Monitor your flight status
Before you leave home, check your flight status in the morning and up to departure. If you have a smart phone, download any airport or airline apps to watch your flight’s status as you weave through the lines. Once you are clear, head to your gate to assess the situation. If your flight is delayed, don’t delay your airport trip. Changes happen and you could be listed as a no-show. If your flight time changes unexpectedly, find an airline representative to help you. If there is a line, call your airline’s customer service number while you wait in line. You never know which one might resolve your situation faster.
Know what you can’t bring
The TSA has a list of prohibited items out. Things like knives and razors can all be in checked luggage but NOT in carry-on bags. Beware of items like snow-globes in carry-on bags as they are forbidden. Follow the 3-1-1 rule for liquids in carry-on bags. All your liquids need to be in 3 oz bottles, all bottles need to fit in a 1-quart sized bag, and each passenger can bring only one bag.
If you plan on bringing food for that Thanksgiving feast, there may be restrictions for your carry-on luggage. Cranberry sauce, dips and spreads, jam, salsa, dressing, gravy, oil, vinegar, syrup, sauces and alcohol are all on the list of forbidden items for carry-on bags. Pies and cakes should still be safe, though they may require additional screening.
Get to the airport early and know what to do when you arrive
If you are checking bags, add 90 minutes onto your planned arrival time to make sure you have plenty of time to spare. Find out how late is too late to check-in. Go to seatguru.com and locate your flight carrier. Then choose the Check-In tab at the top to find out how early you must arrive. For example, Delta says “Check-in 30 minutes-24 hours before your flight is scheduled to depart.” Use the baggage tab on the site to determine how much checked bags cost and carry-on sizes allowed. Don’t push your limits. You may want to look into shipping your luggage. Pre-print your boarding passes at home if possible. Take public transit to the airport if possible to avoid delays in parking areas.
Be ready for the screening process
At the checkpoint, have your boarding pass and ID out. Haven’t flown in a while? Check out the links at the top for the new scan and pat-down procedures. Be prepared when you enter a line. You will need to empty your pockets of EVERYTHING. Take off your shoes, put them in a box. Take off any outerwear, put it in a box. Remove your laptop from its case. Remove all metal objects from your body. Do not wrap any gifts you may be bringing with you. Layer and organize your carry-on bag. Remove any quart bags with liquid from the carry-on and place on top of the bag. Remove children from strollers and carry them through. Same with pets and carriers. Do not make any jokes that may be inappropriate. Medications, baby formula, milk and juice for infants are not required to abide by the 3-1-1 rule. If you have a disability or a medical condition, know what policies affect you.
Woo! You made it through! Now what?
Relax. Take any appropriate medication to calm your nerves. Grab something to eat in the airport. Drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration. Tip: Bring an empty water bottle in your carry-on bag. You can fill up this bottle once you get past security. Bring any electronics you may need to wait it out in the airport or on the flight. Magazines are always nice if they are more article than ad. As a bonus, Google is offering free wi-fi on many flights this holiday season. Find out details on the service, flights, and privacy here.