If you’re planning to travel by air during the holiday season, here are some steps that you can take right now to help ensure that you avoid Santa’s “Naughty” list when you get to a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) security checkpoint at the airport.
Because TSA is well aware that many people haven’t traveled in several months, here is what you need to do now to be prepared this holiday season - whether you’re traveling for Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa or to celebrate the New Year.
Tip 1: Know what to expect when traveling during a global pandemic and please don’t forget your mask.
TSA has implemented changes to the security screening process to reduce the potential for cross-contamination in the security checkpoint known as the “Stay Healthy. Stay Secure.” campaign. It focuses on modifications to procedures to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Passengers can expect to see:
- TSA officers wearing masks and gloves at the checkpoint, and they may be wearing eye protection or clear plastic face shields.
- Passengers wearing masks. Travelers will be asked to momentarily remove their masks to verify their identity.
- Social distancing among travelers in the checkpoint line and among TSA officers.
- ID verification without physical contact between the TSA officer and the traveler.
- Acrylic shielding installed at various locations throughout the TSA checkpoint.
- Increased cleaning and disinfecting of frequently touched checkpoint surfaces and screening equipment, including bins.
- TSA officers changing gloves after each pat-down and at the request of any passenger.
Tip 2: Pack the essentials.
There are a few essential items that TSA encourages travelers to pack including:
- Bring and wear a mask when going through the security screening process. Plus, it never hurts to pack an extra mask or two for use during your air travels.
- Bring disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizer. TSA is allowing travelers to bring one liquid hand sanitizer container, up to 12 ounces per passenger, in carry-on luggage. Be prepared to remove your large hand sanitizer container from your carry-on for special screening. Bring as many pre-moistened wipes as you like.
- Bring photo identification - even if it has expired. If your driver’s license or state-issued ID expired on or after March 1, 2020, and you have been unable to renew at your state driver’s license agency, you may still use it as an acceptable form of identification at the checkpoint. TSA will accept expired driver’s licenses or state-issued ID a year after expiration.
- Bring along an empty reusable beverage container (even an empty plastic water bottle). Fill it up on the secure side of the checkpoint after you go through screening. Because TSA has a 3.4-ounce limit on the amount of liquids you can bring through a checkpoint, you aren’t permitted to bring that cup of coffee or bottle of water through the checkpoint. However, if you bring an empty reusable container, you can fill it up post-security and stay hydrated on your flight!
Tip 3: Enroll in TSA PreCheck® now to expedite screening and reduce touch points.
Travelers who are enrolled in TSA PreCheck® don’t have to remove their shoes, belts, lightweight jackets, electronics or their bag of travel-size liquids and gels. Not only is that convenient, but during a pandemic, it reduces touchpoints since travelers will not need to remove any items from their carry-on bags.
Now more than ever, TSA PreCheck is a valuable program for travelers. It’s simple to apply and if you act soon and you will likely be eligible for TSA PreCheck ahead of the end-of-the-year travel period.
Tip 4: Pack those gifts, but please do not use wrapping paper.
TSA recommends against wrapping gifts when packing them for a flight. Why? Because if a wrapped gift triggers an alarm, it will need to be unwrapped to determine whether the contents of the wrapped item present a security threat. Instead of wrapping a gift, consider using a gift bag, a gift box or a festive bow so that wrapping paper does not need to be removed.
TSA’s officer-elves don’t want to take on the role of Scrooge and unwrap someone else’s gift. However, they will have to if the item triggers a security alarm.
Tip 5: Don’t wait: download the free myTSA app and follow TSA on Twitter to get tips and answers to your last-minute questions.
The free, downloadable myTSA app is a traveler’s best friend and a trusty source for last-minute travel questions. The myTSA app provides airline passengers with 24/7 access to the most frequently requested airport security information. Save time and money with our helpful tips for preparing for security, including a searchable “Can I Bring” database All you need to do is type in the name of an item and the app will let you know if you should pack it in your checked or carry-on bag.
Other features of the app include keeping you up-to-date on flight delays or letting you know where the TSA PreCheck lanes are at an airport or terminal. The app is available on iTunes or Google Play.
If you’re unsure whether an item should go in a carry-on bag or you have any other last-minute questions, send them to @AskTSA on Twitter or Facebook Messenger.