It’s that time of the year when everyone starts to plan vacations, or starts to travel more for work purposes. With airports busier than ever, airline staffing reductions creating longer lines at check-in, and airport security wait times that can be entirely unpredictable, the old airport “two-hour” rule often leaves just minutes to spare to buy a magazine, grab a snack or hustle your kids into the bathroom.
If you plan to join the estimated 2.5 million people who go through TSA checkpoints every day, the agency has the following tips for you:
1. You can carry small amounts of liquids or gels by following the TSA’s 3-1-1 rule. That means carrying liquid containers with no more than 3.4 ounces of capacity (or about 100 milliliters); collecting those small bottles in a single one-quart, clear plastic bag; and only one such bag per traveler. When you get to the checkpoint, place the bag in the bin for screening. If you’re traveling with large quantities of breast milk or infant formula, let a TSA agent know.
2. Keep larger bottles of liquids, gels, creams and aerosols, such as shampoo or suntan lotion, in checked luggage. Given the fees airlines charge for checked luggage – and additional charges for exceeding the specified weight – it may be cheaper to buy the sunscreen at your destination.
3. Don’t bring prohibited items. They won’t fly, regardless of whether they’re inside carry-on or checked luggage.
4. Pack knives in checked luggage. Blades of any size – even that little bitty one on a corkscrew – cannot accompany a passenger into the cabin.
5. Firearms can be transported in checked luggage only, and you’ll need to tell the ticketing agent when you surrender your luggage at the counter. If you try to pack your sidearm in the carry-on luggage – or you forget – you’re liable to be arrested.
6. Consider wearing accessories that are easy to remove and leave the bulky jewelry and large belts in your checked bags. Be ready with your ID and boarding pass when you reach the checkpoint. Remove laptops and other large electronic devices. If just discovered that your driver’s license has expired or you lost your ID and lack a passport or other documentation, you can still fly. You just have to go through the TSA’s identity verification process.
7. Apply for TSA Pre-Check or other programs such as, Global Entry that are designed to expedite the screening process. Travelers in TSA Pre-check do not have to remove shoes, belts, laptops and liquids.
8. People with disabilities, or their families who have questions about screening can call the TSA Cares helpline toll-free at 855-787-2227. For assistance going through security, call at least 72 hours before the flight.
9. If you have questions, you can check the TSA website’s feature “When I fly, can I bring my _____?” Type in the item and it’ll let you know if you’re good to go. You can also get real-time assistance by tweeting to @AskTSA or contacting the agency through Facebook Messenger from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. on weekdays and from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekends and holidays. You can also call the TSA Contact Center at 866-289-9673, which provides staff and automated service. Staff are available from 8 a.m. until 11 p.m. on weekdays and from 9 a.m. until 8 p.m. on weekends and holidays.