Airport Security and TSA Checkpoints are a modern day travel reality that everyone has to deal with it. However, modern technology and a global economy have also made traveling easier and more accessible than ever before.
Follow these tips to increase your TSA checkpoint speed and avoid having to sprint to catch your flight.
You know ahead of time that you (or someone in your party) are going to have to deal with TSA and airport security at some point, so just prepare for it and roll with it when it happens so you aren’t delayed any longer than you have to be. Airport staff don’t want you to miss your flight either!
- Wear easy to remove shoes
- Avoid belts or other metal objects that you will have to remove
- Get your laptop out ahead of time
- Be aware of current TSA Liquid Rules
- Check that you are not traveling with any prohibited items.
- Remain calm and courteous
2. Enroll in TSA PreCheck
What is TSA PreCheck? It is a program that you apply for online which, if accepted, will allow you to go through specially designated lines at U.S. airports where you can skip removing your shoes, belts and light jackets. You will also NOT be asked to remove your laptop or liquids from your bags.
Please note that the online registration is only the first step. You must also pay a small fee for the membership (good for 5 years) and schedule a 10 minute, in person appointment that includes a background check and fingerprinting.
The program is open to U.S. citizens, U.S. nationals and lawful permanent residents.
International travelers can enroll in the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Global Entry program which provides TSA PreCheck eligibility in addition to easing entry into the United States.
Global Entry is used at U.S. Customs checkpoints and is open to Mexican nationals, citizens of the United Kingdom, Germany, the Netherlands, Panama and South Korea, in addition to U.S. citizens, U.S. nationals and lawful permanent residents.
For more information visit the TSA PreCheck Website.
Related: TSA PreCheck Program Hits 2 Million
3. Fly during slow times
The best times to fly are weekdays in the middle of the day. Early morning flights and weekends tend to be much busier, so if you time your flight right, you may just breeze through airport security without much competition.
4. Give Yourself PLENTY of Time
The TSA generally advises to arrive 2 hours early for a domestic flight and 3 hours early for an international flight. If you are traveling during a holiday or at peak times you’d be wise to bump that up an hour.
This is definitely an indication of traveling being easier nowadays. You can call the airport OR you can simply follow them on Twitter to check on TSA checkpoint wait times and other delays and airport information. Pretty handy, huh?
You can also tweet @AskTSA for live assistance on travel related questions.
A word of caution: A TSA app called My TSA (NOT THE SAME AS @AskTSA on Twitter) provides information about checkpoint wait times, but there are no guarantees that the information is accurate. The information is provided by passengers and is not verified by TSA.
Many airports provide a special family lane at the security checkpoint that often have additional staff to help families make their way through the process quicker. Use it if you can. Be sure to talk to your kids beforehand so they know what to expect.
Here are some main things to consider:
Related: Flying with Kids
- Be organized. Use large, gallon-size Ziploc bags to keep kids’ small toys like Legos and Matchbox cars together. Also for personal items like car keys and gadgets such as cell phones, hand held electronic games, and iPods.
- Shoes. Children 12 and under usually don’t have to remove their shoes when passing through the airport security, but they might wonder why their parents have to.
- Random searches. Prepare your kids for the fact that the airport staff may (or may not) want to look through their backpacks or carry on but it will be subject to an x-ray . If you child is carrying a stuffed animal or blanket it WILL get an x-ray. Be sure to explain that it won’t “hurt” their toys and they will get them back in just a few seconds.
- Breast milk and formula. The TSA allows you to bring more than three ounces of breast milk, baby formula or liquefied baby food in your carry-on bag as long as you declare it for inspection at the security checkpoint. Breast milk and baby formula are now categorized with liquid medications and you will not be required to taste it in front of a TSA agent. (For more detailed information, see the TSA website.)
- Hand Swabbing. TSA agents may randomly ask to swam you or your children’s hands to test for traces of explosive materials. You may think it unusual for a child to be tested for this, but it does happen. It doesn’t hurt and only takes a few seconds. If you or a family member is asked to submit to this test it is best to comply politely and be on your way. Prepare your child(ren) for this possibility and assure him or her that it doesn’t hurt. Click on the link for a list of everyday products that may produce a positive results.
One More Thing
It’s not going to necessarily help you get through airport security and TSA Checkpoints faster, but a medical emergency plan will help you get home faster if you have a medical situation come up.