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TSA’s 5 Holiday Travel Tips to Get Through Security

TSA Tips for Holiday Traveling

JIM WEST/ALAMY STOCK PHOTO

While waiting in the airport security line is unavoidable, there are ways to speed up your time there as you travel during the holidays.

1. Get to the airport early.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) recommends that you arrive two hours before a domestic flight and three hours before an international one. But there are other factors to consider that could justify leaving yourself more time. With record travel expected, the parking lots at airports will be packed, the line to return a rental car may be longer than usual, and just navigating past a large number of others travelers could slow you down.

2. Use your time in the checkpoint line wisely.

While waiting in what may be a long line, empty your pockets and put loose items into your carry-on bag. This will save you time because you won't have to put small stuff into a TSA bin and then have to empty it on the other side. Get your boarding pass and identification out. Make electronics larger than a cellphone (including e-readers) easily accessible, as new security procedures this year require travelers to put them into a bin with nothing around them.

3. If you are traveling with gifts, don’t wrap them with wrapping paper and tape.

Though it’s not illegal to bring wrapped gifts through security, doing so could cause delays. If your bag is flagged during the X-ray screening, officers will need to thoroughly check all items in your bag — and that means unwrapping any presents you have. If you need to wrap presents ahead of time, the TSA suggests that you use a gift bag or box. And one last reminder: Snow globes contain liquid, so if you're carrying one as a gift, make sure it contains less than 3.4 liquid ounces.

4. Traveling with food items during the holiday is OK.

Many people wonder whether they can bring food, and the answer is yes. The TSA has specific guidelines that address this rule. If the food item is a solid, say, cookies, pie or a ham, you can pack it in your carry-on bag. But if the food is spreadable or pourable, then it must contain no more than 3.4 liquid ounces. The agency says if you’re unsure, consider this: If you can spill it, spread it, spray it, pump it or pour it, pack it in your checked bag.

5. Don’t bring along prohibited items.

It seems like common sense, but every day the TSA finds banned items that passengers say they mistakenly left in their carry-on bag or pocket. From guns to box cutters to corkscrews to cigar cutters — they’re all forbidden in carry-on bags.

Lastly, an extra tip. Though you can’t bring bottled water through security, you can drink it while in line and then refill the bottle on the other side. This will save you a few dollars before you take off.

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