Holiday travel tips

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By Jennifer Thomas By Jennifer Thomas

PHOENIX -- It is not quite over the river and through the woods anymore, but it is that time of year when Americans crisscross the country to visit loved ones.

And more often than not that means lots of lines, but aviation expert and attorney Timothy McCulloch with Gordon and Rees said there are some easy things you can do to help speed up your journey.

First, he said, “Preparation, preparation, preparation. That's what is important to get through a TSA line fast, quickly, and without a lot of hassle.”

McCulloch said that preparation needs to start before you leave home.

“You should dress that day with an eye to how quickly can I take off my shoes, my belt and everything else that I need so I can get in and out of that line very quickly,” he said.

And that includes giving your bag a once-over.

“I would never do a carry-on bag that I had not opened completely and gone through all the crevices and made sure there is not something in there that is going to cause me a problem at a TSA line,” McCulloch said. “Ninety-nine percent of the time the people who get stopped is just somebody that forgot some form of liquid somewhere in their bag.”

If you don't need a liquid or gel product immediately, he said the best bet is actually to check it. And, remember, there are some larger liquids that you are allowed to carry on.

"Saline solution and medical liquids are actually exempt from the 3.4-ounce rule,” McCulloch said.

You still need to let the agents know you have them, and liquids still go in those clear plastic bags.

New this year, snow globes are allowed, but they must meet that 3.4-ounce rule, and the TSA is a little less Grinch-like with holiday goodies, as well.

”You are also now allowed to bring cakes and pies in your carried-on luggage, too,” McCulloch said.

But they may be subject to additional checks.

And while you might be tempted to pack away your coat rather than take it off at the checkpoint, McCulloch said a better idea is to put it to work.

“Jackets are kind of good because a jacket is a good place to put your wallet, your watch, your keys, put that in your jacket pockets," he said. "I really don't like to have my wallet sitting out in those containers.”

Getting your computer out can slow you down, as well.

“If you can, I really suggest having a laptop-friendly bag, which you can open and just lay flat on the machine,” McCulloch advised.

He likes those with a secure Velcro strap to keep it from falling out. But if you have to put it in a security bin, he said, “Keep in mind don't put shoes on top of it, don't put belts on top of it, don't put liquids, keep the laptop all by itself.”

And while most of us will still have to slip off our shoes, there is a new rule to help some people step through the line faster.

"Adults 75 and older are no longer required to take their shoes off, and I believe children who are 12 and under do not have to take their shoes off any longer,” McCulloch said.

McCulloch also suggests talking to children about what to expect before getting to the airport and giving yourself plenty of time to navigate the crowds.

"The more you seem to be in a hurry, I think the more TSA is going to slow you down,” he said.

The TSA website has a lot of information on the rules and Sky Harbor International Airport’s website can also help you find a parking spot.