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Tips for super-smooth air travel

Flying — especially during peak times — has become a huge hassle: the lines, the delays, the weather cancellations. Pave your way and make things as easy on yourself (and your fellow passengers) as possible with these tips!

Follow TSA rules while packing. You can carry enough liquids and gels in individual three-ounce containers to fill a quart-sized sandwich bag. That’s it. Pack everything else in your checked bags. (Alternative: mail it to your destination ahead of time.) If you try to slip one by TSA, it will hold up the entire line, and you’ll just have to toss your expensive shampoo in the trash anyway. Your best bet? A small hand lotion, Chapstick, eye drops, and a travel-size toothpaste. Getting undressed in the airport security lineAnd yes — even things like peanut butter, mascara, water- or gel-filled toys are all restricted items now. (Get more details here.)

Going abroad? Some foreign countries may have different (generally stricter) anti-liquid/gel regulations. Check in advance. Also: Be wary of buying cut-price liquor at the duty-free store after you check in. If you have a layover anywhere and have the booze in hand, you’re either going to have to figure out a way to stuff the bottle into your checked luggage during the stopover, or leave your aged Scotch whiskey behind with your TSA buddies.

Keep any gifts you have unwrapped.
If TSA chooses to hand-check your bags, they must be able to inspect everything you have with you. Leave the gifts you are bringing paperless, or TSA will unwrap them for you — and they won’t be careful about it.

Get undressed in line. Well, you don’t have to go quite as far as this guy here — but at least remove the items that must be scanned separately: coats, jackets, sweaters, shoes, belts, jewelry/watches, along with any metallic things in your pockets. Also be sure to take your laptop — and/or any full-size electronics — out of your bag and put it in a separate bin to pass through security. Start taking off your shoes as soon as you’re admitted through the first ID checker so you don’t slow down the whole show. (Tip: Don’t wear socks with holes.)

Ticket yourself on the earliest flight in the day you can find. This way you will get to the airport before total mayhem erupts, and if your original flight is delayed, you have more options while rebooking. If you just can’t do the first flight, at the very least, steer clear of the late evening flights… unless you aspire to being like Tom Hanks’ character in “The Terminal.”

Check in online. Most airlines allow web check in 24 hours prior to your departure time. Print your boarding passes at home and save time at the airport. Some airlines have special, shorter lines to check baggage for people who have completed web check in, and if you are flying a carrier that boards by zone — like US Air or Southwest — you will get to board before everyone who waited until the last minute to check in at the ticket counter. (Even if you don’t have access to a functioning printer — or only have a handheld device — it can still pay to check in via the web. Simply “re-print” your ticket at the airport kiosk, and you will keep the spot you reserved earlier.)

Get to the airport on time, or even early. Life is so much more peaceful when you’re not giving yourself a heart attack by stressing out ’cause you’re playing security-line-roulette. (Not to mention you might actually miss your flight.)

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