Getting through the airport can be a dreaded task for anyone – especially during the holidays. The TSA has been introducing significant changes to make the security process as seamless as possible, but unforeseen events can still cause long delays and upset travelers. Check out our tips below so you can have a quicker (and less painful) trip through the airport this holiday travel season:
1. Get with the Program: According the TSA, 97% of passengers enrolled in their Pre? program waited less than five minutes at security in October 2016. Pre? allows qualified travelers to skip some of the basic hassles and make their way through security lines faster. Once you complete your online application and pay the fee (which can range from $85-$100), you’ll be scheduled for a background check and an appointment which includes a brief interview and fingerprinting. Hundreds of airports already have TSA Pre? in place, and more airports are working to add this process.
2. Check Flights and Check In: Making sure you’re prepared starts before you even leave your house. By now it’s common to check in online, but some airlines don’t have assigned seating. In those cases, the earlier you check in, the better your seat. Even if your seat is assigned, checking in online can help you avoid long lines and the hassle of checking in at ticket counters. However, even the most seasoned travelers can forget as they’re rushing to get ready for a big trip. To help you remember, set an alarm on your phone 15-30 minutes before your online check in time so you don’t forget. Make sure you also sign up for text alerts from the airline in the event there’s a problem with your flight. If your airline doesn’t offer this option, it’s important to check your flight status well before heading to the airport to confirm your flight hasn’t been delayed or canceled (TravelAssist members can call us if your flight is canceled and we can help connect you to the airline to reschedule and/or help you find a hotel if you’re stranded until the next flight).
3. Arrive (Extra) Early: You’ve probably heard this tip a hundred times before, but due to recent airport security incidents, it’s more important now than ever. Due to increased security and new protocols that could be in place at your local airport, the TSA recommends you arrive two hours in advance for domestic flights and three hours early for an international flight. While this may seem excessive, it’s much better than missing your plane altogether. Take the extra time to rest, get some work done or explore the duty free shop for gifts if you’re traveling internationally. Just make sure you know exactly where your gate is and what time you’re boarding so you’re not rushing to the plane when it’s time to leave.
4. Be Prepared for Security: You’ll be asked for your ID, boarding pass and passport (if needed) multiple times as you make your way through the airport. Make sure they’re easily accessible so you don’t have to fumble through your belongings and hold up the security line (digging through your belongings or trying to reorganize your carry-on in the middle of the airport can also cause you to lose focus and become more vulnerable to criminals). Consider purchasing a passport holder or belt clip to attach your belongings safely to you, and do your best to organize your carry-on before you leave home, keeping in mind the items you will need most often. If you have a jacket with pockets, you can simply place the jacket in one of the containers provided instead of emptying out each object individually. You should also wear comfortable shoes that can be easily slipped off. It’s also important to remember that any gifts you are bringing for holiday visits should not be wrapped. TSA agents have the right to unwrap gifts or confiscate them as they see fit. Consider shipping your gifts in advance or purchasing items once you arrive at your destination.
5. Keep Your Cool: If you find yourself in a worst case scenario, do your best to stay calm. Remember TSA agents are simply doing their job by investigating any suspicious items in your luggage and aren’t intentionally trying to hold up your travel plans. If an agent advises they will be confiscating one of your items, make your best effort not to question it. TSA agents have full authority to decide what they consider safe and acceptable when it comes to items that pass through security. If you begin to express your dissatisfaction or cause a disturbance, you may be held up even longer which could result in missing your flight entirely. You will not be reimbursed or compensated for a missed flight if you are late due to a discrepancy with security, so it’s best to comply. Try to stay positive… and spread a little bit of holiday cheer!