Traveling is exciting, fun and challenging. We love going on vacation, visiting family and exploring new places. Unfortunately, to get to those places we have to slog through ridiculously long airport security lines. Imagine listening to all of the screechy, tone deaf American Idol auditions full blast for 10 hours straight. It’s that bad. Between the monster lines and ever-changing rules, it can take two hours or more during a busy period. If your last trip was ages ago, or you always hold up the security line, the following tips will help you cope with the lines and become an airport expert.
Everyone has already warned you to take just what you need. Plan your wardrobe around a theme and use accessories to liven up your outfits. If you’re iffy on whether or not you’ll use it, leave it. This is a good rule for men and women. Scarves, jewelry, hats, and belts can help you switch up a look. With less clothing, you can pack a smaller carry on and avoid baggage fees. The same bag will also be easier to cart through the airport and the slow, evil security line. Pack light is the traveler’s motto to live by. Besides, you won’t use all of those shoes anyway.
Check in On-line
Most airlines offer on-line check in 24 hours before your flight. Use it. Go to the website as soon as your 24 hour window opens if you are flying an airline that has an open seating policy. Those open seating policies are democratic but brutal for procrastinators. Score a decent seat early or you’re stuck in the middle. Print out your ticket at home. That way you can skip the line for printing at a kiosk or with an agent. Never forget to print out your boarding pass before getting in the security line. If you do, you may have to start all over. Double security line in one day? That sounds fun.
Get There Early
Avoid getting caught in mid day airport traffic as much as possible. This is when everyone flies. No one wants to get up early or fly really late. Unexpected delays can cause security lines to severely back up. Canceled flights, changed gates and groups of confused travelers will make the lines swell. The later in the day it is, the more people arrive. More people= everything slows down to a crawl. No, you’re not in a movie with slow motion effects. You’re at the airport and you’ll be there for a while. As a bonus, if you come early and there is a delay, you’ll still have time to make your flight.
Bring Valid Identification
In addition to your boarding pass, always bring your valid ID. Gate agents won’t accept an expired ID. You must have a government issued ID card or passport. Agents won’t accept work, school ID’s or club member cards. Have the ID and boarding pass ready to flash once you get close to the security agent. Without it, you can’t enter the terminal. You’ll be a sad, lonely, flightless orphan. This tip sounds obvious, but you’d be amazed at how many people whip out expired id’s.
Pack Items Allowed on the Plane
Know which items are prohibited. In general anything that you can use as a weapon is off-limits. This includes the obvious items, like guns and knives. Of course, you knew that. But there are still people packing knives, grenades and rocket launchers in their bags. Many flammable goods and chemicals are also banned. Make sure that your liquids are 3 oz or less and fit into a quart sized bag. The exceptions to this rule are breast milk, formula and liquid medication. You have to declare these liquids at the checkpoint with an agent. Remember not to wrap gifts if you are traveling during holidays or for a birthday party. The gate agents will destroy you’re pretty wrapping in the name of security.
Take Laptops Out of Cases
Laptops get extra attention during the airport screening process. Technologically advanced people can use them for very, very bad things. If you’re a frequent traveler, buying a TSA approved laptop bag will make life easier. Otherwise, remove your laptop from its bag, and put it in a bin separate from all of your other items. You’ll need at least 3 bins so grab them without apology. Other electronic items should be fine once they’re tucked away in your main bag. Don’t pile coats and shoes on top of your laptop. Keep it separate.
Remove your Shoes, Coats and Jewelry
Wear easy to slip off shoes to make the process easier. Slip on socks before you leave, unless you want to parade around with your bare feet on the airport floor. (Note:You really don’t) Try to keep coats, blazers, sweaters and other gear to a minimum. Stuff them in your main bag if you can fit it. Dump all of your loose change into your purse or bag since it is already going through the screening machine. Remove any jewelry. You could pre pack your most expensive or sentimental pieces in your carry on bag, backpack or purse before you get to the front of the line. If you do, keep your eye on that bag as it comes out so no one grabs it by mistake. Wedding rings and heirloom jewelry should be handled with care. A little pouch in a zip pocket for those items should work well.
Pay Attention to the Line Flow
This is where I always get frustrated. Some lines inch along slowly for no explainable reason. If you spot someone clearly wearing a ton of jewelry, lace up boots, toting a laptop and a latte, chances are they’ll take a while to get through. At some point the mega line breaks off into several smaller ones. If you’ve been observing the line flow, you have a better chance at picking a faster moving line. That being said, my line instincts are questionable. Be on the lookout for airports that have expert, casual and family travel lines. These categories can speed up your airport screening time if you and all the other experts truly belong there. If fake experts crash your line, they’re violating your airport rights. Give them a disapproving glance and slip off your shoes. Follow these tips and you’ll be the one breezing through airport security.