Whether you travel frequently or once every few years, we all want to get through airport security lines faster. There’s nothing like planning for a big trip, arriving at the airport, and feeling completely deflated once you spot the security line is nearly out the door.
What can you do to get through airport security lines faster? Here are a few of my tips:
Have All of Your Information Handy
Prepare beforehand and have your driver’s license or passport and ticket in your hand and ready to go when you hit the TSA line. I always feel frustrated when I’m in line and I have to watch people fumble through their belongings as if they never thought they would need to show an ID and their ticket.
TSG Tip: Pack these items in the outer pocket of your carry on bag and double check not only that they’re there, but that you know where they are before you leave for the airport. Then once you arrive, put them in your hand and enter the TSA line.
Prepare in Advance for Waiting in Line
If you know you’re going to the airport, then you know you’re going through security.
- Put your jewelry in your carry on, including necklaces and bracelets, which makes for one less thing to take off and lose in the airport.
- Wear shoes that you can slip on and off easily and please, please — wear socks so your feet don’t touch the dirty ground.
Once at the airport:
- Remove your 3-1-1 bag and have it out to go in the bin. I usually place it on top of my carry on while I prepare to remove the next item.
- Remove your laptop or tablet and have it ready to go in its own bin to go through the scanner.
- While you wait in line for your turn, this would be the best place to start taking off your coat, belt, and anything else that you know TSA will ask you to remove.
- Only grab a bin when you’re next in line. Grabbing them when you’re far back in line is pointless, but yes, I’ve seen this happen.
- You don’t have to put your large bag on the non-rolling portion of security screening and then slide it through. Seriously — you can wait until the rolling portion to do this.
- Don’t put your items in bins and walk away from them until you see them enter the scanner. TSA is there to screen, not supervise your belongings.
Don’t Bring a Beverage into Line with You
Even though you’d think by now everyone knows this, you can’t bring beverages through security. Drinking a coffee or a bottle of water? Finish it before you get into line. Don’t leave bottled water in your bag because TSA will find it and you’ll have to dispose it anyway. This, of course, will cause a delay to those waiting in line behind you.
TSG Tip: Don’t try and be sneaky and think you can sneak in your own bottled water. They have huge scanning machines, remember?
Observe the 3-1-1 Rule
Don’t know what this is? Simply put, you can bring a quart-sized bag of liquids, aerosols, gels, creams, and pastes each measuring up to 3.4 ounces (100 milliliters) with you through security. Anything bigger has to go in a checked bag or it will get confiscated by airport security. Don’t believe me? Try it and watch how quickly your beauty products end up in the garbage. Do it correctly and you’ll whizz right through security.I like to use my Birchbox samples when I travel to see not only if I like the product, but because they're perfectly sized for travel.Click To Tweet
TSG Tip: Buy a Ziploc bag and refillable tubes that you can get at almost any department or drug store and fill them with your shampoo, conditioner, and other beauty products. I like to use my Birchbox samples when I travel to see not only if I like the product, but because they’re perfectly sized for travel.
Avoid Thinking You Can Outsmart TSA
Some people think that if they just hide something inside their carry on, TSA won’t find it. While TSA often gets a bad rap for performance, these hard working men and women try their hardest to help us travel safely. Having said that, don’t attempt to hide things don’t fall under their allowed items and think that you will get away with it with airport security.
In May of this year I flew in and out of Manchester Airport after the bombing at the Ariana Grande concert. The security agents at the Manchester Airport were more thorough than I have experienced at any airport in my life. They thoroughly inspected every section of my entire bag, including my cosmetics bag. I admit that I’ve become somewhat lax about putting makeup in my 3-1-1 bag, but they weren’t having it. Everything came out that could be considered liquid including small sample sizes of perfume, mascara, and my travel sized toothpaste.
Things you can’t bring through airport security in your carry on bag
This exhaustive list filled with some obvious and not so obvious items is from the TSA website. Enjoy!
Ammunition, axes and hatchets, bang snaps, baseball bats, bb guns (although they are only toys, don’t risk taking one through an airport), bear bangers, bear spray, billy clubs, black jacks, blasting caps, bows and arrows, brass knuckles, butane, canoe/kayak paddles, cast iron skillets, cattle prods, chlorine for pools and spas, cigar cutters, compressed air guns, corkscrews with blade, crampons, cricket bats, crowbars, drill and drill bits, dynamite, engine-powered equipment with residual fuel, English Christmas crackers, fire extinguishers and other compressed gas cylinders, firearms, which could be similar to the makes and models you can find after reading reviews on somewhere like Forgottenweapons.com, as well as firecracker, fireworks, flammable liquid, gel, or aerosol paint, flammable paints, flare guns, flares, foam toy sword, fuels, gas torches, gasoline, gel-type candles, golf clubs, gun lighters, gun powder, hammers, hand grenades, heating pad (gel), hiking poles, hockey sticks, ice axes/picks, knives, kubatons, lacrosse sticks, leatherman tools, lighter fluid, liquid bleach, martial arts weapons, meat cleavers, medical marijuana (so leave your strongest CBD oil at home), metal detector, microwave, Nerf guns, night sticks, nunchucks, parts of guns and firearms, party poppers, pellet guns, pepper spray, pocket knife, pool cues, propane, razor-type blades, realistic replicas of explosives or firearms or incendiaries, recreational oxygen, rifles, sabers, safety razor with blades, Samsung Galaxy Note 7, saws, screwdriver longer than 7 inches, self-defense sprays, shoe/snow spikes, ski poles, small compressed gas cartridges, snow cleats, sparklers, spear guns, spillable batteries, spray paint, spray starch, squirt guns/water guns, starter pistols, air pistols similar to those from somewhere like Outdoor Empire, strike-anywhere matches, stun guns/shocking devices, swords, tear gas, tent spikes, throwing stars, tools, torch lighters, turpentine and paint thinner, vehicle airbags, walking sticks.
Don’t Make Jokes About Airport Security
There’s always one jokester among us, but this is not the time to make jokes of any kind about security and about what you may or not be packing in your carry on bag. Airport security doesn’t take this lightly and you and your bad sense of humor could end up arrested and missing your flight altogether. So don’t be a clown and save the jokes for another time and place.
Apply for TSA Pre-Check and/or Global Entry
Hate having to take off your shoes or having to remove your laptop and liquids from your bag? Then apply for either TSA Pre-Check or Global Entry and you’ll skip the long lines each and every time you fly. TSA Pre-Check, which costs $85 for a 5-year membership, allows you to skip the lines without needing to remove your shoes, laptops, liquids, belts, and light jackets. Global Entry, which allows you to enter the United States through automatic kiosks at selected airports, is $100 and includes TSA Pre-Check eligibility through TSA security checkpoints.
I can say without hesitation that Global Entry was one of the best $100 I’ve ever spent. Especially as I hate long lines.
TSG Tip: Wish it was different, but for safety and security reasons and the world we live in today, you’ll still need to remove your shoes, liquids, laptops, etc. when you travel internationally.