We know this because long before the holidays approached, the airlines hit record highs for lost luggage (1.68 million bags were mishandled between May and August, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, though that improved slightly in September) and record numbers of passengers (72.2 million on U.S. carriers in July alone.) Though on-time performance was much better in September than during last winter's storms, we all know that one good weather system can bring the air travel system to a halt.
Sounds grim. But don't cancel your reservations: How else are you going to get to Grandma's? Instead, follow our tips:
TSA's local spokeswoman, Sari Koshetz, says the average time to clear security at Miami International is 20-25 minutes (though I got caught a few weeks ago in lines that stretched to 37 minutes.)
Times can vary; check with your airline. Spirit Airlines -- plagued earlier this year by monster back-ups -- advises allowing a total of three hours for security and other processes at Fort Lauderdale.
Can't quite manage? Travel expert Peter Greenberg suggests Fed-Exing bags ahead. This can get pricey -- and it means you have to pack those items in advance. But if your company has a good Fed Ex contract, you might be able to send a box for as little at $30.
If you've got breast milk or medications that exceed the 3-ounce limit, don't panic, says Koshetz of the TSA. Pull it out of your bag and declare it to the screener.
IF YOU HAVE TO CHECK BAGS
PHOTO: Courtesy of Hefty OneZip Products.