Holiday travel tips

Check out our 10 tips for merrier holiday travel.

The holiday travel season has begun, with many more travelers than usual adding to long security line wait times at airports. We want to make sure you arrive at your gate with plenty of time to catch your flight.

Here's some of our best advice for making your holiday season airport experience as stress-free as possible.

1. Head to the airport early.

To make sure you can wind your way through the festive traveling crowds and get through security with time to spare, we recommend arriving the airport at least 2 hours before your domestic flight departs, and 3 hours before your international flight.

Be aware of heavier than usual traffic heading to the airport, and consider carpooling, taking public transit, or having friends drop you off to avoid full parking lots.

2. Go digital.

Check in for your flight online. Download and use the Alaska Airlines app to save time waiting in ticket counter lines. Our app offers you digital boarding passes, lets you track your flight status (especially important during the winter holidays when the weather can cause delays), sends notifications about your flight, gives you the chance to change to earlier or later flights (if available), and so much more.

Also, be sure to download the Gogo® Entertainment App before you head to the airport; it's quicker and easier to do this on the ground than while using the slower Wi-Fi connection on the plane. This will help you start watching free movies and TV shows more quickly onboard.

3. Leave gifts unwrapped.

Since security checks everything our guests carry on board, make sure you leave any gifts you're bringing along unwrapped for your trip. It's best to wrap them once you arrive, instead.

4. Be smart about smart bags.

Many guests have asked about smart bags - luggage that includes charging devices, or use a lithium battery-powered electric motor. We do accept these bags with batteries/power banks that can be removed without the use of a tool. Bags with non-removable lithium batteries, power banks, or batteries that require a tool to be removed will not be accepted as checked or carry-on baggage. Learn more about our smart bag policy, and look through our prohibited items baggage policy, too.

5. Know our carry-on limits.

You are allowed one carry-on bag, plus one smaller personal item. Read our specific guidelines for carry-on baggage; since we recently changed our bag size limit to 22" x 14" x 9" it's important to make sure your carry-on bag will fit this new size requirement. When measuring your bag, be sure to include the wheels and handle in the total measurement.

6. Preprint bag tags and check your bags.

You'll likely make it through the security line even quicker by reducing your carry-on items. We recommend checking your bags instead. Brush up on our checked baggage policy and then print your own bag tags at home to save even more time at the airport.

7. Consider joining a trusted traveler program.

If you have time before the holidays, enroll in a trusted traveler program "This indicates a link to an external site that may not meet accessibility guidelines." like TSA Pre-Check®, Global Entry, Nexus, or SENTRI. Membership in these programs allows you access to the faster security screening lanes at participating airports, where you don't have to remove your shoes, belts, or light jackets, and your 3-1-1 liquids bag and laptop can stay in your carry-on.

8. Prepare your carry-on liquids.

The TSA liquids rule "This indicates a link to an external site that may not meet accessibility guidelines." allows you to carry one quart-sized bag of liquids - aerosols, gels, creams and pastes that are 3.4 ounces (100 milliliters) or less per item - through the security checkpoint. Be sure to keep the liquids bag easily accessible, so that it's simple for you to drop it into the security bin without digging through your carry-on bag at the checkpoint. Don't forget to empty your water bottle before going through security; it's easy to forget it in your purse or briefcase.

9. Pet travel can be complicated, so plan ahead.

Taking your pet along for the holidays does take some advance planning. Be sure to familiarize yourself with our policies on traveling with pets well before you fly. An important note: pets cannot travel in the baggage compartment or in the First Class cabin on flights operated with Airbus aircraft, which are flight numbers 1000-1999. Also, guests traveling on Alaska Airlines flights 2000-2999 or flights 3300-3499 may not check pets in the baggage or cargo compartments during the following dates:

  • November 15 - November 27, 2018
  • December 13, 2018 through January 3, 2019

Pets in the cabin will still be accepted during these time periods.

If you're traveling with a service or emotional support animal, be aware that our requirements have changed recently. Read through our updated policy on support animals for all of the documents and timelines you'll need.

10. Be prepared for the security line.

The holiday wait times for TSA security checkpoints can definitely put a serious dent in the even cheeriest person's holiday spirit. Here are some ideas to help things move more quickly for everyone.

Before stepping into the security line, remove your jacket, belt, larger metal jewelry, and the contents of all your pockets, and place them into your bags to pass through the scanner. Wear shoes that are easily removable, or untie or loosen your shoelaces if you can. Have your boarding pass and acceptable ID ready to hand to the screening agent.

When you're getting ready for the scanners, remember that personal electronic devices larger than a cell phone - this includes laptops, tablets, e-readers, and handheld game consoles ??? must be placed in a bin alone for screening.

Once your bags and bin have gone through the scanner, pick them up and move them away from the scanner conveyor belt to a nearby bench or chair. You'll have more time to put your shoes and belt back on and return your liquids bag back to your suitcase, while letting those behind you in line to more easily pick up their items from the scanner.