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We’re rapidly approaching every flyer’s favorite time of year: the holidays! Some 25 million travelers are expected to take to the skies from Nov. 16-26 — a 7% increase over last year, according to a press from the TSA — so brace yourself for impact.
TSA notes that it expects to see an “increase in passenger volume” starting the Friday before Thanksgiving, and continuing through the Wednesday before the holiday, with Tuesday and Wednesday taking the top spots for busiest days to travel. Sunday and Monday following Thanksgiving are expected to be the busiest days for travelers to make the journey home, with Sunday in the running to crack the TSA’s “top 10 busiest days ever.”
For those living in or planning a visit to the New York area, JFK is expected to be the busiest of the region’s airports, with 100,000 people per DAY passing through in the days leading up to the holiday. Some 70,000 per day are expected at Newark (EWR) and 48,000 at LaGuardia (LGA).
Before you reach for the Xanax, the good news is that the TSA has put together a list of tips for making your trip through security a little less miserable. In addition to the usual advice to arrive early to the airport (two hours for domestic flights and three hours for international), adhering to the suggestions below may mean the difference between eating turkey with your family or eating a turkey sandwich from Hudson News.
- Be ready when you enter the checkpoint line. For the love of gravy and every passenger standing in line giving you the look of death. Don’t be that guy who decides to chug a full bottle of Fiji water at the last second. This also means having your ID and boarding pass at the ready. All electronics larger than a cell phone must be removed from carry-on bags and placed in a bin with nothing on top or underneath them, including the used tissue you found while digging through your pockets.
- Pack like a pro and leave prohibited items at home. Large amounts of liquids, gels, creams and aerosols such as shampoo, conditioner, suntan lotion, shaving cream and anti-perspirant should be packed in checked bags. If you’re carrying on, make sure liquids follow the 3-1-1 rule (liquids must be 3.4 ounces or less and all bottles must fit in a single quart-size plastic bag). Let the TSA officer know if you’re traveling with medically-necessary liquid medications or breast milk or formula as those must be screened separately. If you are carrying powdered substances, it is recommended (not mandatory) to remove them from your carry-on bag and place them in a bin for easy screening. You can also check the “What Can I Bring?” section of TSA’s website for a list of items that are allowed in carry-on bags, checked bags, either or neither. Spoiler alert: your grenade-shaped belt buckle doesn’t make the cut.
- Apply. For. TSA PreCheck. Chances are, you already have a credit card in your wallet that will cover the cost to enroll, such as the Platinum Card® from American Express. PreCheck provides a more convenient travel experience by affording travelers access to expedited screening lanes at more than 180 U.S. airports. No shoe removal, laptop or liquid hassle, belts BS, etc.
When in doubt, you can always tweet or Facebook message AskTSA with any questions on weekdays from 8am to 10 pm and on weekends/holidays from 9am to 7pm. The TSA Contact Center is also available 8am to 11pm weekdays and 9am to 8pm weekends/holidays to answer questions by e-mail and phone at 866-289-9673. Travelers or families of passengers with disabilities and/or medical conditions may call the TSA Cares helpline toll free at 855-787-2227 at least 72 hours prior to flying with any questions about screening policies, procedures and to find out what to expect at the security checkpoint as well as arrange for assistance at the checkpoint. Individuals forgoing eating turkey to fly to Turkey (or any foreign country) can check the US Customs and Border Protection’s Know Before You Go page for a list of required documentation needed for international travel.
We here at TPG also suggest investing in a good pair of noise cancelling headphones and a credit card that offers solid trip protection, such as the Chase Sapphire Reserve, to make holiday travel a little easier. Sleeping pills, even if prescribed by a doctor, should be taken at your own risk. Just ask this guy.
Know before you go.
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