TSA, AAA predict busy holiday season as millions get head start

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Kemberly Richardson reports from LaGuardia Airport on the Thanksgiving weekend travelers. (WABC)

Millions of travelers are expected to hit the air and the roadways this holiday weekend, with AAA Travel estimating that 46.9 million Americans will journey 50 miles or more from home.



That's up from 46.6 million who traveled in 2014. Sunday is expected to be the busiest travel day, while Thanksgiving will be the least busy. Of those traveling nationally, 89 percent will travel by car, 7 percent by air and 3 percent by other means. With 300,000 additional holiday travelers, it marks the seventh consecutive year of growth for Thanksgiving travel.

The Transportation Security Administration is recommending that air travelers arrive at airports at least two hours before their flight during what the agency predicts will be the busiest travel season in its history.

The TSA screens nearly 2 million passengers daily, and on the days leading up to Thanksgiving, that number is expected to increase nearly 40 percent nationwide. And the increased number of travelers is expected to stay consistent through the first week of December.

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The TSA said its security checkpoints will be fully staffed nationwide during this time, but added that passengers can make things easier for themselves at security checkpoints by coming prepared to the airport.

Air travel was running smoothly nationwide Wednesday, with the Federal Aviation Administration's online map showing planes taking off and landing on schedule. There were few issues at LaGuardia, Newark International and JFK in the early hours, but the afternoon brought a lull. The AirTran at Newark was down for about an hour, but was back by early afternoon.

The TSA issued travel tips to make the checkpoint experience go smoothly:

--Know what is in your bag. Passengers who bring prohibited items to the checkpoint slow the screening process for themselves and everyone behind them. If in doubt about an item, use the "When I fly can I bring my..." app to check whether an item is permitted in a carry-on bag, checked bag, either or neither.

--Prepare liquids, aerosols, gels, creams and pastes to be sure they are packed in compliance with the 3-1-1 liquids rule. Passengers who violate this rule will also cause delays for themselves and those who are in line behind them.

--Remove all items from pockets and put the items into a carry-on bag or into a bin when you get to the checkpoint. The screening experience will go even faster if travelers remove everything from their pockets before they get to the checkpoint.

--Avoid wearing large metal jewelry or clothing with large metal embellishments to reduce the possibility of alarming the checkpoint screening machine.

--Arrive early to the airport to allow enough time to park, get your boarding pass, check your luggage and go through the checkpoint. TSA recommends arriving at the airport at least two hours before a flight if travelers are not yet enrolled in TSA Pre.

--Listen to the instructions that the TSA officers are providing at the checkpoint. This helps the process move along efficiently.

--Travelers may bring wrapped gifts in their luggage; however, if a wrapped gift alarms, appears to have been tampered with, or poses other security concerns it may need to be unwrapped for additional screening. Consider using a gift bag instead of traditional wrapping paper to simplify the screening process of gifts.

--Food items such as pies and cakes are permitted but may require further inspection. If travelers are not sure if a food item is considered a liquid or gel then it is best to pack the item in a checked bag or ship it to its destination. As a general rule of thumb, if you can spread it, spill it, spray it, pump it or pour it, then it's usually in the category of a liquid or gel.

--Travelers who have medical conditions or disabilities and want to get a better understanding of how best to prepare for the checkpoint process can call the TSA Cares toll-free helpline in advance of their trip at 1-855-787-2227 to get questions answered about screening policies, procedures and what to expect at the checkpoint. It is recommended to call 72 hours in advance of the trip.

For further information about TSA procedures, or to provide feedback, travelers can call the TSA Contact Center at 1-866-289-9673 or send a message via Twitter to @AskTSA.
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air travelairport securityTSAthanksgiving
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