One big change this year: a new security measure being phased in by the Department of Homeland Security that will require airline passengers to submit their full name (including middle name), birth date, and gender when booking a ticket. The idea behind the questioning is that this extra information will cut down on cases of mistaken identity. Although small differences between your ID and boarding pass shouldn't be problematic right now, consistency will help to minimize your time in line.
Airport security lines can often be one of the biggest travel hassles. Anne Banas, executive editor of SmarterTravel.com offers several tips to speed your way through security:
Know what 3-1-1 means. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) regulations restrict the amount of liquids you can take on the plane. Each passenger is allowed to fill a single, quart-sized, clear plastic bag with 3-ounce (technically, 3.4-ounce) containers of liquids. Exceptions are made for medications, baby food, and breast milk, but these items must be declared.
Pack carry-ons neatly. Use clear zip-top bags to help organize your clothes, and pack in layers so that screeners can easily see what is inside, and coil electronic cords carefully. If transportation security officers (TSOs) can't tell what is in your bag from an X-ray, your bags will likely have to go through an extra manual search.
Pack holiday goods appropriately. If you're flying home for the holidays, don't wrap gifts, since TSOs may have to unwrap them for inspection. Also, liquid and gel-like foods, such as cranberry sauce, gravy, and salad dressing will be confiscated, so ship them ahead or put them in your checked bag. Cakes and pies are allowed, but may require additional screening.
Dress for success. Before you head to the airport, empty your pockets of loose change, wear minimal jewelry, and avoid wearing a belt so you have fewer items to remove for the metal detector. Wear shoes that are easy to slip off and on. And if your travels include someplace cold, try to wear one jacket you can remove easily.
Choose your line carefully. Many airports now offer three lines for travelers: Expert, Casual, and Family. If you're traveling with little ones or have liquids that must be declared, choosing the latter will help minimize stress.
With millions of people traveling through airports, train and bus stations – let alone the confined space of those planes, trains and buses – the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is urging people to take extra caution.
"People are in close contact -- whether they're on a plane, train, ship or just visiting with loved ones," Dr. Anne Schuchat, director of CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said in a statement. "We know that flu -- and specifically H1N1 this year -- is a big concern for people, but flu shouldn't ruin the holidays. By practicing a little prevention, people can enjoy their holidays and stay well at the same time."
The CDC suggests traveling only when feeling well, getting vaccinations, washing hands often and covering coughs and sneezes with a tissue or sleeve.
The nation's passenger rail service says it expects Wednesday to be the heaviest single travel day of the year. It is predicting as many as 125,000 passengers. (A typical Wednesday last year had 74,000 passengers.)