difficult, but there are little things you can do to avoid unnecessary drama at the airport.
It’s better to pack your keys in your carry-on luggage in an easily accessible zippered pocket. This way, they’re secure and can be reached if the TSA needs to see them.
If you have your keys in your pocket, remove them, put them in the bin for the scanner, and don’t forget them on the other side.
Remove any keychains that might raise suspicion, and if you’re prone to losing your keys, invest in a keychain that doubles as a tracker.
At the end of the day, if you don’t need to travel with your keys, then don’t. It’s one less thing to worry about while on your trip.
That isn’t an option for everyone, so if you follow these basic guidelines, you should have no problems taking your keys on a plane.