5 Tips Travelers Flying Home for Thanksgiving Need to Know, According to the TSA

TSA agent screens an airline passenger at O'Hare International Airport

Traveling through an airport during the holiday season is known to be stressful, but this year, amid the coronavirus pandemic, travelers may be dealing with a new set of nerves and uncertainties.

Thankfully, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) outlined released a list of tips and necessary information to help travelers navigate their trip home for the holidays in the strange year that is 2020.

As always, there are the typical Thanksgiving hurdles: can you bring home your famous apple pie? The general rule of thumb is that solid food, like turkey leftovers or a casserole, is fine for a carry-on but “If you can spill it, spread it, spray it, pump it or pour it, pack it in a checked bag,” the TSA says. Any liquid larger than 3.4 fluid ounces cannot be placed in a carry-on. 

If you’re traveling with food in your carry-on, the TSA recommends that you keep it in a separate clear plastic bag. When you’re passing through the security checkpoint, remove that clear bag with the food and place it in a separate bin, as it can trigger a security alarm. 

Remember that the TSA procedure has changed since the pandemic. Everyone is required to wear a face mask and maintain a social distance while in line. TSA officers may also be wearing gloves and a plastic face shield and may also operate behind an acrylic barrier. 

When passing through the ID check, passengers will have to quickly remove their mask so an agent can verify their identity.

Travelers should pack an extra mask or two, just in case.

Passengers are also now allowed to bring a larger bottle of hand sanitizer, up to 12 ounces, through the security checkpoint. Be prepared to remove it from your carry-on when passing through the security check. 

If you’re looking to pass through the checkpoints as quickly as possible, the TSA recommends signing up for TSA PreCheck. Travelers with PreCheck do not have to remove their shoes, belts or electronics — eliminating a number of touchpoints. Apply by early November to obtain PreCheck status by Thanksgiving. 

Although airports and airlines predict a busy travel season, several destinations are urging citizens not to travel for the holidays this year as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact the country. This week, Vermont Gov. Phil Scott discouraged his state from unnecessary travel for Thanksgiving or, if they were hosting dinner, to keep it small and socially distanced. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio also urged New Yorkers to avoid traveling out of state for the holidays this year. 

Cailey Rizzo is a contributing writer for Travel + Leisure, currently based in Brooklyn. When in a new city, she's usually out to discover under-the-radar art, culture, and secondhand stores. No matter her location, you can find her on Twitter, on Instagram, or at caileyrizzo.com.

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