TSA Prepares for the Holiday Rush — These Are Their Tips for a Smooth Travel Experience

Dec. 22 and Dec. 30 are predicted to be the busiest travel days.

The Transportation Security Administration is gearing up for a crowded week of holiday travel with the busiest days expected to be Dec. 22 and Dec. 30. 

The agency expects travelers to head to the airports in droves with numbers higher than last year and close to pre-pandemic levels for the lead up to Christmas and New Year’s. The Federal Aviation Administration told Travel + Leisure nearly 48,000 flights are scheduled for Dec. 22. 

Travelers arrive for flights at O'Hare International Airport.

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“During the Thanksgiving travel period, we saw the highest throughput volume since 2019, and we expect that trend to continue over the upcoming holiday travel period,” TSA Administrator David Pekoske said in a statement. “We are prepared for the increased volume and expect to meet our wait time standards of 30 minutes or less in standard lanes and 10 minutes or less in TSA PreCheck lanes. However, there may be some situations where the capacity of a checkpoint is exceeded.”

To expedite the security process, the TSA recommends travelers know what they can and cannot bring through security. Firearms, explosives, flammables, knives, razors, and replica weapons are always banned in carry-on luggage, along with liquids larger than 3.4 ounces.

Solid food (including holiday favorites like sugar cookies) are allowed.

Travelers who are unsure if their item is allowed can always check the TSA’s “What Can I Bring?” website, which includes a searchable list of both allowed and prohibited items. Additionally, travelers can ask the TSA about any specific concerns by submitting questions to “@AskTSA” on Twitter or on Facebook Messenger. Staff is available from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. ET each day, including holidays and weekends. 

Travelers hitting the sky with gifts should make sure they are unwrapped and can be inspected if needed. Gift bags and boxes that can be opened are also a good idea.

Travelers should also come prepared with the correct ID, which can include a passport or driver’s license. Earlier this month, the Department of Homeland Security pushed back the implementation of its REAL ID program by another two years. It will now go into effect on May 7, 2025.

When it comes to New Year’s, the FAA told T+L the busiest day will be  Jan. 4 with nearly 45,000 flights scheduled, while the slowest will be New Year’s Day with less than 35,000 flights scheduled.

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