WASHINGTON – Thanksgiving holiday travel can be stressful. Airports are crowded with families that only fly once a year and aren’t familiar with navigating through airports. Inclement weather in one region of the country can impact flight schedules in other areas of the country. There isn’t a spare seat to be had on any airline. But you booked early, got a good fare, and you are genuinely excited about your trip. Before you get buckled into that middle seat on the aircraft, you and your belongings are going to need to get through the Transportation Security Administration’s screening process. Here are the top five tips to make your trip through the checkpoint go smoothly.
TSA Tip #1: Get to the airport early.
It’s the most popular time of the year for air travel, and there is likely to be more traffic on the roads surrounding the airport, so it will take longer to get to the terminal. It will take longer to park a car and longer to return a rental car. The lines will be longer at airline check-in counters. And of course the lines will be longer at the checkpoints because airplanes are fully booked and more people are looking to get away for the holiday. It’s peak travel season, remember that you aren’t the only one who wants to fly during the holiday. Plan to arrive two hours before a domestic flight out of a major airport.
TSA Tip #2: There is still time to apply to TSA Pre✓®.
With a five-year, $85 membership, passengers can speed through security and don’t need to remove their shoes, laptops, liquids, belts and light jackets. The application process starts online where individuals submit an online application in five minutes and schedule an appointment at any of more than 380 application centers. A 10-minute, in person appointment includes a background check and fingerprinting. Once approved, enrollees receive a known traveler number, typically within two weeks. When purchasing an airline ticket, enter the known traveler number. On the day of your flight, your boarding pass will indicate that you can use the checkpoint TSA Pre✓® lane at more than 180 airports. Visit tsa.gov/precheck to start the application process.
TSA Tip #3: Use your time in the checkpoint line wisely.
While in the checkpoint line, finish your beverage. Consider bringing the empty bottle through the checkpoint to fill at a water fountain or water filling station on the secure side of the terminal. Doing so will save you a few dollars on bottled water once you head toward your departure gate.
While in the checkpoint line, get out your boarding pass and ID. Have them in hand when stepping up to the podium and have each person in the group present her/his own boarding pass and ID. When traveling with small children, the parent or guardian should present her/his own boarding pass and ID and afterward present the boarding pass for each child.
While in the checkpoint line, start to empty everything from your pockets and put those items inside your carry-on bag so that when you step up to the conveyor belt to divest your belongings into bins, you will have a head start before stepping into the scanner. The Automated Image Technology scanners detect both metallic and non-metallic items between the clothing and skin. That means the machines can detect non-metallic items tucked inside pockets such as tissues, wallets, mints, driver’s licenses and passports. So be sure to remove everything from your pockets.
TSA Tip #4: Pack smart—don’t bring along any prohibited items.
If you are unsure whether an item can be carried through a checkpoint, there are several ways to find out. You can:
- Visit tsa.gov and in the upper right-hand corner of the homepage, click on “What can I bring?” Type in the item and you will find out immediately if it should be packed in a carry-on bag, a checked bag, either or neither.
- Tweet a photo of the item or the name of the item to @AskTSA. TSA’s Twitter Team will let you know if the items should go in a carry-on bag, checked bag, either or neither. Live assistance is available from 8 a.m. - 10 p.m. EDT weekdays; 9 a.m. - 7 p.m. on weekends and holidays.
- Use Facebook Messenger to ask about an item at fb.com/AskTSA. Live assistance is available from 8 a.m. - 10 p.m. EDT weekdays; 9 a.m. - 7 p.m. on weekends and holidays.
- Call the TSA Contact Center at 866-289-9673. Automated information is available anytime in several languages. Representatives are available 8 a.m. - 11 p.m. EDT weekdays; 9 a.m. - 8 p.m. weekends and holidays.
TSA Tip #5: If you left something behind at the checkpoint, don’t panic. TSA has a Lost & Found Program.
It is not uncommon for travelers to accidentally leave personal items at checkpoints. If you think you may have left an item at the checkpoint, log onto TSA’s lost and found webpage and type in the airport name or code. You will be provided with a telephone number to leave a detailed message to include your name, contact information, the date you traveled, the terminal (if you know it), your flight information, and of course a detailed description of the lost item. TSA will contact you to let you know if your item was turned in and if so, how to get it back. Items can be picked up or shipped. If you think you may have left your item in the airport terminal, contact the airport. Or if you think you left it on an airplane, contact the airline.