Stay cool: Tips for navigating the busiest summer travel season ever

It’s that time again – the sun is shining, school is out and the rush of summer travel is in full swing. But with great weather (and more people traveling) comes great…er than average airport wait times. According to TSA, they expect to screen over 4% more passengers – that’s about 10 million more – this summer compared to last summer, which will likely set new records as the busiest summer travel season ever.

While TSA is working to address this on their end with increased staffing, there are things travelers can also do to make the airport experience go smoothly. Read on for our tips for beating the traffic and traveling with ease. Already a pro? Start planning that summer trip.

Step 1: Pack like a pro

Be the MVP (Most Valuable Packer).

  • Check your airline baggage policy for information on the number of pieces you can bring as well as the size and weight limitations. See how your bags size up using KAYAK’s handy augmented reality bag measurement tool right in the KAYAK app.
  • If you plan on locking your bag, make sure it’s a TSA Accepted and Recognized Lock. Sometimes bags need to be opened throughout the screening process.
  • Separate out all of your liquids and follow that 3-1-1 rule – all bottles must be less than 3.4 ounces and fit in one quart-size zip-top bag. Then keep that zip-top easily accessible for airport security.
  • Clearly label your luggage with identification tags that include your name, address, email and phone number.
  • If you’re still unsure about whether or not you can bring something onboard, check TSA’s handy What Can I Bring? before you pack.

Step 2: Pre-flight mode

Make your airport experience a breeze.

  • Make sure that you have a government-issued photo ID. A driver’s license or passport is acceptable, as long as it is valid. Keep in mind, many countries require that your passport be valid for three to six months after your departure date, so be sure to double check yours well in advance.
  • Check-in online whenever possible. This may seem like a no brainer at this point, but it can be easy to forget, and will certainly save you time at the airport, especially during peak travel season.
  • Use KAYAK Trips to keep all of your travel documents organized (even when you’re offline), as well as allow you to receive status updates on your flight and share your plans with friends and family.
  • Don’t be on time, be early. Arrive at the airport with enough time to park, check your bags, get your boarding pass and get through all security checkpoints. 90 minutes is recommended for domestic flights, longer for international flights – and this summer, you may want to listen to dads everywhere and give yourself some extra time.

Step 3: Fly through security checkpoints

Beat the crowds and move swiftly through security.

  • Look into programs that allow you to use expedited security screenings, such as TSA Pre✓ and Customs and Border Protection’s Global Entry. These programs expedite security and allow you to pass through without taking off your shoes, belt or light jacket – and without separating your laptop or liquids from your carry-on.
  • If you don’t have access to a program that expedites the security process, be sure to pack and dress appropriately. Think of the airport security line like a game show, and you need to get from one end to the other with precision and accuracy in the shortest amount of time. Dress smart with shoes that slip on and off easily, no bulky belt or jewelry, and keep your liquids and laptop easily accessible.
  • Medications are allowed through airport security, but should be separated from other belongings and you should inform the TSA officer that you’re carrying it at the beginning of your screening. If you’d like to be discreet, you can use a TSA Notification Card and hand it to the officer when it’s your turn to be screened. If you have specific or sensitive questions or concerns ahead of travel, contact TSA Cares – a helpline that can assist travelers.

Step 4: Conquer flying with kids

Make flying a family affair.

  • TSA has to screen everyone, so it helps to be aware of the process. They won’t ask travelers to do anything that will separate them from their kids. Babies should be carried through the walk-through metal detector, while children who appear 12 and under can keep their shoes on during screening. Children 13 and older will be subject to standard TSA screening.
  • Make sure your children know that all of their toys, bags and items will need to be screened, even their favorite stuffed animal.
  • All strollers, car seats and booster seats are required to go through scanners. Collapse or fold them and place any items in their pockets into bins.
  • Check out the airport’s website in advance to see if there are family security lanes and to find the closest family restrooms, nursing rooms and play areas to your gate.
  • Pack an extra set of clothing for babies and toddlers, along with more food, diapers, formula and medicine than you initially expected, just in case of longer-than-usual delays. Formula, breast milk and juice for infants and toddlers is acceptable (in reasonable quantities) through security, but be sure to remove them from your bag and inform the TSA officer at the beginning of the process that you have them.

Step 5: Keep calm and carry on

Flight delays and cancellations? No problem.

  • If your flight is delayed or canceled, know your rights and how to handle the situation. Use KAYAK Trips to be notified via email, SMS or even Facebook message on things like gate changes and flight delays
  • Go with the flow. With hordes of people and longer than usual lines at check-in, security and boarding, it can be easy to become tired and frustrated. But remember, everyone there is in the same boat and being rude won’t get you to vacation any faster. Stay positive and remember the light at the end of the tunnel. It’s the sun, and it comes complete with a cold, fruity beverage and perhaps an ocean view.

Now that you know how to navigate the airport like a pro, start planning the rest of your trip with the same level of confidence on KAYAK.com.

Start planning your trip

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