TSA's Top Tips for Travelers Flying Home for Thanksgiving

Yes, you can travel with food.

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

Thankfully, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has some tips and necessary information to help travelers navigate their trip home for the holidays in 2021.

TSA agent screens an airline passenger at O'Hare International Airport
Scott Olson/Getty

As always, there are the typical Thanksgiving hurdles: Can I bring home my 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 carefully in a checked bag, the TSA says. Any liquid larger than 3.4 fluid ounces cannot be placed in a carry-on. That means things like wine, cranberry sauce, and gravy over 3.4 ounces will need to be checked, but cakes, breads, candy, and similar items can travel in a carry-on bag.

If you're traveling with food in your carry-on, the TSA recommends keeping 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.

Still confused about what you can bring? Download the free MyTSA app. Using the "Can I Bring?" database, you can search items in the app and learn if it should go in your checked or carry-on bag. The TSA Twitter account also answers FAQs and shares helpful holiday travel tips.

Remember that the TSA procedure has changed since the pandemic. Everyone is required to wear a face mask and encouraged to maintain a social distance while in line. TSA officers may also be wearing gloves and a plastic face shield, as well as operating 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 a few extra masks in their carry-on luggage, 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 security.

The TSA recommends that travelers get to the airport early in case there are long baggage, check-in, or security lines. If you're looking to pass through the checkpoints as quickly as possible, the TSA suggests signing up for TSA PreCheck. Travelers with PreCheck do not have to remove their shoes, belts, or electronics — eliminating a number of touch points — and the wait is typically five minutes or less.

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