TSA airport travel tips to avoid holiday headaches

Transportation Security Officer Cacoya Hal performs a security screening on Anita Collins at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (Courtesy: TSA/DHS).

(MEDIA GENERAL) — The holidays mean fun and family, but for many Americans, it also means traveling. Airlines for America projects more than 27 million people will fly on U.S. airlines during the Thanksgiving travel period, up 2.5 percent from last year.

To make things as easy as possible for your trips through airports this holiday season, follow these tips from the Transportation Security Administration.

Arrive at least two hours early

The TSA suggests you arrive at least two hours before the scheduled departure time for your domestic flight. This should give you plenty of time to park, collect your boarding pass, check your baggage and move through the security checkpoint.

Consider the TSA pre-check program

The program is a membership that puts you through a background check program. You fill out an application and go through a 10-minute in-person appointment with the TSA. Cons: It may be too late to get in before your flight for the holidays and it does cost $85 for a five-year membership. Pros: It will save a lot of time going through security. You don’t need to take off your shoes or remove laptops and liquids from your carry-on. For those who fly a lot, the membership could be a small price to pay for a major timesaver.

Know what can and can’t fly

The last thing you want is to show up at the security checkpoint with something valuable that isn’t allowed to fly. Firearms, firearm parts, realistic replicas of firearms and ammunition can only be in checked baggage and must be stored in a specific way. The best way to avoid the hassle is to check the TSA’s prohibited items list or Ask the TSA via Twitter and Facebook Messenger.

Here’s a quick list of things that can and can’t fly:

Leave them at home: Fuels, flammable paints, fire extinguishers or other compressed gas cylinders, liquid bleach, strike-anywhere matches.

OK to fly: Non-flammable liquid, gel or aerosol (must meet size requirements to carry on), e-cigarettes (carry-on only), safety matches (carry-on only), sharp weapons (checked only), food (must meet size requirements to carry on).

Don’t wrap your Christmas presents

The TSA may have to unwrap certain gifts to inspect things. The TSA says their officers do their best to be delicate and not ruin the wrapping paper, but it’s not a guarantee and it also causes more delays in security lines.

Leave your Samsung Galaxy Note 7 at home

The exploding cell phone is no joke. The device that has garnered so many headlines for their faulty lithium batteries is on the forbidden hazardous materials list and is not allowed to fly.

Tape a business card or leave identification on valuable electronics

In case you happen to lose something in an airport or on a flight, having your contact information can expedite the process of having your lost device returned to you.

If you have a question, check with the TSA

It is common for travelers to have specific questions about the travel process. When in doubt, check with the TSA. They can guide travelers through the easiest ways to travel with a pet or how to properly accommodate a traveler with a medical condition or disability. The TSA hosts a toll-free phone line for these questions at 855-787-2227.

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