The spring break travel season runs from February 17 through April 21, according to the Transportation Security Administration.
This year, as COVID-19 pandemic-related travel restrictions have been lifted and more people are traveling again, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) expects travel volumes will actually exceed levels seen in pre-pandemic years.
“In January, we experienced our first full month where travel volumes exceeded the same month in 2019,” David Pekoske, TSA Administrator, said in a statement. “We fully expect to see an upward trend in travel volumes throughout 2023, including during the spring break period.”
The good news for people traveling during the spring break timeframe is that TSA monitors airports and air carriers so it can respond by preparing for expected travel volume, Pekoske explains. Consequently, TSA expects to meet its wait time standards of 30 minutes or less in standard lanes and 10 minutes or less in TSA PreCheck lanes.
However, there also are practices travelers can follow to help ensure they move quickly through TSA checkpoints.
If you’ll be traveling during spring break, or anytime, for that matter, here are TSA’s top 5 tips to be prepared to move through TSA checkpoints.
1. Pack Smart
“Begin packing with an empty bag and ensure you do not have any prohibited items,” the TSA explains. “Do not attempt to bring a firearm through a TSA checkpoint. Doing so compromises the safety and security of other passengers and our officers in the checkpoint.”
It’s important to note that passengers who do try to take a firearm through a TSA checkpoint face fines of up to $15,000 and may also lose eligibility for TSA PreCheck. What’s more, local law enforcement will be called to address the situation.
On the other hand, firearms may be packed in checked bags, although they must be unloaded, packed in a locked hard-sided container, and declared to the airline at check-in.
You can learn more about traveling with firearms at the TSA’s Transporting Firearms and Ammunition webpage.
2. Remember The 3-1-1 Liquids Rule
Many people forget this rule, which is that passengers may bring a quart-sized bag of liquids, aerosols, gels, creams, and pastes through the checkpoint — provided that each item is 3.4 ounces or less. Containers with more than 3.4 ounces of liquids, aerosols, gels, creams, and pastes must be packed in a checked bag.
If you’re traveling somewhere warm and sunny for spring break, keep in mind this rule applies to sunscreen as well.
Finally, more than 3.4 ounces of liquids, gels, and aerosols are allowed when they are deemed medically necessary. However, they must be declared at the checkpoint for inspection. You can learn more about these special exceptions at Disabilities and Medical Conditions.
3. Enroll In TSA PreCheck
In January 2023, 92 percent of TSA PreCheck passengers waited less than 5 minutes at TSA checkpoints nationwide, TSA explains.
If you aren’t enrolled, TSA notes that after enrolling, most people receive their Known Traveler Number, or “KTN” in less than 5 days and membership lasts for 5 years.
The enrollment fee for 5 years is $78. After that, online renewals are $70.
You can learn more and even apply for TSA PreCheck here.
4. Arrive Early And Be Kind
“Spring break travelers should give themselves plenty of time to account for traffic, parking, rental car returns, airline check-in, security, and making any airport purchases before boarding a flight,” TSA explains.
TSA also has a special caution for anyone drinking alcohol.
“Avoid consuming excessive amounts of alcohol prior to boarding, as flight attendants and gate agents may deny boarding to intoxicated passengers,” TSA continues. “Passengers who engage in unruly behavior at the checkpoint or inflight may face substantial penalties and possible prosecution on criminal charges.”
5. Be Checkpoint Ready
Sometimes people arrive at the airport late after packing in a rush. Whatever the reason is, they simply aren’t ready to pass through a TSA checkpoint.
To speed the process and ensure you can move through the checkpoint quickly, TSA reminds everyone to arrive at the checkpoint lane with a mobile or printed boarding pass and a valid ID that is easily accessed.
Also, keep in mind that all passengers will need to empty their pockets and place the contents in a bin or carry-on bag. And those without TSA PreCheck must remove large electronics and 3-1-1 liquids from carry-ons.
And, of course, all travelers will be asked to remove outerwear before they pass through screening.
You can learn more about TSA screening procedures at its frequently asked questions
and TSA’s travel tips videos.
Be sure to also read our airports and flying content, as well as