According to AAA, nearly 51 million people in the United States traveled during Thanksgiving weekend last year, and 36 million of those were flying. Assist America, our emergency travel assistance partner, has a few handy Thanksgiving travel tips to help get you through the airport and on your flight in as little time as possible.
Sign Up for Airport Membership Programs
Airport programs like TSA PreCheck and CLEAR are 2 of the most helpful programs for getting through security lines quickly. TSA PreCheck grants low-risk travelers access to expedited security screenings when traveling domestically. And CLEAR offers their members quick security and screening lines. However, these programs require you to sign up well in advance. The process for getting approved can take anywhere from a few weeks to 6 months.
Global Entry is a program for faster clearance once you arrive in the U.S. and is perfect for international travelers. Finally, NEXUS was specifically created for travelers who frequently go between the U.S. and Canada.
Be Ready for Security Screening
Make sure you carry as little metal, such as jewelry, belts, coins, and keys, as possible. You might want to store them in your carry-on or in a plastic bag before you reach the security checkpoint. Security will also usually ask you to take your laptop, tablet, and camera out of your bags for screening, unless you’re enrolled in TSA PreCheck.
Resealable plastic bags are also ideal for storing liquids and gels, whether you’re packing them in your carry-on or a checked bag. Remember you’re limited to 3.4 ounce or smaller containers if you’re going through security with your liquids.
Keep prescription medications in a bag in your carry-on, so security can inspect them by hand if needed.
Lastly, remember that coats and shoes usually need to be removed. To make the process quicker, be sure to wear socks and easily removable shoes. Travelers over 75 years old may be allowed to keep shoes and a light jacket on. You can also have a head covering on during the screening process, however if it’s too concealing, you may have to go through a pat-down screening as well.
Tricks to Avoid Long Lines
To avoid long lines, avoid traveling at peak travel times, which are Wednesday and Sunday for Thanksgiving weekend. The further away from these days you can travel, the better. Low-fare seats are often more widely available on Tuesday or Thanksgiving Day. If you can leave on Saturday or Monday, you’ll probably enjoy less-crowded airports for your return home.
One trick to go through airport lines quicker is to avoid ones with a lot of families or older people and go for the lines with business people, who tend to be more efficient when it comes to traveling. Luckily, wait times have also shrunk since the TSA decided to let travelers under 12 and over 75 leave their shoes on going through security.
Download Air Travel Apps
Waiting in line can also be cut shorter if you download the airline’s app and check in before you get to the airport. You can also monitor the airport’s wait times with your phone using the TripIt app or the MyTSA app. This may help you decide when you need to leave home to make it to your flight on time.
These tips will help you make it through the airport quickly, so you can get back to focusing on enjoying your Thanksgiving break.
Enjoy this Thanksgiving weekend with your family and friends and we wish you safe travels wherever this holiday takes you!