Let’s face it: Nobody ever wants to spend more time dealing with airport security. And nobody wants to be the person holding up the line, either. Avoid both scenarios with these 10 tips for minimizing the hassle and speeding through airport security this summer.
Know What You Can’t Bring: Nothing will slow you down more and have you pulled aside for extra screening faster than having a prohibited item in your carry-on luggage. Read this list to see what you can and can’t bring aboard—there are some surprises on there.
Organize Your Carry-On: We’ve all been there: the last-minute panic packing, when you end up cramming everything into your carry-on in one giant, tangled mess. Well, when you do that, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) also sees a giant, tangled, potentially dangerous mess on the X-ray—and then they’re going to have to hand-screen your luggage, slowing you down in security. (Plus, then you’ll have to try and get your bag to close again, after you had to sit on it to zip it!) Take the extra time at home to pack your bag neatly and in layers—with separate layers for clothing, electronics, and other items. This way, screeners can clearly see what’s in your bag and you’ll breeze right through. Read more about how to pack correctly here.
Separate Your Liquids: Be prepared for the 3-1-1 rule by putting all your liquids and gels in 3.4-ounce or smaller bottles in a quart-sized clear plastic zip-top bag, and make sure your liquids bag is easily accessible. Pull it out and place it in the security bin where screeners can easily see it. If you leave your liquids in the bag, you’re going to get hand-screened. Read the full rules here.
Use a Checkpoint-Friendly Laptop Bag: Not all vacations are work- and technology-free these days. Instead of fumbling around getting your laptop out of its bag, invest in a checkpoint-friendly laptop bag. You can leave your computer in the case and send it through the X-ray machine. Once on the other side of the scanner, just scoop up your bag and go! See which laptop bags qualify on the TSA’s website.
Wear Slip-on Shoes: Yes, we’re still doing the whole take-your-shoes-off thing before flying. While it’s tempting to wear flip-flops to start your summer vacation early, do you really want to walk through the security lane barefoot? Wear slip-on shoes and socks instead so you can slide your shoes on and off in record time while still having a layer of protection from everyone else’s bare feet.
Know When to Fold ‘Em (Strollers, That Is): You can bring a stroller through security, but don’t wait until the last minute to try and fold it up. Before you get to the screening area, collapse your stroller, which will have to go through the X-ray. Empty all of the stroller’s pockets and baskets and put all loose items in a bin. Keep an eye out for special family lanes, which many major airports now have, that will let you go through at a slower pace so you won’t have impatient expert travelers sighing behind you.
Zip it: In the rush to get through security, it’s easy to forget to gather all your belongings. Rather than wasting time taking off jewelry and emptying your pockets at the checkpoint, prepare ahead of time by putting your jewelry, coins, and other loose items in plastic bags. Then, you can have just a few bags to grab from the X-ray bins, and you can easily put everything on once you’re at the gate.
Pick the Checkpoint on the Left: Where should you enter the security maze if there are multiple lines? Try picking the one on the left, as it’s probably shorter. Research shows that right-handed people and Americans usually turn right when they enter somewhere, so if you go left, you might be rewarded with less of a wait.
Have Your ID and Boarding Pass Ready: You’ll likely be asked to show your ID and boarding pass at multiple points during the security screening. Invest in an ID and boarding-pass holder so that you don’t have to search for them each time.
There’s an App for That: Download the TSA’s app, which will save you tons of time at the checkpoint. The app will give you real-time updates for U.S. airports, as well as crowdsourced wait-time reports at checkpoints. Plus, the app will give you even more tips on how to speed through security.