This blog post was updated on October 15, 2018.
On Sunday night, the United States learned Osama bin Laden had been killed. As word spread across Twitter, many were dialing back to September 11, 2001 when much of America changed, including how we travel.
I saw one tweet where someone’s child didn’t know who Osama bin Laden was. Realizing it had been 10 years since he became a household name, it hit me that babies have been born and grown up not understanding the full impact of 9/11. Memories have been forgotten.
How we travel today is greatly altered due to the 9/11 attacks. Travelers all around the world have had to adjust not only to the threat of terrorism but also to how they go about those nomadic journeys around the globe. Here are just a few ways our travel lives have changed since that fateful day.
No more waving goodbye at the gate: Unless you have a boarding pass or some special circumstance, you can’t meet your party at their gate to welcome them home. Since 9/11 we have had to adjust our hugs and wait at the terminal with our balloons and signs. Any movie before 9/11 shows those touching moments of waving goodbye to someone, face pressed up against the glass of the gate. Now we know, it’s not how it is in the movies.
Take Your Shoes Off Please: Whenever I go to Europe and a security agent looks at me funny as I remove my shoes, I realize this is mostly an American thing. After 9/11 a series of failed attacks on airlines took place, including the notorious shoe bomber. He changed the way in which we go through security, pulling off those sneakers and walking around in stinky socks until we get them back on the other end. Before, you could walk right on through the metal detector without removing a sock.
Leave behind your big bottles of liquids: I don’t think there is a more annoying rule to come since 9/11 in terms of travel. Those who fly are all too familiar with placing their liquids into 3 oz. containers in a tiny plastic bag. After having a security officer in the Dublin Airport take a 4 oz. contact cleaner bottle from me (which got into Ireland), I realized this rule has cost Americans and the world perhaps billions of bottles of shampoo and precious hand creams.
Passports for Mexico, Canada and the Caribbean for U.S. Citizens: If you remember a time when you didn’t need your passport to go to Mexico from the United States, you know that was before 9/11. In 2007, it became official that you needed a passport to fly to these regions, rather than the driver’s license and birth certificate before. Many Americans were forced to get a passport for the first time to make their yearly trip to Cabo.
More Paperwork and Hassle for Foreign Visitors To the United States: Non-U.S. citizens probably have a few stories to tell about entering the United States after 9/11. One major change came in September of 2004 when foreign travelers from 27 countries (mostly in the European Union) had to be fingerprinted and photographed when arriving at an American airport. A welcome to America became a not so welcome event even moreso when the Visa Waiver Program introduced a form for foreigners to fill out 72 hours before their flight to the U.S. If you forget, you won’t fly. The paperwork on both ends (for U.S. citizens and non-U.S. citizens) has increased but foreigners have felt the hassle far more at U.S. Customs.
How has travel changed for you since 9/11?