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There are several tricks of the trade that travel pros use to make their airport security experience easier and quicker. We reveal all in this article by sharing several TSA Tips designed to help you get through airport security faster!
For the month of August we are focusing on Airport Travel Tips and Tricks. Yup, each Tuesday we will do a deep dive into some factor of airport life. Enjoy! By the way, you can read all of the preceding Travel Tip Tuesday’s here.
Travel Tip Tuesday Tip #29 – Get through Airport Security Faster – TSA Tips you need to know
The airport security checkpoint. It might strike fear in the hearts of novice passengers but for savvy travel pros it really not big deal. Why, you ask? Because they understand the rules of the system, they are prepared, and they have a good routine.
If you want to learn how to get through the airport security process a little smoother and faster, pay attention to the following tips and your security checkpoint experiences will get simpler.
Status and/or TSA Precheck
Let’s start with a preparatory step. TSA Precheck is a service offered by the United States Government that pre-screens frquent travelers. For a nominal fee ($85.00 for five years) travelers can fill out an application, have a background check conducted, and sit through a brief interview to gain access to a special airport checkpoint lane. Once approved, the TSA will issue you a known traveler number that you can add to your airline profiles. Then, you can get access to the TSA Precheck security line and skip the masses.
The benefits of the TSA Precheck line are huge. Usually (although not always) it’s far shorter than the rest of the security lines. And it’s quicker. Much quicker. You don’t have to remove your shoes or jacket. And you can keep your laptop in your bag. Yup, you can breeze right through the checkpoint. The average amount of time it takes me to get through the TSA Precheck line (start to finish) is less than 10 minutes. Rarely does it take longer.
If you can’t (or haven’t yet) signed up for the TSA Precheck service, gaining status with your airline may help too. For example, Southwest offers A-List members a different security line which means you wait less in line. Sure, you still have to go through the normal procedures once you actually get up there, but it can reduce your wait time quite a bit. Other airlines do this as well – usually in their first class security lines.
Note that some airlines offer discounted TSA Precheck options for rewards members. Check with your airline to confirm the details.
I recommend you get TSA Precheck, but status with the airline doesn’t hurt as well.
Preparing for the security line – learn the rules and get ready BEFORE you get in line
Most of the below information applies to folks who don’t have TSA Precheck with a few minor exceptions.
Let’s start first with the rules. The TSA Security Checkpoint is designed to screen passengers for unauthorized items. There are a few key rules that you need to know before you and I’ve generalized them below (always consult the TSA’s website for the latest information):
- No large liquids (keep your liquids under 3 oz)
- No weapons or sharp objects
- They want to check your large electronics separately
- No bombs (obviously…but I will say it)
Assuming you comply with the above items (e.g. you don’t have a knife with you or a 40 oz bottle of Old English) there are a few other preparatory steps are important too and I do these steps before I get into the line or before I get to the actual screening systems:
- Remove your belt (you may not always need to move your belt, but I do it anyway)
- Remove your jacket
- Get your laptop (and other large electronics) ready to easily pull out (for example, I unzip the pocket to my laptop pouch
- Empty your pockets
- No metal
- Remove your ID for easy presentation to the TSA agent
Before I enter the line I will remove my belt and stow it in my bag. Anything I have in my pockets I stow in my bag. I may keep my coat on depending on the circumstances, but sometimes I will actually stick it in my suitcase or carry it once I get a little closer to the line.
Note: With TSA Precheck you don’t have to remove your coat…which is pretty nice.
I carry two phones and I use mobile boarding passes. I always remove my ID from my wallet. I stow my 2nd phone in my bag, keep the phone with my boarding pass out and my ID handy.
Presenting your ID
When you get to the actual TSA Agent, hand him/her your ID and place your mobile boarding pass on the screener. It will only take a second or two. Occasionally they will ask you a question or two. Unless you have a reason to be nervous…don’t be. And if you do…yeah, I hope they catch you.
TSA Tips on Getting Screened
If you are prepared, this is a breeze. If not, you will be a fumbling bumbling mess. I have a system and since I am prepared it usually goes pretty quick.
First up is to grab two bins. I always grab two bins. Its all I need. One for my laptop, one for my shoes. If you need more than that…you might want to reevaluate your packing list.
