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How to Get Through Airport Security Faster

Passengers lining up at a check-in counter at the airport
Elena Elisseeva/Shutterstock

The most dreadful part of air travel is undoubtedly getting through security. While we can’t promise to make it a total walk in the park, we can offer some tried and true tips to get you through faster.

Join An Expedited Security Program

You know when you’re waiting to go through the body scanner, and there’s always a line that goes through much faster than yours, and you can’t help but wish you were one of those lucky people? Well, if you sign up for the TSA PreCheck program, you can join the group. This government-run program makes it possible for you to be classified as a trusted traveler in their books and enjoy expedited screening every time you fly.

All you have to do is submit an application, wait for them to process a background check and then leave your days of long waits and invasive checks behind. For a five-year membership that costs $85, you can go through security without having to take off your jacket, shoes, or belt, and you can leave your laptop and your liquids in your bag. 

For more information about TSA PreCheck and a host of related programs for both US and international travelers, check out our in-depth look at the topic here.

Become An Elite Airline Member

When you hold elite status with an airline, you automatically qualify to bypass the long waiting line for security screening. This is valid for any elite member of any airline, and if you’re traveling with a companion, you can bring them along. However, this service doesn’t work if you’re already in the TSA PreCheck line. 

Becoming an elite member usually entails collecting miles and minimum spending per year, but you can speed up the process by getting your hands on airline credit cards that make it possible to reach your goal through a points-earning system. 

Check Waiting Times In Advance

If you have some flexibility on the day of departure, you can plan to reach the airport at the best time for you to get through security. The TSA’s own app MyTSA, as well as third-party apps like MiFlight and Terminal Buddy display the waiting times of the lines at the terminal of your interest hours before your flight. This way, you’re aware of what to expect, and you can make a more informed decision about your arrival at the airport. 

Check-In Online

On top of the various checkpoints and screening processes that slow us down and make us wish we were already at our destination, we can’t forget about the very first line we have to deal with on arrival: the check-in line. Luckily, there’s a way to speed things up a little, and it doesn’t take much.

Most airlines let you check-in online within 24 hours of your departure sending you the boarding pass via e-mail and redirecting you to the line for baggage drop off, which is much quicker than the regular one. You can either print a paper copy of your boarding pass and bring it with you or download the airline’s app and do everything through it. 

Pack According to Regulations

TSA agent examining the contents of a carry on bag

Everybody knows there are rules to packing for a flight. From your checked bag that must not contain flammable objects or firearms to your carry-on that must not contain liquids of more than 100ml or sharp objects, there are regulations for passengers to stick to if they want the screening process to go smoothly.

Before going through security, make sure your carry-on is well packed to save yourself and the people behind you some time. Put your liquids and creams in the appropriate concealed see-through bag, keep your laptop or tablet at reach, and keep your passport where you can see it. Make the unpacking process easy and quick and avoid having the TSA agents selecting your bag for a double check. 

Check Your Bag

Unless you can fit everything you need inside your carry-on, consider dropping your bag at check-in. It can save you time and the trouble of having your things searched by TSA agents. If you’re bringing your laptop, consider investing in a TSA-approved laptop bag that lets you keep your computer inside it as you send it towards the X-ray machine. One less thing to worry about.

Choose an Appropriate Outfit

Nobody likes having to strip in public to go through a scanner, let alone being personally searched by a stranger. To avoid that kind of situation choose to wear simple and comfortable clothing that have few to no pockets or metal features and shoes that you can easily slip on and off. A jacket with big pockets that you can quickly put on and pack with all your loose items like your passport and phone can also come in handy once you’re gathering your belongings post-screening. If you like to travel in style, simply pack your outfit on your carry-on and change into it once you reach your gate. 

Keep Documents at Hand

Though uncomfortable and inconvenient at times, make sure you always have your passport and boarding pass on hand. You don’t want to get stuck at a checkpoint scrambling through your bag trying to find your ID for verification. If you want complete peace of mind, you can also make copies of all your documents and keep them with you in case your phone battery dies, or you lose your ticket in the process of getting there. 

Choose Your Line Wisely 

It’s counterintuitive, but shortest doesn’t always mean fastest. There are certain elements you should take into account when selecting the line to stand on when going through security. Large groups, like sports teams and travel tours, and families tend to slow down the line as they tend to stick to their pack and get distracted very easily. Scan through the crowd and pick the line with the people carrying less and seem prepared to get through security. 

Don’t Forget to Smile

Sometimes, it’s inevitable to feel intimidated or irritated by a TSA agent. They don’t always seem to be enjoying their jobs, though if you think about it sitting there for hours on end doing the same thing over and over again can make anyone feel moody. As such, you can play it safe by merely being friendly and confident. This will prevent them from giving you odd looks or hold you for a longer time. The more polite you are, the fastest you’ll be let through. 

Airports don’t have to be the bane of your existence as a traveler. There are multiple ways for you to get through security quickly, and if you follow this advice, you’ll be on your way before you know it. 

Carla Cometto Carla Cometto
Carla has been writing professionally for five years and blogging for many more. She's worked as a journalist, photographer, and translator. She's also an avid traveler who hopes to inspire a sense of curiosity and adventure in others through her writing. Read Full Bio »
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