TSA Issues New Warning About What to Pack Ahead of Holiday Travel

The agency has advice for travelers to help them get through hectic crowds more easily.

The holidays can be hectic even if you're staying put. But if you have to travel during the busiest season, it's likely to be even more stressful. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) reported a record-breaking 2,907,378 travelers across airports in the U.S. at the end of the Thanksgiving weekend—the highest screen on a single day in history. With that in mind, you should be prepared for similarly daunting numbers over Christmas and New Year's, which is why the agency is sending a new alert to travelers about how to prepare. Read on for the latest advice from the TSA, including on what to pack and what not to pack.

RELATED: TSA Issues New Travel Guidance Ahead of "Busiest Ever" Holiday Season.

TSA says knowing what to pack can help you during the busy holiday season.

Airport security check. Young man (traveler) waiting for x-ray control his luggage.
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Since Thanksgiving, TSA has consistently recorded a higher number of travelers every day in 2023 compared to the same day in 2022. Now, the agency is issuing an alert to travelers ahead of the December holidays.

"Planning ahead and packing properly can facilitate the TSA security screening process and ease a passenger's travel experience at the airport," the agency warned in a Dec. 12 press release. "The most common thing that slows down a traveler at a TSA checkpoint is having a prohibited item in a carry-on bag, which is why it is important for travelers [to] know the contents of their carry-on bags and ensuring that everything that they pack inside is permitted to be carried onto a flight."

RELATED: TSA Issues New Alert About What You Need to Pack Before Flying.

The agency is reminding travelers how to pack gifts.

Close up view of woman's hands holding three Christmas presents with defocused Christmas tree and string lights at background. High resolution 42Mp outdoors digital capture taken with SONY A7rII and Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM Telephoto Zoom LensOSS lens
iStock

During the holiday season, many of us will be traveling with gifts for family and friends. In its release, TSA said there is "one piece of advice that all travelers should remember" when it comes to bringing gifts in both checked and carry-on luggage: They need to be unwrapped. Alternatively, you can use gift bags. This is meant to "help expedite screening," according to the agency.

"We know it's disappointing when travelers have their gifts unwrapped before they make it to their destination," TSA Federal Security Director for North Dakota David Durgan said in a statement. "However, when an item triggers our alarm, our officers must resolve the issue and make sure the item isn't dangerous or prohibited onboard an airplane. We recommend gift bags or boxes, or simply wrap your gifts at your destination."

RELATED: 10 Airport Security Secrets TSA Doesn't Want You to Know.

You also need to be careful with certain foods.

Traditional stollen and Christmas composition on the wooden background
iStock

That's not the only festive warning to keep in mind.

"Individuals often like to travel with food items during the holiday season," TSA noted. While the agency said that "foods may be transported on flights," you need to be aware of what can go in your carry-on bags and what has to go in your checked luggage.

According to TSA, solid food items such as "fruitcake, candy canes, and chocolates" can go in your carry-on bag without any issues. But liquid and spreadable food such as "egg nog, wine, champagne, maple syrup, and preserves" will need to be go in your checked bags because they are not solid.

"Here's a helpful tip: If you can spill it, spread it, spray it, pump it or pour it and it is larger than 3.4 ounces, it needs to be packed in a checked bag," the agency shared in its release.

TSA urges travelers to get to the airport early, too.

Toronto, Canada - December 7, 2019: A passenger passed by a Christmas tree at Pearson Airport in Toronto. Pearson Airport is the largest and busiest airport in Canada.
iStock

The number one thing TSA advises travelers to do during the holiday season is get to the airport early. That means arriving a minimum of two hours before a domestic flight and three hours before an international flight, according to the agency.

"If you find yourself waiting in a security checkpoint lane, use that time to your advantage," TSA added. "That's the ideal time to remove items from your pockets and place them into a carry-on bag. It's also the time to get out your ID and boarding pass so you're not fumbling in your wallet for your ID when you step up to the TSA travel document checking podium."

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Kali Coleman
Kali Coleman is a Senior Editor at Best Life. Her primary focus is covering news, where she often keeps readers informed on the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and up-to-date on the latest retail closures. Read more
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