We all know going through airport security is a drag – long lines, lack of privacy, too many rules and regulations to keep up with and of course the dreaded random searches. In order to make this experience less of a nightmare, it helps to be prepared. We’ll give you the best tips on how to pack in order to get through security quickly as well as a few strategies to make the TSA checkpoint a breeze.
Sign Up for TSA PreCheck
If you are a frequent flyer and considered “low-risk”you may have an opportunity to sign up for TSA PreCheck and experience faster security lines without the removal of your belt, shoes or jacket or having to take out your laptop and 3-1-1 compliant bag. To be eligible, you’ll most likely receive an invitation from an airline you fly often or from a Trusted Traveler program like Global Entry or NEXUS. Keep in mind that TSA PreCheck is only available at a handful of airports but is expanding to many other airports due to its popularity. So far, it’s available at 115 airports nationwide. The unfortunate news is that you’ll have to give up some privacy by completing a pre-screening process when you sign up and the speedy lines aren’t necessarily guaranteed.
This may be obvious, but you never know how long the lines will be or how long they’ll take, so save yourself the stress and get to the airport early especially if you need to first check baggage.
First of all, before you even get to the airport, make sure you pack efficiently. Carrying more than you need or having your items disorganized can not only make it difficult to find what you need quickly, it can make screening your bag difficult for security personnel to read which in turn could mean they’ll have to open your bag. Minimize the amount of items your bring, then neatly fold and stack your clothing. Put all bulky items like shoes, books and documents across the top of your clothing and spread if evenly instead of stacking. If you bring a bag to check, this is where you’ll want to pack all your liquids, aerosols and gels as well as large coats and bulkier items.
Going through security with a laptop means you’ll have to pull it out and put it through screening. Make sure your laptop is easily accessible, whether it’s in a front pocket of your suitcase or in a zippered compartment of your briefcase, have it out in time.
If you are bringing gifts with you, do not wrap them. Otherwise, you may have to unwrap them during the screening process if a security officer needs to inspect it. The best way to avoid this problem and not have an over-packed suitcase, is to ship your gifts to your destination before you travel.
Follow the Rules
Chances are if you’ve been to an airport within the past 13 years, you are already very aware of what to bring and what not to bring to the airport. But, in case you need a refresher here’s a list of prohibited items.
Reading the signs at the beginning of the security line should let you know exactly what you’ll need to have ready. However, in case you aren’t aware of the process, you’ll need to have a form of identification and boarding pass in your hand to show to a security officer. Put these items in a front pocket or your personal carry-on bag so that you can easily get to them and put them away quickly. If you are not able to provide your ID and boarding pass you will have to undergo additional screening.
If you plan on carrying on, make sure you follow the 3-1-1 rule. For your toiletries, have one clear quart-sized, plastic, zip-top bag ready with only 3.4 oz (or less) liquids, gels or aerosols. Put this in the front outside pocket of your suitcase, briefcase or tote so it is easily accessible when the time comes.
Avoid wearing clothing with an excessive amount of metal parts or you may have to go through additional screening if you set off the metal detector. This also means that you will have to remove all items from your pockets/clothing including cell phone, money, keys, jewelry, wallet and belt and either place these items ahead of time in front pocket of your carry-on bag or in a bin to go through screening.
Since you will have to remove your shoes through the screening process, try to bring slip-on shoes if you have them.
Get the App
The TSA has a very useful app you can download to your smart phone which will show you what items are prohibited or not, security wait times posted from other passengers, informational videos and more.