ORLANDO, Fla. — It's noon the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, and the skies are full of planes.
- TSA expected 25 million passengers at airports at Thanksgiving alone
- Orlando predicting to be the most popular destination
An image tweeted by the Federal Aviation Administration shows a map of the United States, covered with thousands of plane symbols. In some parts of the country (like Florida), you can't even see the state boundary lines.
TSA says more than 25 million passengers will pass through its security checkpoints from November 16 through November 26 alone.
Orlando International Airport is one of the busiest in the country in non-holiday periods. AAA is predicting the Orlando area will be the most popular Thanksgiving destination in the country, with Saturday being the busiest day.
So it's time to pack some patience, maybe pack as lightly as possible, and follow these steps to keep your trip as stress-free as possible.
1. Have a Smartphone? There are apps for this.
Most every airline has an app these days, and they're free. You can use them to check the status of your flight.
FlightAware, the flight tracking website, has an app with several ways to track flights, including by your flight number. You can see where your flight is as it travels into your airport.
Some airports even now have their own apps. For instance, Orlando's airport now has an "MCO" app, which gives you parking information, flight status updates, and even shows your the current wait times for security lines.
Also, TSA has an app to help you find the latest airport information, including security information.
2. Be sure to bookmark your airport's website.
Don't want tomess with apps? Bookmark your airport's website ahead of time in your phone so you can reach it quickly if you need to check your flight status or find other information.
MAJOR ORLANDO-AREA INTERNATIONAL AIRPORTS
- Orlando International Airport
- Orlando-Sanford International Airport
- Daytona Beach International Airport
- Orlando Melbourne International Airport
MAJOR TAMPA-AREA INTERNATIONAL AIRPORTS
- Tampa International Airport
- St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport
- Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport
Do the same with FlightAware. The website has several different ways to pair down flight information across the country, including a "Misery Map" for delays.
3. Arrive early.
You know it's going to be crazy, so do yourself this favor: If you normally arrive at an airport two hours before a domestic flight, maybe arrive three hours before, just in case.
4. Can I bring this on the plane? Know before you go.
Flying always requires you to make some special considerations, things like the size of your personal hygiene products, and whether you should keep a gun in your carry-on bag (SPOILER ALERT: No guns belong in your carryon bags. Ever.).
During the holidays, you may have some extra special items in your bags, like presents, alcohol, golf clubs... cattle prods? Cheese? Antlers?
So can you bring this in your carryon bag, or do you need to spring for checked luggage? You always want to know the answer to this before you arrive at the airport, since it's cheaper to pay for checked bags online than it is at the check-in counter.
TSA has a "What Can I Bring?" tool on its website and app. It's an A to Z list of items whether you can bring them onboard planes in carry-on or checked bags, and if there are any special instructions. If it's on this list, it means someone tried to bring this to through TSA at some point.
Ultimately, the final decision on whether an item can be allowed through a security checkpoint is up to a TSA officer, but here are some hard and fast rules everyone should know:
- Liquids of any kind: The rule is less than 3.4 ounces/100 ml in size of any liquid is allowed in carry-on bags. Anything larger than that must be in checked luggage.
By the way, this also applies to snowglobes. So before you buy one of those fancy snowglobes at Walt Disney World as a gift, realize you can't carry it onto a plane.
- Guns: Guns and ammunition are permitted in checked bags ONLY. The weapons must be unloaded and in a locked hard-sided container, and you must declare it to the airline at check-in. Ammo must be secured in fiber, wood or metal boxes, or other packaging designed to carry it.
Be sure to check any bags you plan to carry onto a plane for weapons before you get to a security checkpoint. TSA has seen a rise in people with firearms in their carry-on bags across the country. Doing so could get you in serious trouble.
- Baby Food and Formula: TSA says it's allowed in carry-on and checked bags. Formula, breast milk, and juice are allowed in small quantities in carry-on bags and should be screened separately at a checkpoint with the rest of your belongings.
- E-cigarettes and Vaping Devices: These popular devices are allowed in carry-on bags, but they are not allowed in checked bags.
5. But before you pack, make sure your bags are acceptable.
Airlines have their own rules on what kind of bags you can put on a plane, especially in regard to your carry-on. Be sure to check with your airline before you pack.
Many airlines will allow one personal bag (a purse, a bookbag, a laptop bag, a diaper bag, etc.), and a small bag that measures no bigger than 22 inches in length. There will likely be weight requirements as well. You should consider this when packaging for your trip.
If you are checking a bag, many airlines have weight requirements as well. Check with your airline and know what that is and pack accordingly.
Also, if you are carrying liquid bottles in your carry-on bag, a good idea is to put them together in a clear plastic bag so that they are easy to check if your bag is searched. It also protects the other items if one of the bottles open.