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Tips for getting through airport security quickly

Ask an Expert - InSight
AE-Dec2016

Airport security can be complicated to get through in the best of times. During the busy holiday season, it can be a nightmare waiting to happen. Lengthy security delays can cause business travelers to miss their flights, wasting time and money. To help our travelers better navigate busy security checkpoints, we spoke to business travel expert Road Warriorette about ways to get through airport security as simply as possible.

How can I get through security quickly?

The fastest way to get through airport security is usually going to be enrolling in TSA Pre-check. Pre-check is a program that allows people to take shortcuts through security. It costs $85 for five years, and requires fingerprinting, an interview, and a background check. For frequent travelers this cost is well worth it. (If you also fly internationally I recommend Global Entry, which costs $100 for five years, will fast-track travelers through customs, and includes TSA Pre-check.) We covered more about Global Entry and other Trusted Traveller programs in April.

Other than Pre-check, what can I do to speed up the security line?

While you don’t have much control over others, there are certainly things you can do to get through security as smoothly as possible. Make sure that when you arrive at the front of the line, your ID and boarding pass are ready to show to the TSA agent. Have the items you need to take out of your bag, including laptop and liquids bag, easily accessible. Place all items from your pockets into your carry-on. Wear shoes that are easy to slip on and off, and avoid complicated laces and buckles.

When you get to the other side of the line, pick up your bins, shoes, and bags and move out of the way as quickly as possible. It is very common for people to stand there, blocking others from their belongings, picking up change out of their bin. This slows things down hugely! There are usually benches very close to security with the express purpose of providing a place for travelers to put their belongings back  together.
The most important thing you can do is listen to the instructions given by TSA agents. They change the process up on a regular basis, which can lead to confusion for people who don’t fly frequently. Sometimes all travelers are subject to the TSA Pre-check rules, while other times you don’t have to remove your shoes but do have to take out your liquids and laptops. Paying attention to what they say while you’re in line can save you hassle and time once you are actually moving through the X-ray machine and body scanner.
Tip: If you happen to be carrying a gift with you, don’t wrap it until you arrive at your destination.

Where can I check ahead of time to see airport security wait times?

During the holidays airports are full of infrequent fliers, whose unfamiliarity with the security process slows things down. The safest thing to do in December is allow extra time. If this doesn’t sound appealing to you (and you’re not alone!) there are free apps that claim to tell you what the airport security wait times are, including MiFlight, Fleet, and My TSA. The information isn’t always accurate, unfortunately, but is an interesting option for those of you who can’t stand to spend more time than necessary at the airport.

While the additional travelers can cause delays, there are things you can do to make your airport security experience smoother. Security checkpoints may not always be fast, but a little preparation will help you make it through as hassle-free as possible.

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