TSA: Holiday travelers should check list, take precautions

TSA agents work at a security checkpoint at the Ronald Reagan National Airport on July 22, 2020.

If you plan to fly for the holidays amid the coronavirus pandemic, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has recommendations for what -- and what not -- to bring.

The TSA recommends that passengers don’t wrap gifts. There is also guidance for items that should travel in a checked bag.

Traveling with electronics

  • Electronics are popular gifts and can travel in carry-on luggage. However, all electronics larger than a cell phone should be placed in a bin with nothing above or below it so that TSA can get a good x-ray image to ensure that it has not been tampered with. So if you have a tablet, laptop or the latest gaming console, you can carry it onto the airplane.
  • TSA allows drones through the checkpoint, but check with your airline for drone-specific travel policies.
  • With electronics often come batteries and "dry" ones such as AA, AAA, 9-volt, C, and D batteries can all can be carried through a checkpoint. Lithium batteries with 100-watt hours or less installed in a device are okay, but loose lithium batteries are prohibited in checked bags. The Federal Aviation Administration has very specific regulations on lithium batteries, so if you’re planning to travel with them, visit faa.gov/hazmat.

How to pack food

  • Baked goods — cookies, pies, and cakes can be carried through security checkpoints. Tins of cookies, pretzels, and popcorn are all okay too.
  • Homemade, store-bought, and delicious preserves, jams, jellies, and syrups fall in the category of a liquid. Basically, solid foods can be carried through a checkpoint, but if you can spill it, spray it, spread it, pump it or pour it, then it should be packed in a checked bag if the container is larger than 3.4 ounces.
  • Cheese gets a little complicated. If the cheese is a solid block, it can be carried through a checkpoint. However, if it is a soft, spreadable cheese, it should be packed in a checked bag.
  • Beverages such as egg nog, wine, and champagne should be packed in checked baggage. However, beverages with more than 24% alcohol by volume but not more than 70% alcohol are limited in checked bags to five liters per passenger. Alcoholic beverages with 24% alcohol or less are not subject to any limits in checked bags. As for mini-bottles of alcohol, they are allowed in carry-on luggage and they must fit comfortably in a single, quart-sized bag. Limit one-quart bag per passenger.
  • Chocolates. Carry them on.

How to pack traditional holiday gifts

  • Perfume can be carried through a checkpoint if it is less than 3.4 ounces/100 ml and fits into one quart-sized bag. If it’s in a lovely bottle that doesn’t fit in your one quart-size resealable plastic bag, best to pack it in a checked bag.
  • Snow globes that appear to contain less than 3.4 ounces of liquid (approximately the size of a tennis ball) can be packed in a carry-on bag only if the entire snow globe, including the base, is able to fit into a one quart-sized, resealable plastic bag. Larger snow globes should be packed in a checked bag. If not, the Grinch will be paying you a visit at the checkpoint and you may opt to leave your prized snow globe behind.
  • Jewelry - even a ring with a sparkly diamond in a tiny square box - can be carried through the checkpoint. However, TSA does not recommend wearing bulky jewelry or large belt buckles because that may trigger an alarm resulting in the need for a pat-down.
  • Candles that are solid traditional designs can be placed in a carry-on bag. Gel-type candles should be packed in a checked bag.
  • Snowboards, snowshoes, and ice skates can be carried through a checkpoint, but check with the airline about overhead bin space. Skis and ski poles should travel as checked baggage.
  • Advent calendars are good to go in the cabin of the aircraft. Don’t worry, TSA won’t open the flaps on the calendar and reveal your daily dose of holiday cheer!

The TSA guidelines are in addition to general CDC guidelines about social distancing, washing hands, and wearing masks.

For more TSA COVID-19 information, visit tsa.gov/coronavirus.

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