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How to avoid holiday hassles at the airport

With 25 million travelers projected to fly during the Thanksgiving holiday season, and similar numbers likely in December and early January, you’ll no doubt encounter hassles at the airport this winter. While inclement weather, long lines, and delayed flights are beyond your control, there are steps you can take to lessen hassles along the way.

Before you leave home

  • Aim to arrive at the airport at least 90 minutes before domestic flights, or two hours before international flights. Check airport wait times before you leave to see if you need to pad your schedule with additional time due to airport delays.
  • Know the new rules on liquids. Only three-ounce containers of liquids and gels are allowed, and must be packed in a quart-size, clear, zip-top plastic bags. For more detailed information on the rules, read my recent [%1623760 | | Airfare Q&A %].
  • Check your airline’s baggage requirements for weight and number of bags. In recent years, airlines have begun to strictly enforce these rules, which could mean you’ll be charged extra for overweight bags. Better yet, travel light with only a carry-on.
  • Don’t wrap gifts. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officials may unwrap presents before they’re allowed onboard. A better bet is to ship your gifts before you fly.
  • Stay informed about the TSA’s list of permitted and prohibited items, as they may have changed since the last time you flew. Lighters and matches are now prohibited in carry-on bags.
  • Arrange for a ride to the airport from a friend or airport shuttle service. If you must drive, reserve a parking spot in advance through the [% 1624722 | | Park ‘N Fly Network %] or Airport Parking Reservations.
  • Check in online. Every airline’s website has a link to its online check-in page, and for most, all you need is your name and confirmation number. Print out your boarding pass and skip straight to security when you arrive at the airport (unless you’re checking bags).

Once you arrive at the airport

  • Check in outside at a curbside kiosk or inside at a self-service kiosk instead of the check-in counter.
  • Mark your bags with identification, including at least your name and cell phone number.
  • Put all essential medications and valuables into your carry-on bag in case your checked bags are delayed or lost.
  • Be prepared before you reach security. Take off your outer jacket, shoes, and belt, and remove any metal (loose change or a cell phone) from your pockets. If you’ve packed a plastic bag for your liquids, place it in the security bin, along with laptops and video cameras. Keep your photo ID and boarding pass handy.

By following these steps, and by remembering to bring along a healthy dose of patience, your sense of humor, and a good book, you’ll avoid airport hassles and manage to deal with the inevitable delays separating you from the friends and family waiting for you at baggage claim.

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