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Security Tips to Speed Holiday Air Travel

How to be 'security-ready'

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The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) urges holiday air travelers to bring plenty of patience to the airport and to plan ahead to avoid unnecessary delays at the security checkpoints.

During the heavy travel volume periods throughout the Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's holidays, you really need to be "security-ready" when you arrive at the airport.

According to the latest TSA advice, passengers approaching security checkpoints should have their travel documents -- tickets, boarding passes, picture IDs, etc. -- out and ready for inspection. Coats and jackets should be off, and carry-on items, including laptop computers, should be ready for inspection prior to reaching the security checkpoints.

Important items to note:

  • Coats and jackets off, please. TSA's checkpoint protocols require all passengers to remove outer coats and jackets for X-ray before proceeding through the metal detectors. That includes suit and sport coats, athletic warm-up jackets and blazers. If a jacket or blazer is being worn as the innermost garment -- not over a blouse or sweater, for example -- it does not have to come off.

  • Leave your guns at home, Bill. Or make sure that all firearms and ammunition are declared to airline ticket agents and properly stored in checked baggage. (See: Flying With Guns, Knives and Outdoor Gear) Since TSA took over airport security in 2002, screeners have intercepted more than 3,000 firearms, with ammunition now being intercepted more than 2,000 times each month.

  • Talk to your kids. Before you arrive at the airport, have a serious talk with your children about airport security and things that may happen at the checkpoints. Children will need to temporarily part with such things as blankets and stuffed animals, and older children need to know that any comment suggesting a threat to an aircraft or its passengers is taken seriously by TSA security officers.

  • Do not wrap gifts. Wrap them when you reach your destination. If a wrapped gift sets off an alarm, TSA security officers will need to unwrap the gift to check it out.

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  • To minimize the risk of damage or loss, don't pack fragile or valuable items in checked baggage. Take them with you in carry-on baggage, or ship them to your destination instead.

  • To minimize the risk of damage or loss, don't pack fragile or valuable items in checked baggage. Take them with you in carry-on baggage, or ship them to your destination instead.

  • Put undeveloped film in carry-on baggage because equipment used to screen checked baggage will damage film. Also, high-speed and specialty film should not be put through X-ray machines, so passengers may ask security officers at the checkpoint to physically inspect film.

  • Remember to put identification tags in and on all baggage including laptops.

  • Everyone, even frequent fliers, should double check the contents of their pockets and bags, particularly carry-on luggage, to ensure no prohibited items were inadvertently packed.

  • Don't over pack bags. If security officers have to open them, closing overstuffed bags can be difficult and may result in that checked bag being delayed until a later flight.

  • Do not lock bags. If TSA security officers need to open a locked bag for inspection, they may have to break the lock. If you choose to lock your bag, use a TSA-approved lock, which has a locking system that enables security officers to open and relock the bag.
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