TSA Tips for Safe Holiday Travel

ABC News’ Jason Ryan and Alicia Tarancon report:

Long security lines, children crying, flights delayed, overbooked or even cancelled.  Oh yes, the holiday season has finally arrived. And for travelers, that means millions of people flocking to airports, which can lead to a rather hectic holiday experience.  John Pistole, the administrator of the Travel and Safety Administration (TSA) is offering passengers tips that will hopefully make their travels a lot easier and safer for the holidays.

Security is on everybody’s mind and TSA is making sure that they ramp up security for those visiting family this season.

“Obviously we’re expecting a large number of people traveling over the holiday season, [with] Thanksgiving coming up, we’re expecting perhaps as many as 3 percent more people traveling than last year,” he said.

People traveling this year can also anticipate a few changes while going through the security lines this year, especially while traveling with children.

“Children 12 and under will be allowed to keep their shoes on generally, we’ll still do random and unpredictable [checks] in case there’s something suspicious, but that addresses a lot of the hassle factor if you will, the inconvenience especially with small children if they have tie shoes and things like that,” Pistole said.

The other change is the “privacy filters,” which are simply the generic outline of a person going through the imaging machine. Currently the TSA has the privacy software upgrades on the Millimeterwave technology, which is more than half of the estimated 500 Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT) machines in place at airports. TSA officials say they will begin testing the privacy software on AIT Backscatter systems later this year. Backscatter uses a low range X-ray, where millimeter wave is radio wave.

Privacy however, still remains a concern for many passengers dealing with security at airports. TSA is working on better technology so passengers can keep their shoes and jackets on, and that showing “too much” in these body imaging machines will one day no longer be an issue.

Already, the TSA Pre-Check “Trusted Traveler” Program is currently being implemented in four airports. Passengers who have voluntarily given out their information in Detroit, Dallas Ft. Worth, Miami, and Atlanta airports no longer have to take off their shoes, jackets, and belts.

“The more we know about people who are traveling, the better judgments and decisions we can make,” Pistole said.

When it comes to gifts, leave the expensive gift wrap at home.

“There’s not too many ways of resolving [it] other than opening up the package, so for example last weekend, we found two Christmas packages, wrapped packages, one had probably 50 pounds of marijuana in it,” Pistole said.

So save the gift-wrap for your destination.

Finally, people looking for additional travel tips before they take off for the holidays can visit the TSA website.

“There’s a number of travel tips, especially for those who don’t travel frequently to look at, because not only can you help yourself get through security more quickly and efficiently, but those who are behind you in line — you can help them get through more quickly and efficiently also,” Pistole said.