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December holiday travel expected to reach near pre-pandemic levels, TSA says

The agency offered tips to help people move through airport security more quickly this holiday season.

NORFOLK, Va. — Author's note: The video above is on file from Nov. 22, 2021.

As people get ready to celebrate Christmas with their families, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is expecting December holiday travel to reach near pre-pandemic levels.

TSA data shows that checkpoint travel numbers were much lower during the 2020 holiday season when compared to 2019. At that time, COVID-19 vaccines weren't widely available and the average numbers of new cases were some of the highest seen during the pandemic.

Now that 60% of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated against COVID-19, things are looking closer to normal.

According to the agency, just under 21 million people were screened during the 10-day Thanksgiving holiday, a trend officials expect to continue for those traveling for Christmas.

TSA is offering tips to keep things moving along at airports across the country. Here's what they're saying:

Keep in mind the rush hours

According to TSA, normal airport rush hours are 5 to 7 a.m. and 4 to 6 p.m. The agency is encouraging people to consider booking a flight outside of those hours.

Before you go, pack smart

TSA encourages people to pack properly to help facilitate the screening process at the airport. The agency has a list of what you can pack in your carry-on and checked baggage.

You can also reach out to TSA online if you have questions.

Arrive at the airport early

TSA encourages people to arrive at the airport two hours for domestic or three hours for international flights.

Follow the signs

Airports will have signs to help people move along the screening process. The agency asks people to follow those and verbal directions from airport security officers.

Be patient

TSA said its officers are working as fast as they can and many travelers are flying for the first time since the pandemic began.

The agency released a public service announcement to remind people to show gratitude and practice patience with others while traveling.

Avoid fines 

TSA asks people to respect its officers, flight crew, and other frontline workers at the airport. Also, firearms are prohibited at the checkpoint and in carry-on luggage.

Join TSA PreCheck

People who enroll in TSA PreCheck won't have to remove their shoes, belts, 3-1-1 liquids, laptops, or light jackets. According to the agency, 94% of members waited less than 5 minutes during November.

The process involves applying online and scheduling an appointment for a background check. The application costs $85 for the 5-year membership. 

TSA said those who apply on Dec. 7 would likely have their application accepted within five days.

For more information about traveling safely during the holidays, visit the TSA's website.