This blog post was updated on February 6, 2023.
Going through TSA airport security screenings wouldn’t be considered the highlight of anyone’s trip. If you’re not prepared for what’s coming, things can quickly become frustrating. First, there’s all the drama and hassle of getting you and your things through the scanners: pulling off belts and hats, whipping off shoes, struggling to find an additional basket for your laptop.
And then, horror of horrors, TSA agents tell you they need to pull you aside for pat down or additional screening. Why? Because you didn’t prepare properly or at all.
Here 6 things you can do ahead of time to get through TSA airport screenings — whether domestic or international — faster and with a lot less hassle.
Join an expedited security program
If you’re a frequent traveler, you might want to join an expedited security program: TSA PreCheck, Clear, and the Global Entry Program are some of the most popular options. Entrance into these programs will set you back around $100, but they do away with some of the time-consuming steps you normally have to undergo at security and customs checkpoints.
The Global Entry Program was established by U.S. Customs and Border Protection to help lower-risk travelers gain clearance in an expedited fashion. Since it includes TSA PreCheck, this program will also help you get through TSA airport security quicker. You can apply for all of these programs online.
Monitor wait times
One of the more practical ways to avoid security lines at the airport is to monitor wait times and aim to go when the airport is the least busy. Apps like Fleet or MiFlight provide constant updates on waiting times for security in airports around the world. Some airports even have this information listed on their official website. Or you can go directly to the source and download the official TSA app, called MyTSA. Or you could just go Old School and head to the airport early and keep an eye on the length of the security line and approaching when there’s a lull.
We’re all familiar with the adage, “dress for the occasion.” Since airport security is an occasion unto itself, it demands a special kind of strategy when it comes to choosing and organizing your wardrobe and personal belongings.
First, be sure to move any loose items from your pockets and into your carry-on luggage. This way, you won’t be wasting time fishing for your keys, wallet, phone, and other gadgets and gizmos when in line. Anything you’re not comfortable placing in your luggage can go in your jacket and be quickly reclaimed on the other side of the X-ray machines. It’s also best to avoid wearing anything metal like jewelry of size, hair clips, belts with metal buckles and bras with underwire.
When it comes to footwear, it’s advisable to go with something that’s easy to take on and off. Messing with complicated straps, strings, or other newfangled contraptions will only cause you to spend more valuable time in line. A loose pair of sneakers or slipper-like shoes are best. And don’t forget to wear socks! They’ll protect you from the nasty airport floor that never seems to get cleaned enough.
RELATED: Everything You Need to Know About Expedited Security Programs
Don’t overdo it with electronics
It’s one thing to have a camera and a laptop in your carry-on bag. But you’re going to call attentio to yourself if you carry a laptop, a DSLR with 3 separate lenses, a tripod, an iPad. You might be asking for an extra screening of the items in your bag with all that gear.
If you’re carrying a laptop, netbook, or iPad, remove it from the bag and sleeve. Place the laptop in its own separate bin for scanning. We all know that security standards vary by country, but it’s wise to do this no matter where you to keep the line flowing.
Have your paperwork ready
TSA airport security isn’t just there to make you sure you don’t have any restricted items in your luggage or on your person. They’re also responsible for ensuring that you have the required documents to fly: a boarding ticket and government-issued ID. Having these documents ready can make it easier to get through that initial document check and on your way to the security lines quicker.
Before you approach the line, make sure you have both your ID and ticket in your hand or easily accessible. You could even invest in some specially-designed travel wallets that hold both your ID and boarding card so you don’t have to worry about keeping track of both. Alternatively, if you download your boarding passes to your phone, you won’t have to worry about keeping track of multiple pieces of paper.
Be on your best behavior
Do not talk back to agents, cause a scene, or disobey the rules. We know security checkpoints aren’t among the happiest places in the world, but a good attitude can go a long way in making the experience better for all parties involved. And DON’T make any jokes, especially about having a concealed weapon or illicit drugs. TSA staff aren’t known for their sense of humor, and you could find yourself the subject of an “advanced” search as a result. Save the jokes for open mic night.
Do you have any tips about getting through TSA security without a hitch? Let us know in the comments below.
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