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TSA 2013 Holiday Travel Tips

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Friday, November 15, 2013
Holiday Travel Banner

As in past years, I have again put together a list of helpful travel tips and links to make your holiday travel a little easier.

TSAprecheck Logo

TSA Pre✓® and other Risk Based Expedited Screening: TSA continues to expand TSA Pre✓®, anprescreening initiative designed to expedite checkpoint screening primarily for known travelers and active duty service members, with similar benefits for passengers 12 and under and 75 and older. Through this program, TSA is able to reduce, although not eliminate, the need for a pat-down. TSA Pre✓® is currently available in 100 airports. To date, more than 18 million passengers have been screened through TSA Pre✓® lanes! Remember, entering incorrect information can lead to not being selected for TSA Pre✓®.

Military Travel: If you’re traveling for the holidays as a member of the U.S. Armed forces, be sure to read the travel tips at this post.

TSA Contact Center: The Contact Center (TCC) hours are Monday - Friday, 8 a.m. - 11 p.m.,Eastern Time; weekends and federal holidays, 9 a.m. - 8 p.m., Eastern Time. The TCC can be reached at 866-289-9673. Passengers can also reach out to the TSA Contact Center with questions about TSA procedures, upcoming travel or to provide feedback or voice concerns.

TSA Cares Helpline: Travelers or families of passengers with disabilities and medical conditions can call the TSA Cares helpline toll free 855-787-2227, 72 hours prior to traveling with any questions about screening policies, procedures and what to expect at the security checkpoint. A TSA Cares helpline representative is available during all TSA Contact Center hours.

The MyTSA App: Would you like TSA information anywhere, anytime? Use the MyTSA app. Among the great features, there’s a “Can I Bring My…” tool. Do you want to know if you can pack a certain item? This is the tool for you. Type in the name of the item you’re curious about and it tells you if the item is permitted or not, along with packing tips. A wait time feature is also available. It relies on crowd sourcing, which means the more people who use it, the better.


Knives: Knives of all sizes are prohibited in carry-on bags. However, you can pack them in your checked luggage.

Wrapped gifts are allowed, but not encouraged: Wrapped gifts are allowed, but we recommend waiting until you land to wrap them. If there’s something in the gift that needs to be inspected, we may have to open it. Our officers try their best not to mangle the gift wrap, but it’s not a guarantee and it also slows down the line for everybody else when we have to do this.

Liquids, Gels & Aerosols: If you’re checking a bag, make your life simple by packing liquids in your checked luggage. That way, you don’t have to worry about the liquids rules. (If you’re concerned about them leaking, do what I do and put them in a zip-top bag.) But I know that doesn’t work for everyone if you’re only bringing a carry-on bag. If you have to take liquids in your carry-on, please continue reading… You can read here for more details. This gist is that each passenger is allowed to take as many 3.4 ounce or less sized containers that will fit in one sealed clear quart-sized zip-top bag - and one bag per person. Make sure you take the zip-top bag out of your carry-on prior to sending it through the X-ray.

Here is some information on frequently asked liquid, aerosol and gel items:

  • Beverages: Wine, liquor, beer, and all of your favorite beverages are permitted in your checked baggage. You can also bring beverages packaged in 3.4 oz or less bottles in your carry-on bags in the 3-1-1 baggie. Sometimes there’s a fine line between a beverage and hazmat.
  • Makeup: Any liquid makeup cosmetics such as eyeliner, nail polish, liquid foundation, etc., should be placed in the baggie. That goes for perfume as well. Powder makeup is fine.
  • Deodorant: Stick deodorant is not limited to 3.4 oz or less, but gel or spray deodorant is.
  • Some Snow Globes are Permitted Now: TSA now allows small snow globes in carry-on luggage when packed in a passenger's plastic 3-1-1 bag. Snow globes that appear to contain less than 3.4 ounces (approximately tennis-ball size) will be permitted if the entire snow globe, including the base, is able to fit in the same one clear, plastic, quart-sized, re-sealable bag as a passenger’s other liquids.
  • Gel Inserts for shoes are now permitted.
  • Foods: Cakes, pies, bread, donuts, turkeys, etc., are all permitted. Here is a list of items that should be placed in your checked bags or shipped: cranberry sauce, creamy dips and spreads (cheeses, peanut butter, etc.), gift baskets with liquid or gel food items (salsa, jams and salad dressings), gravy, jams, jellies, maple syrup, oils and vinegars, sauces, soups, wine, liquor and beer.

Dry Ice: Did you know that you can take dry ice in your carry-on or in checked baggage? Read here to find out how to use dry ice to keep your favorite Thanksgiving vittles preserved while traveling.

Loaded Gun

Double Check Your Bag for Guns: Seriously!!!If you read our Week in Review posts, you’ll see that our officers find guns every day at checkpoints in the U.S. A good percentage of those are loaded. Save yourself a bag check, a police interview and a potential arrest by making sure you leave your firearm at home.

