Photo Credit: Mandy Yeh for

Photo Credit: Mandy Yeh for

Envisioning yourself at your ultimate travel destination is exciting, but packing and getting on the plane can be stressful. Whether you’re an airport rookie who needs a primer or a frequent flyer who needs a quick refresher, here’s a rundown of current TSA guidelines to help your trip go more smoothly.


You’ll be able to take two pieces of luggage with you on board. The personal item, usually a purse, backpack or laptop case, has to fit underneath the seat. Your carry-on, on the other hand, needs to fit into the overhead compartment, or the airline will check your bag and charge the usual fees. Different airlines often have different size limitations, but you can look these up online. If you’re still not sure, many airlines also have metal frames outside the gate that you can try to fit your bag into as a test.

As you’re probably familiar with, you can bring liquids and gels onboard as long as they’re less than 3.4 ounces and are all kept in one plastic baggie or container, which you have to take out at the security line. Money-saver tip: bring an empty water bottle to fill up at water fountains instead of making another purchase.

Items you may be tempted to pack in your luggage but are actually prohibited on board include gel foot inserts and any sporting equipment that might be construed as a weapon—so leave these behind.

Everything else you’ll be able to check in, with the exception of lithium batteries, which are only allowed in carry-ons. But it’s best to pack light anyway—most airlines charge an average of $15 to $25 to check your first bag, with fees for bags over the weight limit (typically 50 pounds).

To avoid the hassle of airport lines, you can check in up to 24 hours before your scheduled flight and print your tickets at home. If you check in at the airport, TSA suggests you arrive three hours before the scheduled departure time for international flights and two hours before domestic flights. It’s always a good idea to allow extra time for unexpected delays such as a long check-in or security lines.

Going through security:

The biggest hold up at the security line is usually waiting for people to take off their shoes and take out their laptops to put through the scanner. To speed up this process, at least for yourself, wear shoes that are easy to remove like flips flops or sneakers. Invest in a laptop sleeve that your computer can remain in, so you can slip it in and out of your backpack easily.

If security sees anything not properly set into the trays during the scan, they will make you rescan your item, taking up valuable time and likely annoying others behind you in line.

For more information, check the TSA website to alleviate any uncertainties.

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