How to Breeze Through Airport Security

Body scanners, three ounces or less, belt and shoe removal—the world of the TSA is a confusing one, and one that seems to have the motto of "hurry up and wait." We’ve compiled a list of helpful tips to get you to T minus take off in no time.
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One could argue that getting through airport security with your sanity intact involves only one thing: patience. But here are a dozen ways to help you zip through the TSA (Transportation Security Administration) airport security gauntlet when you’re short on time, or just don’t care to waste it.

Pack Wisely
Packing smart will save cargo loads of time well before rolling up to the airport. We all know by now that three-ounce (or less) containers of liquids and gels in your carry-on can pass through security without worry as long as they’re all in a small plastic bag. The smartest thing is to get that baggie together as you pack, and then put it at the top of your carry-on for quick access at the security belt later. If you travel with a water bottle, be ready to chug it to send the empty bottle through security, then hit a water fountain for a refill on the other side.

Packing light also is key. Question every single item that’s going into your carry-on: Do you really need to bring a full-size shampoo bottle? Can you get by without that third pair of shoes? The bottom line is that the less your carry-on holds, the less there is to manhandle in the security line.

Early Check-In
Another key time-saver happens up to 24 hours before the airport schlep begins: early check-in. For minimizing airport time, this is a gift from the aerospace angels. Since just about everyone buys electronic tickets nowadays, just about everyone gets an e-mail invitation for early check-in. Just click the link through to the airline’s website, follow the simple instructions, and print. One caveat here is that you’re likely unable to change seats during this process, though you can always request a switch at the terminal.

You may also have the option to send yourself a scannable, quick-read boarding pass for your smart phone, however it may be wiser to stick with a print-out. Terrible phone reception or a dead battery in the security line may force you to head back to the ticket counter.

Ticket in Hand
Airport security usually involves two ticket checkpoints—a quickie when you approach the security line to be sure you’re entering the right terminal (and line), and another full check of both boarding pass and official identification. If you’ve traveled by air at all in the past decade, you know these checks are going to happen, so be smart and keep those two items either in hand or in a quick-reach pocket.

Honey, Not Vinegar
Have you ever noticed that airport security in the South tends to be more pleasant than in, say, New York? There’s a lot to be said for southern hospitality, so you’d be savvy to take a page from that book and wear a smile as you endure the tribulations of airport security. If you act huffy and hurriedly, not only will the TSA agents keep a distrusting eye on you (boosting your odds of getting searched), but you’ll also irritate and aggravate your fellow passengers. Better to grin and bear it.

Published: 19 Nov 2012 | Last Updated: 4 Dec 2012
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
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