Flying for the Holidays? Here’s What to Know About the TSA Security Lines

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Passengers at a TSA pre-check line are directed to go through a security checkpoint
Passengers at a TSA pre-check line are directed to go through a security checkpoint at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in SeaTac, Wash. on April 6, 2017. Elaine Thompson/AP Photo

The holidays are upon us.

Whether you’re going home or just visiting family and friends, you’ll want to keep a couple of things in mind if you’re flying to your holiday destination.

Between the Transportation Security Administration’s increased measures of scrutiny and the insane number of holiday travelers, you’ll probably be dealing with looong security lines at the airport.

Here’s some advice on how to make them a little less miserable.

Get All Your Electronics Out

You may be used to taking your laptop out of your carry-on bag and placing it in a bin to be scanned. You’ll now have to do that for any electronic device larger than a cell phone, according to new TSA rules.

Your iPad or tablet can go in bins with other items just as long as there is nothing underneath or on top of your device.

Be Prepared to Have Your Food Checked

If you’re bringing home Thanksgiving leftovers or just trying to avoid purchasing expensive airport food, be on alert that your carry-on goodies — even prepackaged ones — might draw the attention of security.

A TSA spokesperson told one news outlet that it’s becoming more common in some airports to ask passengers to take food out of their carry-on bags for scanning.

Save yourself time and just put all edibles in a separate security bin. At the very least, have them grouped together and easy to access so you’re not digging through everything to find that one package of trail mix.

Also, keep in mind TSA’s 3-1-1 liquids rule, which allows each passenger to bring one quart-sized resealable bag of liquids, creams, gels, pastes or aerosols in containers no larger than 3.4 ounces or 100 milliliters.

Medications and breast milk, formula or juice for infants or toddlers are exempt from this rule.

Listen Up and Ask

When you’re waiting in the security line, TSA agents are usually making announcements about directions you need to follow. Pay attention.

You don’t want to be that guy fumbling at the X-ray conveyor belt because you were zoning out during the repeated announcements to empty all your pockets and take off your shoes.

If you are unsure about anything, ask a TSA agent while you’re still in line with several people ahead of you. Don’t wait until you’re walking through the full body scanner.

Give Yourself Extra Time

You never know how long the lines will be — or if you or your stuff will get flagged for additional screening — so give yourself more time than you think you’ll need.

TSA advises those traveling for Thanksgiving to arrive at the airport two hours before a domestic flight and three hours before an international flight.

Other Things to Consider

When facing major crowds during the holidays, TSA also has a few other helpful tips to keep in mind:

  • Consider applying for TSA PreCheck or a similar expedited screening program, which can drastically reduce your wait time. (There is an $85 fee for a five-year TSA PreCheck membership.)
  • Try to minimize the items you’ll be wearing to the airport, such as bulky jewelry, belts, hair accessories and scarves.
  • Have your ID and boarding pass out for when you get to the checkpoint.
  • After going through screening, make sure to check the bins so you don’t leave anything behind.

You can find more details about which items are acceptable and which are prohibited when flying here.

Happy travels!

Nicole Dow is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She’s planning on staying home for the holidays.

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