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Tips to Help You Fly Through Airport Security

Published: February 7, 2012

No time exists on your calendar for lingering in a long airport security line, but if you’re traveling by plane, you can’t avoid security checkpoints. While you’ll be trapped in the line for at least a bit, embrace a few tricks used by veteran travelers to mitigate the waiting. 

1. Get to the airport before the sun comes up
Security lines tend to be shorter earlier in the morning. If you can manage to get a very early flight, you’ll find that slipping through security lines is a much quicker process. Just as important, leave yourself plenty of time to get through the lines. If you’re in a rush trying not to miss your flight, your blood pressure will shoot up and your trip could be miserable.

2. Check your luggage at the door
Yes, checking luggage can be a pain in the neck. It takes a little time, it might cost some money, and your unmentionables could find themselves flown to parts unknown. But hauling your luggage through security means that your security check could take longer. If something in your luggage requires inspection, then your time in line just tripled. Don’t rely on odd luggage gimmicks to get you past carry-on restrictions. Just check the bag. Another huge benefit to checking your bags is that you’re not forced to haul all your luggage throughout the airport. It’s just more convenient.

3.Keep carry-on size reasonable
Travelers are constantly trying to sneak larger and larger carry-on bags onto the plane. Don’t do that. Use your carry-on bags only for electronics, medicine, and maybe a change of clothes — you know, the stuff you absolutely need. If you don’t have large carry-ons you’ll need to stuff into an overhead bin in the plane, the chance those bins might be too full isn’t your problem.

4. Open your bags all the way
While checkpoint-friendly bags can make your time in line a little easier, security officers will still occasionally need to get into your bags. Don’t make them unzip, unlatch, or untie the fasteners on your bag. It uses up a bit of time, of course, but it also means the officer needs to manhandle your bags. If you’re worried about popping a zipper, open your bag all the way before the officers have to. After all, if you do happen to get pulled aside for a closer inspection, you won’t be allowed to touch your bags further. Get your bags open all the way before you put them on the conveyor belt.

5. Pack cables separately and unattached
Music players have headphones, and laptops have power cords. Wrap up individual wires separately from one another, and keep the whole bunch as neat as possible. Stow these cables and wires in a separate bag or pocket if you can. This reduces the tangle of wires you’ll have to sort through in line and makes it easier for the security officers to see them on an X-ray screen.

6. Pay attention to the lines, not your music
We couldn’t tell you the number of times we’ve seen TSA officers try to provide instructions, only for their intended recipients to be too busy with a smartphone, MP3 player, or portable video game to actually pay attention. Don’t do that. It makes the process longer for yourself, and it’s frustrating for everyone around you.

7. Don’t wear a belt; do wear slip-on shoes
When you go through the security checkpoint, the officers scan for metal items on your person that hypothetically could be a threat to the flight. That huge archway you walk through is essentially a giant metal detector. That’s why you have to take off your shoes and usually your belt; those accessories tend to have misleading metal included. Your trip through the metal detector will be a little lower on the stress if you can just pop your shoes off without wrestling with laces.

8. Don’t try to bring any prohibited items
While some of the items you can’t carry on a plane are just common sense (knives and weapons, for example, aren’t allowed), some aren’t. Save yourself time by familiarizing yourself with the TSA’s guidelines for prohibited items in advance.

The key to saving time in the security line at the airport is to avoid anything that could turn into a hassle. Extra luggage can be a big deal, so check any bags you don’t absolutely need to keep with you. Keeping your carry-on light and opening it all the way in line will save you some trouble. If you’re not wearing a belt, you won’t have to bother taking it off. Lastly, keep everything organized in your bags. The faster you can open everything up in line, the better off you’ll be.

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  • It’s hard to find knowledgeable people on this topic, but you sound like you know what you’re talking about! Thanks