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On the way home for the holidays? Use this travel list, check it twice

 

Heading somewhere for the holidays? Trade group Airlines for America is expecting a record 45 million people will fly this holiday season, a 3.5 percent increase over last year’s figures.

But is it really possible to avoid the holiday hassle? Following these simple, last-minute travel tips can help.

1. Sign up for alerts.

Make sure that your airline has your contact details so that you can be reached in the event of a serious disruption of air traffic. Imagine, you are at the gate waiting for the plane to board and there is an announcement of an hour delay because of a mechanical problem– that is, not as a signal for a relaxing lunch! If the mechanical problem is fixed within 30 minutes, that plane will take off whether you have it or not.

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2. Pack a carry-o –n.

Don’t forget the costs. You want a bag that travels with you, so this doesn’t get lost in the holiday package shuffle. Don’t waste a moment of precious vacation time by hanging out at the baggage carousel to wait to file a missing baggage claim.

Tip: Wear your heaviest outfit, including a bulky sweatshirt hooded parka (you can always use the jacket for a make-shift blanket during the flight). Stick gloves, hats and socks to bags to free up more space in the cabin.

3. The hotel is super-early.

To the airport 90 minutes early for domestic flights and three hours for international travel.

Tip: If you’re traveling in the US of a of the sample airports, JFK, Newark, LAX, or O’hare), consider arriving two hours too early– or contact the airline to see what they recommend.

4. Ready for a long security line.

If you are leaving within a few days, it is too late to sign up for PreCheck (but put it on your to-do list for 2017– it is worth the effort). However, there are other things you can do to get through the line faster: your boarding pass and ID in hand as you approach the checkpoint, take off your shoes while you are snaking through the line, empty a water-filled bottles and pull out the quart-sized bag of toiletries from your carry-on. Be as ready as possible to keep the line moving and you go to the gate faster.

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Tip: Before you get to the line, take a look at the left bottom corner of your boarding pass. If it says PreCheck (or an abbreviation thereof), you have been randomly selected for the fast line, and not to have anything, except maybe a heavy jacket.

5. No jokes, please.

We hear about the occasional traveller who find it fun to say something like, ” It’s okay to make a bomb?” TSA agents have no sense of humor whatsoever when it comes to security and you will be pulled off the line immediately and probably miss your flight.

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Tip: No gloppy foods allowed through security, but you can use cakes, pies, and cookies.

Final guidance: do not forget any medications you need, along with the charger of the ropes, head phones, grab a snack, all of your personal must-haves. Then have a good flight.

Rick Seaney is an airline travel expert and the co-founder of FareCompare.com an airline ticket comparison shopping website

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