8 tips to help make your Thanksgiving flight smoother

Published 8:36 am Wednesday, November 21, 2018

By Tim Nelson

MPR News/90.1 FM

It’s that time again — tens of thousands of people are heading to the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport for Thanksgiving.

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Checkpoint screenings have routinely had between 45,000 and 50,000 travelers per day over recent peak flying periods, and the Transportation Security Administration says it expects the 2018 holiday season to be the busiest air travel season ever.

If you’re going to be among those travelers, airport officials say it helps to plan ahead, rather than showing up and hoping for the best. Here’s some tips to make air travel in and out of the Twin Cities a little smoother.

1. Check the TSA site for what you can bring on board an airliner before you leave.

Artificial skeleton bones? You’re good to go.

Bowling pins? Cast iron cookware? Snow cleats? The TSA says those will be a no-go for carry-on luggage, and you’ll have to leave them behind. You may also spend time you don’t have sorting out your luggage at the checkpoint.

Also, the restrictions on liquids in carry-on luggage apply to food: “Please be aware that creamy and spreadable foods, like gravy, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, jam and beverages must follow the 3-1-1 liquids rule,” the TSA says.

Dry stuffing, fresh cranberries and bread, pies, fruits and vegetables are OK.

2. Get there at least two hours early.

Although recent waits haven’t been the eye-popping, lobby-filling ordeals of yesteryear at MSP, there’s still no telling what you’ll encounter. Give yourself lots of time to wind your way through both the baggage check and security checkpoint corrals.

3. Check the security checkpoint wait times online if you’re going to Terminal 2.

The equipment used to measure the times for online display for Terminal 1 had to be removed for the ticket lobby remodeling project. But remember: The busiest times tend to be from 5 a.m. to 9 a.m., and again between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. daily.

4. Check parking availability at the airport ramps online before you go.

It will tell you a number of things, like whether you can expect to park at the terminal you’re traveling from and what the best alternative might be. It will also give you rough idea of how busy you can expect the terminal to be.

5. Put the Transportation Security Administration app, called MyTSA, on your phone.

It allows you to see airport delays, historical data on peak checkpoint traffic, and which checkpoints are offering TSA Precheck.

At the airport, you can see and report checkpoint wait times over the last two hours. The app is available in the Apple App Store and on Google Play.

6. Flying with kids? It might go quicker than you thought.

Children under 12 don’t have to take off their shoes or jackets, so you can keep you and the rest of the line from delay if you keep them dressed and moving.

7. Know the best spots to pick up others at the airport.

If you’re picking up people arriving from out of town to MSP’s Terminal 1, consider asking them to meet you on the ticketing level, rather than the baggage claim. The lower-level traffic can back up nearly to the airport entrance, but airport officials say drivers can help relieve the congestion by using both levels of Terminal 1.

8. Need help at the airport? Plan in advance.

If you think you’re going to need help at a checkpoint, call the TSA help line at 855-787-2227. The TSA Cares program can help arrange checkpoint assistance.