Tips for smooth travel when everyone else is traveling, too

Over the river and through the woods, to Grandmother’s house we go.

And so, it seems, is everyone else, all at the same time.

Whether you’re flying or driving, patience is an essential tool to carry with you when traveling this time of year.

Driving

AAA said it expects that over 107 million Americans will travel by planes, trains, and cars during the year-end holiday period from Saturday, Dec. 23, through Monday, Jan. 1.

That’s a record number of people trying to get away, and a 3.1 percent increase in travel volume compared with last year.

For the 97.4 million Americans whom AAA expects to be traveling by automobile, INRIX, a global transportation analytics company, predicts travel times during the holiday week could be as much as three times longer than the normal trip

INRIX says drivers are experiencing the greatest congestion before the holiday weekend, in the late afternoon as commuters leave work early and mix with holiday travelers.

The Arizona Department of Transportation has installed six new signs on Interstate 17 that will tell you if you’re exceeding the speed limit between Black Canyon City and Sunset Point, where crashes because of speeding cause injuries, fatalities and long delays.

“Maintain calm,” said Bart Graves, spokesman for the Department of Public Safety. “Drivers should be aware the daily volume of traffic will steadily increase starting (this) week and extending through the new year.”

Even as drivers fill the roads, and your patience wanes, it’s important not to let that affect your driving, he said. “Aggressive driving can result in citations. Focus on the safety of you and those around you.”

Tip #1: Avoid driving during peak travel times – morning and evening – if possible, and try to take alternate routes, which may normally be a bit slower, but could well be quicker this time.

Tip #2: If you’re headed to Phoenix Sky Harbor, take one of the airport shuttles from Prescott. They will get you there about as quickly as if you drive, but you don’t deal with the traffic yourself. Also, parking at the airport can be pricey, so you’ll avoid that.

A shuttle provided by a local company, running from Prescott to Sky Harbor (one-way) is about $40, per person.

Flying

The Transportation Safety Administration offers several tips for getting through the security lines as quickly as possible.

Tip #1: Get to the airport early. Always a good idea, moreso at Sky Harbor than Prescott’s airport, it’s never more important than right now, when the crush of holiday crowds tends to hold up security screening. TSA recommends arriving at the airport two hours before a domestic flight and three hours prior to an international flight.

Tip #2: Use your time in the checkpoint line wisely. While in the checkpoint line, finish your beverage. Get out your boarding pass and ID. Have them in hand when stepping up to the podium and have each person in your travel group present their own boarding pass and ID.

While you’re waiting, start to empty everything from your pockets and put those items inside your carry-on bag so that when you step up to the conveyor belt to place your belongings into bins, you will have a head start before stepping into the scanner.

The Automated Image Technology scanners detect both metallic and non-metallic items between the clothing and skin.

That means you’ll need to remove everything from your pockets.

There is a new security checkpoint protocol, and it requires that you remove all personal electronic devices larger than your cell phone to be placed in a checkpoint bin with nothing above it or below it so that TSA can get a clear X-ray image of them.

Tip #3: If you are traveling with gifts, don’t wrap them with wrapping paper and tape. If your wrapped gift triggers an alarm, the gift will have to be unwrapped for TSA officers to inspect it. Instead of wrapping a gift, consider using a gift bag or a gift box so that examining it will just mean removing the item from the gift bag or gift box without needing to unwrap it.

Snow globes are popular holiday gifts at this time of year, but if you’re traveling with a snow globe, it needs to contain 3.4 liquid ounces or less.

If you are unsure if the snow globe contains 3.4 ounces of liquid or more, the rule of thumb is that if it is smaller than a tennis ball, it’s probably 3.4 ounces or less.

Tip #4: Traveling with food items during the holiday is okay. If you’ve spent time baking your favorite Christmas cookies, fruitcake, pie or other holiday treats, you can bring those sweets and other food items with you when you fly.

If the food item is a solid, then you can pack it in your carry-on bag, but if the food item is spreadable or pourable, then it must be 3.4 liquid ounces or less.

Otherwise, put it in a checked bag.