Speaking of packing, check out my 11 Packing Tips for Travel (the best packing tips for air travel)
I keep my backpack on my shoulder and my rolling suitcase rolling until the last minute. I place my laptop in one bin and shoes in the other (and through my phone in that bin).
Then I stack the bins on top of each while on the table. Laptop bottom, shoes top. This make it a little easier to push along the belt and conserves a little more space. No need to stand there pushing an entire wagon train of bins and suitcases.
Since you are responsible for pushing your own gear through the screener stay with your stuff until the machine grabs it. At the last possible second I un-stack my bins and place my suitcase and backpack on the belt and push them through.
Did you know I use the Ogio Metro Backpack as my preferred backpack? It’s perfectly suited for travel and easily fits both of my laptops. Check the Amazon Price on this great backpack here.
Once they are are fully inside the screening machine I then go jump in line to have my body screened. If you have metal in your body or just prefer to have a pat down (I am not judging) you can ask for special screening. Just let the TSA Agent know and they will coordinate a pat down.
What happens if they flag you for additional screening?
Maybe you shouldn’t have left that knife in your bag…lol
Not to worry, occasionally TSA will flag you or your bag for additional screening. Maybe you forgot something in your pocket and they need to pat that area down, or maybe they need to pat all of you down. It’s going to be a minor annoyance. Roll with it. Don’t be an a-hole, let TSA do their job and you will be on your way.
If it’s bag their flagged (e.g. maybe they saw something unusual in it) they will pull you and your bags aside and either find the item manually and then clear you, or sometimes they will send the bag back through the scanner again. Occasionally, they will test the bag (or you) for bomb making material.
Again, it’s all pretty minor…if you’ve allocated enough time, and if you have enough patience. If you start freaking out or getting bent out of shape it will not help matters. Just roll with it and you will get the airport security faster.
Here is some amazing Travel Gear to make your next airport visit sweeter!
After you’ve been screened
On the other side of the line, depending on the pace of the scanner I will either start putting some of my stuff back together at the belt or pick everything up and get the heck out there making room for others. If it’s crazy busy I grab my stuff and re-assemble it elsewhere. There is usually a bench or something nearby for you to put your life back together again.
If it’s slow, though, I will move my bag as far down to the end of the belt as possible and quickly reassemble my items.
Some additional TSA tips for getting through airport security quicker
Here are some additional tips on getting through airport security faster.
- Picking Shorter or Quicker Security Lines. I also try to pick the lines that have more business travelers in it. This is common sense. If you have ever been stuck behind a family who has not traveled in 9 years, or college students who have no clue what is going on, you know what I am talking about. If you are paying attention you can spot the pros. This doesn’t always work, because sometimes you get just get screwed. I also recently read something (I can’t recall where) that suggested you take the lines on the left because people subconsciously choose the lines on the right. I have no idea if that’s true or not…
- Knowing the airport map. Also, some airports have their terminals connected, others do not. Some have less obvious security checkpoints or hidden ones that are just around the corner. Figure those out if you can. I have went through a United Terminal checkpoint because it was less busy than the Southwest Terminal checkpoint before because I knew the Terminals were connected. Make sure they are though, or you will be making a trip out and then back through security! Ugh!
- Signing up for Clear. I used to be a Clear member many years ago, but I let my membership lapse after they had some problems, but they are back in a big way and you see them in a lot more airports these days. With the popularity of TSA Precheck, Clear seems to be gaining some momentum again. You can sign up for Clear here (it’s a paid service).
Here are some more Air Travel and Airport Related Tips & Tricks
Since you stopped in, I’d encourage you check out these other articles we’ve written about air travel and airports:
- 147 Business Travel Tips – the ultimate list of road warrior tips & tricks
- Airport Travel Tips: 7 ways to optimize your airport experience
- 3 Letter Airport Codes – their history, funny ones and more
- Top Travel Pillows – the best travel pillows for 2019
- 101 Travel Hacks for the Business Traveler – the Best Business Travel Hacks
Thanks for tuning in to Travel Tip Tuesday!
Thanks for tuning in this week! Please check back each Tuesday for a new travel tip. This August we are focusing on airport tips and tricks so be sure to check back in!
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- The Ultimate List of the Best Travel Blogs 2019 Edition