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TSA Prepares for Busiest Screening Day Ever, Record Summer Travel

Flying somewhere this summer? You won’t be alone. Airlines for America (A4A), the trade group representing the biggest U.S. airlines, predicts some 246 million travelers will take to the skies this summer, which would be a record and represent an increase of 3.7 percent over last year. A4A says airlines added roughly 116,000 seats per day to accommodate the surge in travelers.

Those numbers mean that, on average, some 2.7 million travelers will pass through our nation’s airports daily. And each and every one of them needs to go through security.

That deluge could come to a head as soon as this Friday, as travelers depart for their Independence Day vacations.

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“We expect that this coming Friday will potentially be one of busiest days ever in TSA history, in terms of passenger throughput busiest ever,” TSA Administrator David Pekoske said this week. The agency is preparing for around 2.6 million people Friday, well above the 2.2 million passengers it typically screens on a given day. AAA is also predicting record-breaking travel numbers this Independence Day.

Pack Your TSA Patience

Bottom line: It’s going to be a busy, crowded summer at our nation’s airports. This increase in travelers comes as TSA has tightened procedures at security checkpoints, including greater scrutiny of powders (think: spices, baby powder, makeup) and the well-publicized restrictions on laptops.

That said, screenings have gone smoothly since Memorial Day, according to USA Today, which reports that 96 percent of travelers in standard checkpoint lanes are waiting less than 20 minutes. Wait times can spike to much longer durations, of course, but that’s a reasonable average for a busy travel period.

Still, travelers would do well to arrive at the airport a little early and pay extra attention to the TSA’s new requirements for carry-on luggage, for powders in particular. “TSA recommends packing containers [of powder] larger than 350 milliliters, or about the size of a can of soda, in checked bags,” writes USA Today. “Baby formula, for example, is allowed in carry-on bags. But if a checkpoint officer can’t resolve what the powder in a carry-on bag is, the passenger might be forced to discard it at the checkpoint in order to board a flight.”

And don’t forget about your liquids, either.

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By Carl Unger

Contributing Editor Carl Unger believes that every trip is worth taking. He loves an extended trip to Europe as much as he enjoys exploring the towns and landscape near home. Basically, you'll find him wherever there is good food, fresh air, and plenty of stories to bring home.

Carl has been writing for SmarterTravel since 2005. His travel writing has also appeared on USA Today and the About.com Boston travel guide.

The Handy Item I Always Pack: "It's not revolutionary, but a small Moleskine notebook is my one travel must-have. It's great for noting things you want to remember and it takes up hardly any space in your bag."

Ultimate Bucket List Experience: "Japan. I'd love to take a month off and visit the cities, temples, and countryside. I'm fascinated by the country's juxtaposition of ancient traditions and modern ambitions."

Travel Motto: “Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.” –Terry Pratchett

Aisle, Window, or Middle Seat: "Window."

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