As Thanksgiving approaches, millions of Americans are preparing to take to the skies to join their loved ones for this cherished holiday. However, navigating the airport and ensuring a smooth and stress-free journey can be a daunting task. To help you breeze through the security checkpoints and reach your destination with ease, here are some TSA-approved tips for travelers flying home for Thanksgiving.

Avoid Peak Travel Days

According to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), “The three busiest days during the Thanksgiving travel period are typically Tuesday and Wednesday prior to Thanksgiving and Sunday after the holiday.” When possible, avoid traveling on these notoriously hectic days. Doing so may enable you to miss the biggest crowds and lines, making the journey less stressful and taxing. 

Check TSA Guidelines Ahead of Time

Before heading to the airport, take some time to familiarize yourself with (TSA guidelines, which outline what items are prohibited or restricted in carry-on baggage. If you plan to bring Thanksgiving food items on your flight, make sure to carefully review the rules regarding liquids, gels and food items. If transporting a turkey, keep in mind it must be fully cooked. Solid food items, such as pies or cakes, are generally allowed in both carry-on and checked baggage. However, liquids and gels, like gravy or cranberry sauce, must adhere to the same rules as any other liquids. Remember to secure food properly to prevent spills or leaks that could damage other items in your luggage.

Pack Smart and Travel Light

To streamline your journey, pack your bags thoughtfully. Consider using a carry-on bag instead of checking luggage. This will allow you to save time by bypassing baggage claim, and it will also free you of anxiety over possibly losing your luggage. Additionally, stick to the 3-1-1 rule for liquids and gels: containers must be 3.4 ounces (100 milliliters) or less, placed in a clear quart-sized bag, with one bag per traveler. 

Arrive at the Airport Early

To avoid rushing and minimize stress, it’s recommended to arrive at the airport early, especially during the busy holiday season. Allow ample time for parking, check-in and security screening. TSA suggests arriving at least two hours before your domestic flight and three hours before an international flight. By giving yourself extra time, you’ll have a buffer in case of unexpected delays or long lines.

Use TSA PreCheck or Global Entry

If you are a frequent traveler, consider enrolling in TSA PreCheck or Global Entry. These programs provide expedited security screening, allowing you to leave on your shoes, belt and light jacket, and keep your laptop and small containers of liquids in your bag. Although these programs require a fee and application process, the time saved and the convenience they offer can be well worth it, particularly during busy holiday travel periods.

Dress Appropriately for Security Screening

To expedite the security screening process, dress in clothing that is easy to remove and put back on. Avoid wearing shoes with laces or excessive metal accessories as they may trigger additional screening. Opt for slip-on shoes and minimal jewelry, and consider wearing layers to accommodate temperature changes in the airport and on the plane.

Prepare Electronic Devices for Screening

Electronic devices, such as laptops and tablets, typically need to be screened separately by security. To save time, ensure that yours are easily accessible in your carry-on luggage. Be prepared to power your devices on if requested by security.

Traveling during the Thanksgiving holiday can be a stressful experience, but by following these TSA-approved tips, you can make your trip a little easier and enjoy a smoother travel experience. Plan ahead, pack smart, and stay informed to ensure a stress-free and enjoyable journey as you fly home to celebrate Thanksgiving with your loved ones.