Navigating the TSA during the Holidays

by | Oct 31, 2013 | The Art of Travel | 0 comments

It’s that time of year—time to plan your holiday travels.  The Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays are the biggest travel days of the year and you should plan accordingly.  The TSA offers a few guidelines for air travel during the holidays:

The TSA limits the amount of liquids passengers can safely carry through the security checkpoint. This limitation applies only to carry-on bags. Larger quantities of liquids, gels, and aerosols can be safely packed in checked baggage.  Here are the rules:

  • 3.4 ounce (100ml) bottle or less for all liquids, gels and aerosols; placed in a
  • 1 quart-sized, clear, plastic, zip-top bag to hold all small bottles;
  • 1 bag per passenger placed in a screening bin

Larger quantities of breast milk/baby formula and medically necessary liquids are permitted but must be presented to an officer for further inspection. For more information, check out the TSA website.

Traveling with food or gifts is an even bigger challenge. Everyone has favorite foods from home that they want to bring to holiday dinners, or items from their destination that they want to bring back home (like tequila-BL).

Not sure about what you can and can’t bring through the checkpoint? Here’s a sample list of liquid, aerosol and gel items that you may put in your checked bag.  If these items are above the permitted 3.4 oz., you should put them in your checked bag, ship them ahead, or consider leaving them at home.

  • Cranberry sauce
  • Cologne and perfume
  • Creamy dips and spreads (cheeses, peanut butter, etc.)
  • Gravy (on the TSA list—but who would bring gravy?? BL)
  • Jams and Jellies
  • Lotions
  • Maple syrup
  • Oils and vinegars
  • Salad dressing (Trying to imagine carrying-on a bottle of Hidden Valley Ranch…. BL)
  • Salsa
  • Sauces
  • Snowglobes (see below)
  • Soups
  • Wine, liquor and beer (I don’t advise leaving these at home! BL)

You may bring pies and cakes through the security checkpoint, but please be advised that they are subject to additional screening. (Just tell the relatives to ignore that missing piece!  BL)

While wrapped gifts are not prohibited, if a bag is flagged for additional screening, the TSA security officers may have to unwrap a gift to take a closer look inside. We recommend passengers wrap gifts after their flight or ship them ahead of time, to avoid the possibility of having to open them during the screening process.

Traveling with Snow Globes: Snow globes that appear to contain less than 3.4 ounces (approximately tennis ball size) will be permitted if the entire snow globe, including the base, is able to fit in the same one clear, quart-sized ziploc bag, as the passenger’s other liquids, such as shampoo, toothpaste and cosmetics.

The TSA has created a travel app to check out airport delays and to determine exactly what you may carry on the flight.  The app is useful in some circumstances, but in others, it is very vague as to whether your specific item is allowed.

The crowds and travel delays do not need to dampen your holiday spirit—just keep these tips in mind, put on your Santa Hat, and enjoy the season!

Next: Air Connections: Legal vs. Feasible: The Importance of Time


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