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Getting Through Airports During the Holidays

You’ve planned, you’ve packed, you’ve double-checked that you have everything, so now it’s time to head to the airport for your Christmas vacation.

Here are some tips for making it to your plane with as little stress as possible.

Of course, you want to give yourself plenty of time. Airlines generally recommend arriving three hours in advance for an international flight and two hours in advance for a domestic flight. But it might be a good idea to give yourself extra time during the busy holiday season. And don’t forget to check the highway conditions just before you leave, to make sure there isn’t something tying up traffic.

When you get to the airport, check the departure screens to make sure that your flight is on time, and double check the gate from which you’ll be leaving. Things could have changed since you printed out your boarding pass the night before.

When you enter the security line, have your boarding pass and identification out and ready for inspection. Groups or family members traveling together should make sure that each individual is holding his or her ID and boarding pass. It slows down the process if the Transportation Security Administration official has to match each traveler with the right documents. If you’re traveling with small children, present your ID and boarding pass first, then the boarding pass for each child.

Remember that the standard TSA screening requires passengers to remove coats, belts, shoes and metal objects, along with laptops and the 1-quart bag of 3.4-ounce liquids that’s allowed in carry-ons. The TSA had been allowing a larger size container of hand sanitizer but that temporary measure has been rescinded and you’re now allowed only a 3.4-ounce bottle in your carry-on.

To save time, take everything out of your pockets – coins, keys and phone – and put them in your carry-on before you even reach the screening line. The same goes for your belt. And don’t forget to empty beverages that you’ve left in your carry-on. (You can’t bring a bottle of water through the checkpoint but you can bring an empty bottle and fill it up once you’re through security.)

If you’re bringing gifts, the TSA advises that it’s best to hold off on wrapping them until you reach your destination, or just place them in a gift bag that can be opened easily for inspection.

If you’re a frequent flier, consider signing up for TSA PreCheck. You’ll be able to keep your shoes, belt and jacket on during the security screening, and you won’t have to take out your laptop. The TSA reports that about 99 percent passengers with PreCheck wait less than 10 minutes to go through security. Children age 17 and under can join an adult with TSA PreCheck when it appears on the child’s boarding pass. You apply online, then visit an enrollment center to complete the process.

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