Access Control, Security

TSA Offers Travel Tips as Airports Brace for ‘Busiest Summer Ever’

If you’re planning to fly somewhere this summer for business or pleasure, be prepared for packed airports.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) announced it is readying for the highest passenger volumes ever seen at airport security checkpoints nationwide during this summer’s travel season, which begins Memorial Day weekend and runs through Labor Day. To help travelers avoid security issues and lessen wait times, the agency also shared top tips for airline passengers.

TSA forecasts Friday, May 24, to be the busiest travel day of the long Memorial Day weekend, anticipating nearly 3 million passengers. From May 23 to May 29, the agency expects to screen more than 18 million passengers and crew, representing a checkpoint volume increase of approximately 6.4% compared to the same period in 2023.

“In close coordination with airport, airline, and travel partners, we are more than ready to handle this summer’s increased travel volumes,” said TSA Administrator David Pekoske. “We are also continuing to deploy state-of-the-art checkpoint technology that increases security effectiveness, efficiency, and enhances the passenger experience.”

TSA Travel Tips

Tip 1: Pack an empty bag, know before you go, and remember the 3-1-1 rule. Always start packing with an empty bag, and check TSA’s “What Can I Bring?” tool to know what is prohibited. If you’re heading to the beach, you may wonder how to pack your sunscreen. Any liquids, sunscreen containers, and alcohol over 3.4 ounces must be packed in a checked bag. Liquids, aerosols, gels, creams and pastes are allowed in carry-on bags as long as each item is 3.4 ounces or less and placed in one quart-sized bag. Each passenger is limited to one quart-size bag of liquids, aerosols, gels, creams and pastes.

Tip 2: Give yourself plenty of time. Summer travel will be busy, so plan ahead! Give yourself plenty of time to park or return a rental car, take a shuttle to the airport if needed, check in with your airline, and drop your bags and prepare for the security checkpoint. Save time by removing items from pockets and placing them in your carry-on bag, instead of putting items directly into bins at the conveyor belt.

Tip 3: Be aware of new checkpoint technology, and follow TSA guidance. At checkpoints in over 220 airports, the Transportation Security Officer (TSO) may ask you to insert your physical ID into one of the TSA’s Credential Authentication Technology (CAT) units, where a boarding pass is not needed. The second generation of CAT, called CAT-2, is currently deployed at 84 airports. These new units are also equipped with a camera that captures a real-time photo of the traveler to verify identification. For more information on how TSA is using facial recognition technology, click here.

More than 240 airports nationwide have also installed Computed Tomography (CT) units, which give TSOs the ability to review a 3D image of passengers’ bags and reduce the need to physically search their contents. Passengers screened using CT units do not need to remove their 3-1-1 liquids or laptops, but they must place every carry-on item, including bags, into a bin for screening. Passengers are also reminded to bring a maximum of one carry-on bag and one personal item through security screening.

Screening protocols may vary from airport to airport depending on available technology and the current threat environment, so it is important for passengers to follow the TSO’s directions.

Tip 4: If you plan to travel with a firearm, you must properly pack it in a hard-sided, locked case in your checked bag and declare it with the airline at the ticket counter when checking in. Passengers are prohibited from packing firearms in carry-on luggage and bringing them to the airport security checkpoint and onboard aircraft. Bringing a firearm to a TSA checkpoint is expensive and time-consuming and can cause delays. The maximum civil penalty for bringing a firearm to a TSA checkpoint is nearly $15,000. Local law enforcement will take possession of the firearm and may arrest or cite the passenger, depending on local law. For more information on transporting firearms, click here.

Tip 5: Make sure you have a REAL ID or another acceptable ID. Adult passengers 18 years and older must show valid ID credentials at the airport checkpoint in order to travel. Beginning May 7, 2025, if you plan to use your state-issued ID or driver’s license to fly within the U.S., make sure you have a REAL ID or another acceptable form of ID. For questions on acceptable IDs, click here.

Tip 6: TSA PreCheck members: Make sure your Known Traveler Number (KTN) is in your reservation. Those enrolled in the TSA PreCheck program enjoy the benefits of faster checkpoint screening. With nearly 20 million PreCheck members, it is essential that airline reservations have the passenger’s correct KTN, full name, and date of birth so they can truly “Travel with Ease.” Those who fly with multiple airlines should ensure their KTN is updated in each of their airline profiles every time they travel. For more information about the TSA PreCheck program, click here.

Tip 7: Respect TSA and other frontline airport and airline employees. Violence and unruly behavior in the transportation system are not acceptable and result in significant delays at traveler checkpoints. TSOs, along with all frontline airport and airline employees and local law enforcement, are working together to ensure safe and secure travel. Assaulting a TSA employee is a federal offense and will result in penalties and/or arrest.

Tip 8: Contact TSA for questions or assistance. Get your questions answered before you head to the airport. Travelers can get assistance in real time by texting their question to 275-872 (“AskTSA”) or through @AskTSA on X (formerly known as Twitter) or Facebook Messenger. Travelers may also reach the TSA Contact Center at (866) 289-9673.

Passengers who need additional assistance through security screening may request a TSA Passenger Support Specialist (PSS), who is trained to help and communicate with individuals with disabilities, medical conditions, or those who need additional screening assistance. Individuals should request passenger assistance at least 72 hours in advance by contacting the TSA Cares passenger support line at (855) 787-2227.

TSA encourages all passengers to remain vigilant: If You See Something. Say Something. Those traveling abroad for the summer should check the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Know Before You Go page to learn about required documentation. For those traveling with children this summer, TSA offers kid-friendly videos for children packing for their upcoming trip.

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