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Don't Let Holiday Travel Make You Feel Like a Turkey

Long lines, busy airports, tight security - welcome to the Thanksgiving travel season!

Travelers may want to be thinking only of sweet potatoes and cranberry sauce, but with airlines cracking down on the shape and size of your carry on, along with the TSA reminding you what you can and can’t put in it, planning ahead will help you avoid unnecessary frustration so you can focus on turkey, shopping, and family.

Although maybe not in that order.

And speaking of our friends at the TSA, you’re likely aware the 3-1-1 Rule is still in effect (liquids in the amount of 3.4 ounces or less, carried in a 1-quart bag, 1 bag per passenger) for air travel, but did you know there are instances where your protein powder - among other things - are limited, too?

If you’re headed out of the country for your turkey with all the trimmings, you will be limited on what you can bring back into the U.S.

Plan on stocking up on Blue Mountain coffee while you’re in Jamaica? Or spices while in the Dominican Republic? If the package is less than 12 ounces, about the size of a soda can, you’ll simply have it in the bin to be screened along with your 3-1-1 items. Sugar, flour, baby formula, etc. all fit this picture, too. It won’t even need to be in its own plastic bag.

Anything larger than 12 ounces? Put it in your checked luggage, or prepare for additional screening. That could mean opening vacuum sealed cans or packages, so it at all possible, check it rather than carry on.

So how can you go over the river and through the woods without losing your cool? Two words - be prepared.

Check-in BEFORE You Head Out

Before you head for the door, check your flight status. In the event of weather delays at your destination, or, perish the thought, a cancellation, you can formulate a back up plan from the comfort of your own home, rather than the frenzy of a crowded gate in the terminal.

Be the Early Bird!

You’ll do more than catch the worm, you’ll beat the crowds. The TSA recommends arriving 90 minutes before a domestic departure and 2 hours prior to an international departure. For this busy time, give yourself at least 2 hours before a domestic departure and 3 hours for international. If you happen to breeze through a shorter than you thought security line, so much the better. Grab a cup of coffee, or delicious meal, at one of the great restaurants in the terminals - especially at Sky Harbor - and relax before your likely crowded flight.

Tooting the Horn for Global Entry and TSA PreCheck

Don’t want to be stuck in the security line wrapping its way through the terminal? Or have to remove most of the items from your carry on and take off your shoes? Go to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website and register for Global Entry as a “trusted traveler”or the TSA site to check out their “Pre-check” program. Both have fees: $100.00 for five years of Global Entry and $85.00 for five years of TSA Precheck (although for their fee, Global Entry also includes TSA Precheck). Global Entry is great if you travel abroad frequently, but if you typically travel only in the U.S., TSA’s Precheck is for you.

An aside - there are other “trusted traveler” services popping up in airports, such as a company called Clear, but they aren’t in every airport. I’d hate to pay a fee and have to stand in line anyway.

Sky Harbor Changing the Queue Game

Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport guests flying out of Terminal 3 and Terminal 4 may reserve a time at the TSA Security Checkpoint screening area through a new program called PHX Reserve.

Participation in the PHX Reserve program is optional and free for all travelers using Sky Harbor terminals. The service provides the same high standard of security as all TSA lanes, although guests who participate in other trusted traveler programs, such as TSA PreCheck, will not be able to use their benefits in the dedicated lane.

Reservations and walk-in appointments* are available for departing and general screening passengers daily:

Terminal 3: From 4-11 a.m. the TSA checkpoint.

Eligible flights: 6 a.m. – 2 p.m.

Terminal 4: From 5:30-11 a.m. at TSA Security Checkpoint D.

Eligible flights: 7 a.m. – 2 p.m.

*Appointment availability is limited, so reserve your spot early to get an appointment time. The PHX Reserve program is not available outside the hours listed above at the TSA Security Checkpoints or for eligible flights .

How It Works:

Sign up in advance up to three days before your flight or when you arrive at the ticketing level of the terminal at the airport.

Select the airline you're flying with, destination, and flight number along with your name, number of people in your party, and contact information to save your spot.

When it is time for your appointment, go to your assigned checkpoint and look for the PHX Reserve logo or use our online map for step-by-step directions.

Show airport staff your confirmation of your appointment and go through screening.

Plan Ahead for Parking

Did you know you can pre-book and prepay for your on-airport parking? It’s true! Just go to Sky Harbor's website and book your space!

Another terrific option to avoid on-airport parking altogether? Try the 44th Street PHX Sky Train station. Located on the southwest corner of 44th St. and Washington, it’s easily accessible for pick ups and drop offs. Add in the fact you can print your boarding pass and/or check your bags right from the Sky Train station (Southwest, American, and United Airlines only), and you’ve got a great alternative to long term parking!

Don’t Forget the Snacks

We’re really lucky these days. Sky Harbor has some seriously great options for food and beverages before security, and near the gates, in each terminal. But while I love to get my Lolo’s on at Terminal 4, you’ll want to hedge your bets in case your favorite spot isn’t open for your very early AM, or red-eye, departure. Plan on bringing snacks from home - my personal fave is Monster Mix from Target. You might also consider bringing an empty water bottle you can fill at the drinking fountains once you’re through security.


Bottom line - pack your patience and get ready to enjoy the kick off of the holiday season! Prior planning is key and will go a long way toward making your next flight a pleasant one!

For the latest information from Phoenix Sky Harbor International, go to For travel updates from the TSA, check For international travel updates, go to

Have a safe and Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at

Preferred Travel Services!


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