As most months see me visiting at least one or two airports, I have discovered that there are a few ways that I can help make the process run smoothly. A little preparation will go a long way to making your life easier once you get to the airport. Follow my 5 steps to get through airport security without loosing your cool, and you too can begin your trip with a smile on your face.
Preparation should begin before you head to the airport
- If you are a US citizen, a lawful permanent resident of the US, or a foreign national already enrolled in Global Entry then visit the TSA website and sign up for their Preapproved Program. If you are a frequent flyer then this should be at the top of your list, but even for the casual traveller it is well worth investing the time.
- Think about the clothes you select to travel in. Wear comfortable shoes as you may be standing in long lines. Heels look good but do you really want to stand in them for 1-2 hours if the airport is busy? Wear shoes that can be removed easily when walking through the scanner and remember socks if you are squeamish about walking barefoot.
- Don’t wear lots of jewelry that will need to be removed or have metallic items on your clothing, unless of course you like the idea of an airport pat down.
- If you plan to be carryon then make sure you have organized your liquids in the correct containers, you have arranged your belongings so that a TSA agent can easily check them, and you do not have any contraband items in your possession. If in doubt about what you can and cannot be taken through security then check the TSA prohibited items list.
Select your security line with care
- Congratulations if you have been TSA preapproved. Please wave to your fellow travellers as you move smoothly past them standing in line.
- If eligible, always select the fast track or business/first class line. Your airline should be able to tell you if this is available to you. This is when being a member of a frequent flyer program can come in handy.
- When choosing a line don’t get behind a large family, especially if they have a baby in a stroller. Invariably families have lots of items that need to be taken out of bags to be scanned and then family members need to be corralled into going through the scanner.
- Think about the George Clooney film, Up in the Air. I know it stereotypes, but he has a good point. Try to avoid – elderly people, people that appear confused or cannot speak the language, or people needing assistance with wheelchairs.
- Ideally select the line with the single business travellers that have already begun their disrobing process while standing in the line. Why is it that when you have stood for so long so many people wait until they arrive at the scanner to take off their belt or locate their liquids?
Understand what you need to show, when, and where
- At the start of the security line you will need to show your passport or photo ID and your boarding card. Have these items ready in your hand and not packed in your bag. As soon as these have been checked, put them safely away in your hand luggage so that they do not get lost in the variety of items that will need to be scanned. Yes I speak from experience on this point, just ask David!
Know what items need to be removed for separate screening
- It helps to be aware of what others around you are doing. If there is a full body scanner that everyone is going through then you will not need to remove as many items such as your belt or watch. Don’t be caught out at the last minute and need to put an expensive piece of jewelry randomly through the scanner. Remove any such items and place them safely inside one of your bags. Just ask a TSA agent how many items are lost or left behind at the scanning station.
- Large electronic items such as laptops always need to be removed from your bag and any other protective case you carry them in (unless you have one of the new ‘checkpoint friendly’ laptop bag ) I have found that it is worthwhile to also remove such items as electric toothbrushes and battery packs for cellphones to avoid the need to be called to the extra screening line. I pack such items in a see through bag that makes it easy for the scanners but keeps them all together so that I do not leave anything behind.
- For liquids, remember the 3-1-1 rule. That is 3.4ml of liquid in 1 bag with 1 per passenger
Be nice to the TSA Agents
- Yes the TSA Agents can sometimes appear grumpy and officious but greeting them with a smile and keeping calm will benefit you in the long run.
- Don’t turn into a comedian or chatty Cathy, just get through this process as quickly as possible.
- Keep calm, it can be very frustrating when someone in front of you is being poorly organized but you will not make any friends with the authorities by being vocal or grumpy (I remind myself of this point on most journeys).
I hope this helps but I would love to hear what tips you have for getting through airport security without loosing your cool.