The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) reminds consumers that there will be more than 25 million flying over the Thanksgiving holidays. That figure -- a 7 percent uptick from 2017 -- makes it one of TSA’s busiest Thanksgivings to date, which means it will take more time for fliers to get checked in and through security.
Another flare the TSA is sending up is that Thanksgiving travel patterns are starting to spread out.
"Instead of waiting for the day before Thanksgiving to travel, TSA started to see the increase in passenger volume start the Friday before Thanksgiving," the agency said in a news release. "That trend is expected to extend through the day before Thanksgiving, with passengers returning home on both the Sunday and Monday after Thanksgiving."
Steps fliers can take to reduce time and stress
TSA stresses that the best way to ensure a quick trip through airport security is to “prepare, prepare, and prepare.”
Whether you’re flying from Atlanta-Hartsfield -- the busiest airport in the U.S. -- or Ann Arbor, there are things you can do to speed up the process and dial down the stress once you get to the airport.
Packing things the right way...
Make sure that your liquids are in a single, compliant liquids bag. Those bags need to be one-quart in size and clear. Items you want to get through security cannot be larger than 3.4 ounces -- called the 3-1-1 rule -- although items purchased in the airside zone after clearing security could be brought on board without restriction. Other exemptions to this restriction include medications and breast milk. For a complete list of what can be brought on-board, the TSA has published this checklist.
Plan on toasting the family with some bubbly? You can bring wine and alcoholic beverages in your checked bag and pack as many as you want as long as they contain less than 24 percent alcohol. If the alcohol content is higher than 24 percent, you can bring a total of 5 liters of alcohol as long as the beverage is in its original unopened packaging. Oh, and by the way, if your corkscrew has a blade, best leave it in your checked baggage as it will get confiscated if you try and get it through security in a carry-on bag.
Taking grandma’s special turkey stuffing? Pumpkin pie? Green bean casserole? All those gourmet goodies are green-lighted for carry-ons by the TSA as long as the dish follows the 3-1-1 rule. If you’re not sure, save yourself the trouble of arguing your case with a security agent and just pack it in your checked bag to be safe.
Time is of the essence...
Flying domestic? Get to the airport at least two hours in advance.
Flying international? Get to the airport at least three hours in advance.
Getting ready for security...
Have your I.D. or passport ready.
Remove laptops and any electronics larger than a cell phone from your carry-on and place those in a separate checkpoint bin.
If you are carrying powdered substances -- such as make-up -- the TSA suggests that you take them out of your carry-on and put them in a separate bin. Why? Some powdered substances result in an alarm and may need to be examined by security. For your convenience, the TSA urges fliers to put non-essential powders greater than 12 oz. in checked bags.
While looking your Thanksgiving best may be important, it will save time and hassle if you minimize the number of accessories you wear to the airport. Bulky jewelry, scarves, large belts, etc. may require extra screening, not to mention the time it takes to remove and put them back on.
Once your bins get through the screening process, take some extra time to make sure that you’ve got everything. Sometimes, items pop out or passengers forget just how many things they had to get screened.
Taking a pet along?
Animal lovers warn against shipping pets as cargo, and airlines are laying down new rules regarding "emotional support animals." Be sure to check out TSA’s dos-and-don’ts about pet travel.
Have other questions?
Message, call, or tweet "AskTSA" if you have questions. The agency has people standing by to answer your questions from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. on weekdays and from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. on holidays and weekends. If calling is your preference, the TSA Contact Center is available by phone at 1-866-289-9673
Want to avoid some of the security hassle?
If all the hassle of going through screening isn’t worth your time or trouble, you can always apply for TSA PreCheck or other trusted travel programs. TSA PreCheck saves fliers the time and headache of going through security and clears the passengers from removing shoes, laptops, liquids, belts, or jackets.
And don’t forget to keep your eyes wide-open
It’s easy to get caught up in getting through the airport and on-board, but TSA reminds travelers that public awareness is key in supporting its security efforts.
"Travelers are encouraged to report suspicious activities, and remember, ‘If You See Something, Say Something,’ “the agency says. "For individuals traveling abroad, please check the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Know Before You Go page to learn about required documentation."