Shaving Razors: You can get more info from our blog post on this subject where the pictures will answer all of your questions.

Forgotten or Lost IDs:If you have lost or forgotten your ID, you will still be permitted to fly as long as you help us verify you are who you say you are by answering a few questions. Read this post for more information.

Medication: One of the more popular questions we get from travelers is: “Can I travel with my medication.” The answer is yes, with some qualifiers. Here are a few tips that you might find helpful.

Traveling With Children: Did you know that children 12 and under can keep their shoes on?If you’re going on a family trip this summer, be sure to click here for more tips.

Camping, Hunting, or Fishing: If you’re heading to the great outdoors, be sure to check out this post for tips on traveling with camping and fishing gear.

Traveling With a Pet: TSA does not prohibit travel with pets. However, it is very important that you contact your airline first so they can let you know about any requirements, fees, or restrictions they might have. Read here for more information.

How to Avoid Additional Screening: The most important tip to help you avoid additional screening is to take everything out of your pockets before screening and put items in your carry-on bag. Don't wear clothes with a high metal content, and put heavy jewelry on after you go through security. If you have a hidden medical device (insulin pump, ostomy bag, brace, etc.), please let the officer know.

Jewelry: Should you remove jewelry or keep it on to go through security? The answer, in most cases is that you can keep it on, but there are a few different choices that you can make based on what kind of jewelry it is. Read this post for more information.

Batteries: You can’t go anywhere without some kind of battery these days. Read this post to learn about what types of batteries you can travel with.

Happy Holidays!

Bob Burns
TSA Blog Team

If you have a travel related issue or question that needs an immediate answer, you can contact us by clicking here.


Submitted by Anonymous on

Why is a pie allowed to be carried on, yet so many other liquids and gels are not? Surely a pie has more liquid than many of the "dangerous" prohibited liquids. Of course no one has explained to me why (1) 500 ml bottle of water is dangerous but (5) 100 ml bottles are safe.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Who has been making you pie? They need to work on their recipe if its full of liquid.

Submitted by Anonymous on

I'll give another example. Pies have similar gel like qualities to substances like peanut butter. Peanut butter is prohibited but apple or pumpkin pies are permitted according to this blog post. Does that make any sense?

Submitted by Anonymous on

Since you mentioned it, if you want people to use Pre-check, you might want to make sure the TSOs actually know that items don't have to come out of the bag. My last flight from ATL, one woman was making up rules and when challenged started yelling "That's just the way it is!" Even though it would do no good, I would make a complaint if she hadn't gone out of her way to hide her name.

Submitted by Anonymous on

The point is not why some things are prohibited and other not. It is about obeying the rules. The people that run this country have rules. The subjects of this country must obey these rules if they want sound government. So, let us not ask about the liquidity of pies and peanut butter but strive to obey the rules set down by the government as everything will run smoother.

Submitted by Susan Richart on

"Anonymous said...

The point is not why some things are prohibited and other not. It is about obeying the rules. The people that run this country have rules. The subjects of this country must obey these rules if they want sound government."

If it was "about obeying the rules", we'd still be under the subjugation of the British. If it were about obeying the rules, some of us might be slaves.

Just because there are rules in effect, it doesn't mean they are useful rules.

And further, rules are meant to be broken.

screen shot/DHS OIG statement

Submitted by Anonymous on

Train the document checkers to recognize what CAC and TWIC cards first!

Submitted by Anonymous on

"The point is not why some things are prohibited and other not. It is about obeying the rules."

If the public's input on the rules has been ignored, the rules are not lawful.

See the public comments on body scanners at!docketDetail;D=TSA-2013-0004. It took TSA two years, post-implementation ofthe scanners, to ask for those comments. TSA has not yet informed the public about how the comments will be addressed.

Submitted by Elizabeth A on

I find the biggest problem with the 'rules' is not the language of the rules themselves (a jar of peanut butter is forbidden, but a pecan pie isn’t?) but the inconsistencies across domestic airports. Many airports don’t abide by the 3.4 ounce liquid rule, and certainly don’t require passengers to place liquids in a plastic bag. If the rules are really that important, they should be consistent coast to coast.

While going through security two weeks ago, a handful of other passengers and I were sent through the TSA Pre-Check line, even though none of us had applied for the prescreened list. If TSA has no problem sending unapproved passengers through security with the rules of a 12 and under or 75 and over passenger, there needs to be some revaluation to save time and money. There is little consistency across airports, but I’m not sure whether to be worried or annoyed.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Good point Elizabeth.

Submitted by Evelyn on

I have a question. 100percent Cocobutter is a solid? 100,percent Shea butter is or is not? It is not a cream it is soft though. Can u elaborate? I am going to mexico for Christmas and I use natural moisteruzers. Also can u have more than one 3.4 ounce of the same item in one baggie?

Submitted by Mary Gourley on

I am flying to Germany (nonstop) - can I bring 1 gallon plastic container of salsa with me?