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TRAVEL TIPS & INTEL

How to Breeze Through Airport Security and Customs (Without an Expedited Security Program)

family at airport_security
Written by Suzy Guese

When it comes to breezing through airport security, you’ll probably meet advice urging you to join an expedited security program. And while these programs can significantly cut your wait times at airport security and customs, they don’t come without a price. If you want to get through security and customs quickly, you generally have to pay up and go through a lengthy application process to join an expedited security program. If you don’t want to shell out the cash or the time to join one of these programs, there are several measures you can take to expedite customs and security.

Get the Mobile Passport App

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You don’t necessarily need Global Entry to breeze through customs when you come back to the US from abroad. You might just surpass those at the Global Entry kiosks if you have the Mobile Passport App. The free app saves your basic information including your passport number, expiration date, and a photo of your passport.

When you land back in the US, you can open up the app and answer the questions you normally fill out on the declaration form, given before landing. Upon answering these questions, you’ll then receive a QR code receipt to take to customs. Travelers with the app then head to designated Mobile Passport Control lines where an agent scans the receipt, looks at your passport, and in most cases, allows you to continue on your journey. Many travelers don’t know that they can use the app to get through customs faster so you can often beat the crowds by using it. The Mobile Passport App works at 24 airports and 1 cruise port.

Research Secret Airport Security Checkpoints in Advance

You might be waiting in long airport security lines when another checkpoint across the airport has no wait. Most airports have a main security checkpoint or checkpoints. If you head for the most obvious one, chances are you’ll meet a line and a wait that goes with it. Instead, travelers can do a bit of research before they leave for the airport on all of the security checkpoints available to them. You should especially do this if you are traveling through an airport that isn’t familiar to you. Find out where the security checkpoints are and seek out ones that are less popular or further afield. You’ll probably find less of a wait in the process.

Obtain Wait Time Information Before Selecting a Line

If you know what checkpoints have longer waits, you can make a more informed decision about which one to use. There are several apps that monitor wait times at security such as the MyTSA app, GateGuru, and MiFlight. You can also generally find wait time information on airport websites. You can use this information before you head to security so that you’re selecting the checkpoint with the shortest wait time.

Observe the Travelers in Each Line and Avoid Middle Lanes

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If an airport has one large security checkpoint, chances are there are several lanes within that one checkpoint. Most travelers have a tendency to head for the middle lane. Go against the tides and head furthest away from the middle. In addition to avoiding middle lanes, assess which lanes have travelers who will get through security quicker. For example, a lane with two families will be slower than one with several solo business travelers. Look at how many bags the travelers have in front of you. Pick the lane with fewer speed bumps, the one without baby strollers, or passengers with a lot of baggage.

Do you have any other tips to add that help you fly through airport security? Let us know in the comments below.

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About the author

Suzy Guese

Suzy Guese is a travel writer from Denver, Colorado. She caught the travel bug after taking her very first flight at just three months old—she was headed for Disney World—and has been a total travel junkie ever since. From family car trips across North America to stints abroad in Europe, Suzy travels the globe with her redheaded temperament in search of sarcasm, stories, and travel tips to share with anyone willing to listen. She blogs about her travels at http://suzyguese.com.