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Insider tips to breeze through TSA only pros know

The U.S. Transportation Security Administration isn’t always looked upon kindly by weary travelers who have to endure long security lines at airports. But there’s another side to the TSA. It’s one of the friendliest government agencies you will ever meet on social media. If you have a question about air travel, what you can pack in your checked bags, or if you can tuck an orange into your carry-on, then ask away. The TSA will answer.

How to talk to the TSA

The TSA has an active presence on popular social sites Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, but Twitter and Facebook are the best places to ask questions. The TSA is available for your travel queries every day of the year, but it keeps Twitter and Facebook Messenger hours from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Eastern on weekdays and from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Eastern on weekends and holidays.

The @AskTSA account on Twitter lets you send text-only questions or include an image. This is a quick way to find out if you can pack an unusual item in your carry-on or checked luggage. Just snap a photo and tweet it to @AskTSA.

The TSA has recently answered questions ranging from whether you can bring a bouquet of flowers through the security checkpoint (yes, but only with no water and you must put them in a bin or on the belt for X-ray screening) to whether you can take a drone with you (you can bring it through the checkpoint, but contact your air carrier for specific policies on bringing it aboard the aircraft).

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The Ask TSA Facebook page looks pretty barebones because the agency will only respond to queries sent through the site’s Messenger service. You can’t leave comments or questions on the page itself. The TSA has earned Facebook’s hard-to-get “Typically replies instantly” badge for its snappy Messenger responses. Keep reading to find out what happened when we put it to the test.

If you don’t want to use Facebook or Twitter, you can still get in touch with the TSA the old-fashioned way by calling its customer service hotline at 866-289-9673 during the agency’s business hours.

Testing the TSA

The TSA boasts, “it’s magical how fast you’ll get an answer.” So how fast is that really? sent the TSA a question through the Ask TSA Facebook page using Messenger. “Can I pack my laptop in my checked luggage?” we asked. It took the TSA a mere two minutes to send a friendly response: “Sure thing, laptops are allowed in checked bags.”

We sent a follow-up asking if the laptop battery needs to be removed. Again, it took just two minutes to hear back with “Batteries can remain in your laptop in checked bags. Spare (uninstalled) lithium batteries must be packed in carry-on bags.” The TSA representative also sent along a handy link for more information. That’s a lightning-fast turnaround time for both questions.

Top TSA travel tips

While you can ask the TSA for guidance with specific questions, the agency also offers some general travel tips that will help make your experience go more smoothly:

  • Double-check carry-on bags before you leave to make sure you haven’t accidentally packed any knives, liquids over 3.4 ounces, or other prohibited items.
  • The liquid rule for carry-ons applies to more than just beverages. Common travel items like sunscreen, toothpaste, shampoo, lotion, spray or gel deodorant, and insect repellants all come under the rule.
  • You can bring food through the checkpoint, but it is subject to X-ray screening and can’t include liquids over the limit of 3.4 ounces.
  • Medications, whether pills or liquids, are allowed in carry-on bags, but must be screened. There is an exception to the 3.4-ounce rule for medically necessary liquids or creams. Just be sure to inform the TSA security officer when you reach the checkpoint.
  • Arrive two hours before your domestic departure or three hours before your international departure to allow plenty of time to get through security.
  • Wear slip-on shoes if possible in order to get through the checkpoint quickly.

Navigate crowded airports with ease with these essential tips.

No matter how serious or how seemingly trivial your travel-security question might be, the TSA is there to answer it, so take advantage of its social media access. You will no longer have to wonder if you can pack a can of green beans in your checked luggage (the answer is yes).

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