Many of you are currently starting to pull out you luggage and starting to prepare for your flight or drive to the Windy City for the great gathering of gamer nerds we call Adepticon! If you're not packing yet, especially if you're flying, I want you to start thinking about it. Because of recent events things at major airports going to take longer due to heightened security measures and may be a bit more complicated than they would have been a few days previously.
I bring this up specifically because many of you will be travelling with unusually shaped cases that contain peculiar stuff! Everything from camera equipment and electronics for doing our blogs and videos to share our hobbies and good times- to the boxes of foam that carry our treasured pewter artworks that we spend hours and days perfecting. These especially are something that I will put some extra focus into, because lets face it, most TSA staff just dont know that wargame miniatures arent toys- but pieces of fragile art- and to some of us more like idols of our religions!
Some of you might not know I worked in law enforcement for most of my professional career, so communicating with security people like TSA staff is something I can give you a crash course in :) Sadly Im not skilled enough in programming to make a Droid or iPhone app to work as a universal translator, so hopefully the tips I give you guys will get you and your minis, and other belongings to and from the event in one piece!
Before getting into the specific advice for the safe transportation of your minis, I'll make some of the usual suggestions. Always arrive early. Running late and being impatient will cause nothing but problems. Being early and having spare time always provides more options- and more options means there are much greater odds that you, your minis and all your other nerdly accouterments will both arrive safely and happily at your destination. Always try to stay calm, getting mad at the TSA and security staff will never make things easier for anyone. If you get the guy thats being a dick, it doesnt mean you gotta be a dick back. They've got one of the crappiest jobs out there, and no one ever stops to say thank you to them- so, its not a surprise they get a little pissy sometimes. If they seem pissy, think about this: they arent there to mess up your day- theyre making sure some dumbass doesnt sneak a gun or knife on to your flight and make your day a very bad one. That makes it easier to handle the pat search and say 'thank you!'
My first suggestion, is unless you are transporting a HUGE army- do not, ever, check your minis. Just dont. You never know who is going to search that case, or what gorilla is going to throw it around from one cart to the next to get it on the plane. If you are taking a case that wont fit as a carry on- you need to insure it, far beyond the retail value of the minis. You insure it for the value of what it would cost to have them replaced if a top notch pro painter was going to replace them to the same painted level. Have pictures of them as proof of the quality et etc. When checking the bag, make absolutely sure theres FRAGILE labels on it, and like any checked bag these days you are probly going to pay extra for it, and probly get charged an extra handling fee for the Fragile stuff. But- the alternative is having it get treated like any other piece of Samonsite and tossed around the carousels by the baggage apes >.< Sometimes your stuff arrives fine- sometimes you get a bag of bits. Nobody wants to spend the first night at a con trying to reassemble all their minis!!
For those taking a smaller case that you're carrying on- this is the better option for making sure your lil dudes are safe! You get to keep them in your possession almost 95% of the time! When you get to the baggage scanning spot with the TSA people, just let them know you've got some valuable pewter collectible art work in the case, and that if they need it removed from the case to examine them you would be happy to take them out to prevent any damage. This lets the TSA guys do their job and examine the case, without risking damaging someones valuables, and lets you make sure your lil dudes dont get busted up by the TSA peeps that are just trying to do thier job.
Ideally you have your figs packed well in some battlefoam/sabol/KS stuf so you can just lift trays out and it only takes a moment to sort through it. If you do something silly like have them individually wrapped in toilet paper- do not be surprised if they pull you aside into the lil room where they do detail searches for drugs. Because a bunch of little individually wrapped items like that, regardless of what they are will often look suspicious. Plastic minis wrapped like that will especially look odd on the xray machine and might get a visit from the friendly airport doggy!
On occasions when boarding your flight, as any experienced traveller knows- the overhead bins get full and the flight attendants start telling the people boarding that you have to check your bags. This is obviously bad. Its never happened to me so Im not really sure how to handle it since I havent flown recently. Personally- I would make sure tehy know the objects in the case are of exceedingly fragile and precious value- and if they make you check it- you will hold them personally accountable for any damages- so they should play some luggage Tetris with the overhead bins and make room.
The better prepared you are the easier all this stuff will go. With the event in Boston, Im going to suggest that you should just plan on having your stuff searched. Since you're going to be carrying a bunch of strange bags/cases, thats exactly what security people are going to be on edge about. So, just be cooperative and realize its not them harassing you. Its just a sad fact that the world we live in sometimes requires stuff like this.
From my own experience one thing that does help, is nerd swag. Grab your whichever of your mini cases that has the most geeek-bling on it and is the most worn on the edges. New shiny stuff usually attracts attention-of thieves and security. Old worn in bags with patches and stickers(leave the metal buttons at home!) don't really draw anyones attention.
Next point, is the weather which someone mentioned on the WGC Facebook group. I watch the weather alot because of my migraines, and theres a pretty crazy set of weather patterns, Yogi, and Xerxes, in the works right now. All on along the South and East theres uncommonly warm weather, and in the North West theres a big beast of a cold front plowing across the great plains. If the warm wet stuff in the South East doesn't get out of that cold fronts way- there will likely be s a series of pretty ugly storms will sprout tornadoes where they meet. So anyone driving keep a close eye on the sky and an ear on the local weather, grab a weather app on your smart phone before you head out and get one that will push emergency weather alerts in your area so you'll get immediate updates if theres anything going on if you're on the road in an unfamiliar area.
For the airport- a few layers- a sweater and a good jacket/coat, would be the minimum Id suggest. Adepticon is an indoor event, but you never know how much waiting around to get to a cab, shuttle, rental car might be involved- and sometimes some airport terminals have absolutely dreadful heating. If they have adequate heating a fluffy coat can double as a pillow while you wait- because I know you were good and you got there early- and you're looking at the WGC Facebook page on your portable device while you're waiting!
I was prompted to write this article because I recalled a friends rather tragic experience of travelling to a Gamesday after 9/11 when a police officer thought his GW carrying case was a gun case, and opened it without alot of, caution. There was more than a few minis that got broken. Most people these days are packing stuff around in soft sided cases like the Armytransport and Battlefoam bags which have a much more 'luggage' appearance. So hopefully the tension level is lower, but I would suggest that people avoid the hard sided plastic cases unless they look more like camera/electronics cases than a firearms case. Theres alot of fear these days, and fear makes people react in irrational ways, so its easier to just put you minis and other gear in a case that 'look like it holds any sort of weapons if you have that option.
Anyhow, I hope you all have alot of fun, I look forward to seeing pics and videos and seeing who wins some painting awards! Maybe in the coming years my health will improve and I'll be able to join you guys ^_^