It won't be easy, but many on move

TRAVEL TIPS: Pack carefully, leave early and print boarding passes at home

December 21, 2010 

Planes, trains and automobiles. However you travel this holiday season, brace for crowds.

Call it a sign of the recovering economy, but more Americans will be traveling this year over Christmas and New Year’s. That means fuller flights, busier highways and higher prices for gas and hotels.

Flying? You’ll be among 43.6 million passengers flying in the United States over the next three weeks, says the Air Transport Association of America. The busiest days will be today through Thursday; then Dec. 26-30; and Jan. 2 and 3.

Seattle-Tacoma International Airport expects 97,650 passengers Thursday, its busiest day.

Driving? Join the crowd. AAA says 9 out of 10 of us will go by car. It estimates 85.7 million people will drive 50 miles or more to destinations between Thursday and Jan. 2, also up 3 percent.

Taking the train? If mudslides keep stopping trains between Seattle and Vancouver, B.C., or Portland, Amtrak will get you there but by bus.

Pack your patience along with holiday gifts, and keep these travel tips in mind.

ANTICIPATE DELAYS

If the weather is bad , check your flight’s status before leaving for the airport, and sign up for e-mail, voice or text alerts.

With planes flying nearly full, be proactive about checking on seat availability on other flights. Try the phone apps at mobile. flightstats.com  , and a map at www.flightstats.com   that shows which airports have delays.

Amtrak posts updates at www.amtrak.com  . Amtrak replaces trains with buses when mudslides block the tracks.

As for the highways? Best advice: Get an early start. Pack some snacks and extra clothing. And before you leave, check road conditions at www.wsdot.   wa.gov/traffic   or phone 511.

BE READY FOR SECURITY

With the new full-body scanners at U.S. airports, including Sea-Tac, you have the option to decline and walk though a metal detector instead, but you’ll also get a full-body pat-down.

CHECK YOUR ID

Print your boarding pass at home and check that your name matches your official identification .

New federal rules are in place, so if you booked your ticket before Nov. 1, call the airline to check that it has your name, birth date and gender recorded correctly. And don’t forget to bring your ID.

WATCH THOSE LIQUIDS

Leave the snow globes and homemade jam at home, or put them in checked bags.

Transportation Security Administration rules limit the size of each container of liquid or gel in carry-ons to 3.4 ounces (100 milliliters) or less; your items need to fit in a single quart-size plastic bag.

Homemade items such as jellies, oils and salad dressings should be packed in checked luggage or mailed. Leave gifts unwrapped. See www.tsa.gov.

PACK LIGHTLY

Except for Southwest Airlines, carriers charge for checking bags. Check your airline’s website for details or see a feecomparison chart at www. smartertravel.com  . Pay checkedbag fees online to avoid extra fees at airports.

Put cameras, iPods, cell phones, jewelry and other valuables in your carry-on. Airlines won’t take responsibility for valuables packed in checked luggage.

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