The recent government shutdown, the longest in US history, left many people wondering how their lives would be impacted—particularly when it comes to their travel plans.
Airports become chaotic during events like these, to say the least. However, that doesn’t mean you need to cancel your trip. With the right planning and a little patience, you can get your vacation, business meeting, or visit home off on the right foot.
Here’s everything you need to know about travling during a TSA disruption.
1. Get to the airport early—even if you have TSA PreCheck
TSA agents are one of the “essential” groups of employees that are still required to appear for work during the shutdown. But without the guarantee of a paycheck, many agents are calling in “sick”—leaving many airports understaffed.
The lack of adequate staff has prompted a few airports, including Houston and LAX, to close terminals. With fewer security lines open, this means lines can be longer.
While most airports are experiencing security line wait times at around the TSA average of 30 minutes, others could take up to an hour and a half to get through–and up to an hour for PreCheck.
Get to the airport at least an hour or two earlier than you originally planned. It’s better to be there too soon than too late!
2. Follow the rules
TSA maintains that the quality of their checks has not been diminished because of the shutdown, so now isn’t the time to think you can smuggle a whole bottle of shampoo into your carry-on.
The same rules for flying apply during the shutdown, meaning you still need to stick to TSA’s security guidelines. Limit the number of liquids, gels, or aerosols you’re bringing in your carry on and avoid packing any prohibited items.
You should also be ready with your ID, boarding pass, and bag of liquids ready to go by the time you reach the front of the security line. Don’t wait until the last minute to dig your things out of your bag.
3. Remember to be polite
Traveling can be a stressful time for anyone, especially when you’re worried about missing your flight. However, the shutdown has created confusion and disorder for a lot of people—especially airport employees.
TSA agents haven’t gotten paid and aren’t sure when their next paycheck is coming. While they’re there to ensure your safety and protection, remember that they have a lot going on.
A simple smile, acknowledgment of their hard work, or even just a bit of patience can go a long way.
Safely Traveling During the Shutdown
All in all, your travel plans shouldn’t be drastically different during the government shutdown—at least not at this point. However, you should also be prepared for delays or long lines.
Plan to get to the airport ahead of schedule and ensure your carry-on is appropriately packed with your ID, liquid bag and any large electronics easily accessible. Remain polite and respectful and you’ll get through airport security in a breeze.