Disclosure: As an Amazon Associate and an Affiliate of other programmes, I earn from qualifying purchases. This page may contain affiliate links, which means I may receive a commission if you click a link and purchase something that I have recommended. There is never an additional cost to you.
15 tips to go through airport security faster and easier.
I do travel guides that are fun, informative, and entertaining, and many of you have asked for me to do a video of my tips about going through airport security, and so that’s what we’ll be talking about today.
Some of these tips will be exclusive to going through airport security in the USA, but many of these tips apply for airport security anywhere in the world. After I get through the 15 tips, I’m also gonna be sharing with you some interesting things that you can actually bring through security in the U.
S. and then some interesting things that you can’t bring through security. But let’s start with tip number one. My tip number one for getting through airport security faster and easier is to print your boarding pass on a piece of paper. Now, many of you who know that I’m a computer scientist by background will say, “Chris, you’re a techie guy.
Why don’t you put your boarding pass on your phone?” Well, I have seen so many people struggle with their boarding pass when they have it on their phone because their battery dies. It doesn’t scan correctly. That piece of paper always works every single time. The battery never gets lost, and it’s really easy to keep that piece of paper in your back pocket and just pull it out when you get there.
The reason that you should also print out your itinerary in addition to your boarding pass is if you’re connecting internationally, sometimes you might not get both boarding passes for your onward destination. And in that case, you can often use your itinerary in lieu of a boarding pass to get through connecting security.
It’s always really useful to have both those things, a paper boarding pass, and a paper itinerary. Tip number two, travel during non-peak times. In the USA, peak times for travel are typically Monday through Friday in the morning because of all of the people traveling for work. Now, not right now during the COVID-19 pandemic when I’m filming this, but generally that’s when the most people are at airports in the USA, which means that’s when the security lines are gonna be the longest, which is gonna lead to the most frustration.
So take a look at what airport you’re going out of, and if you wanna have shorter lines for security, well, find the time that has less people traveling. San Francisco Airport, lots of people Monday through Friday. Saturday and Sunday, San Francisco Airport pretty empty. Security lines super easy then.
Tip number three, it’s a U.S. specific one, but if you’re a U.S. citizen and you’re flying within the U.S. a lot, sign up for TSA PreCheck. It is TSA’s trusted traveler program where you can sign up for it. They do some background investigation on you. You pay a small fee, and then you get to use special lanes at the airport called TSA PreCheck.
The TSA PreCheck lane has a easier security screening process, typically metal detectors instead of body scanners. You don’t have to remove your electronics, and you don’t have to take off your shoes, and you don’t have to take your liquids off. TSA says that 93% of people who have TSA PreCheck when they go to the airport wait less than five minutes in line for security screening.
I’ve had TSA PreCheck as long as the program has been out. Frankly, I love it, and I love the PreCheck experience. It is worth the small fee. If you have a premium credit card, in fact, it might even cover the small fee for TSA PreCheck. Now, I do have to point out that if you have TSA PreCheck, you should not always rely on it and not always assume that you’ll get it because sometimes the TSA PreCheck lanes are closed.
They’re only open during certain hours. Some airports don’t have TSA PreCheck lanes at all. So be prepared to go through regular security, even if you’ve signed up for TSA PreCheck. Tip number four, wear as little metal as possible. I really wonder about these people that come to the airport that look like Mr.
T with a whole bunch of necklaces or a whole bunch of metal on their shoes or metal buckles everywhere. If you’re going to an airport, take the metal, put it in your suitcase. If you really need a hoodie and you wanna have a lot of metal, you can actually get hoodies that have plastic zippers. You can get belts that have plastic buckles.
If you want to sail through airport security, have as little metal on you as possible, including body piercings. If you’ve got big metal body piercings, take ’em out when you go in the airport. Leave ’em at home, or put ’em in your carry on bag. Put ’em on when you get to your destination.
Tip number five, wear easily removable shoes and socks. In many places, including in the U.S., you have to take off your shoes, assuming you’re not TSA PreCheck. In that case, you don’t want shoes that are so tight, so hard to get off. You want them to be easy to take off, and you wanna be wearing socks because, frankly, the airport floor is pretty gross.
You don’t wanna be walking on that same spot that everybody else has walked on with their yucky bare feet. I will point out that if you’re over the age of 75 in the U.S., you get to keep your shoes on all the time, whether you’re TSA PreCheck or not. Tip number six, it’s about liquids and gels.
Most airports in the world after 9/11 started restricting liquids and gels on planes to be in containers 100 milliliters or less and to fit into one Ziploc bag about yea big. In the U.S., that’s a one-quart zipper bag on the top. Now, one of the things they often don’t talk about is they don’t talk about powders.
You can bring powders on as a carry-on, but powders often get you popped for secondary inspection. So if you use athlete’s foot powder, things like that, put that in your checked in luggage and not in your carry-on. Sometimes I get athlete’s foot, and I was carrying around some athlete’s foot powder.
And every time I had them that in my backpack, I would get my backpack popped for secondary inspection. Now, if you have liquids for some medical reason, keep those in a separate container and show those to the security people and say, “Hey, this liquid, this is for my medical condition,” or “This is something I have a prescription for.
” In that case, you are typically not subject to the limits. The same applies if you’re traveling with a baby and you’ve got baby food or you’ve got breast milk. Those are not subject to the same limit as all other liquids and gels. In the U.S. due to COVID-19, you now can carry hand sanitizer through up to 12 ounces in a single bottle until further notice.
Tip number seven, keep your laptop and other big electronics someplace that is easy to take out of your carry-on. Plan to take this out. Not all airports require you to take it out, but some do. And so if you have to take it out, you wanna make sure it’s in its own pocket, it’s on top, so it’s really easy to take out.
When I go through airport security, if I’m not going through PreCheck and I’m going through regular security in the U.S., I will take out my laptop, I will take out my video camera, and I have this bag that has a whole bunch of cables in it. I take that out too because I find if I separate those things, then I sail right through.
If I’ve got my bag of all my charging cables buried somewhere deep in my backpack, I guess all those cables kind of look like a bomb, and they like to pull it out and dig through my stuff. Tip number eight, pack the rest of your stuff in your suitcase with packing cubes. I really like Eagle Creek packing cubes.
eBags has packing cubes. There’s a whole bunch of packing cubes. Why do I recommend this? Because if your bag does get picked for secondary inspection, they’re gonna be digging through it, taking stuff out. If you’ve got everything just kind of thrown in there all messy like, it’s gonna take them a lot longer to look through it.
If you’ve got things neatly packed in the packing cubes, it’ll be really easy for them to remove and be like, “Oh, these are socks. Oh, these are this. Oh, there’s that metal thing that I’m looking for.” Also, don’t pack your bag too full because if it’s super, super full, it might be really impossible for you to put that stuff back in in the pressure of the airport after the TSA agent or the security agent has rifled through the whole thing.
Oh, and if you’re traveling with gifts for people, don’t wrap the gifts. Bring the gifts, bring the gift wrap with you, but don’t wrap them because anything that’s wrapped, that’s an invitation for the TSA people or the security people to be like, “Hey, what is that? I need to open it.
” People often get cranky about it. Just expect that if there’s a gift, the TSA people are gonna be examining that gift closely. Tip number nine, now let’s talk about things you’re actually gonna do when you’re at the airport. The previous one through eight, those are all things you do to prepare for a better experience through airport security.
But now that you’re at the airport, well, the first thing you should look at and realize is that there’s often more than one security line. If you get there and you’re like, “Oh, that security line looks like it’s 500 people long,” well, it’s a good idea before you head to the airport to actually look at the airport map, take a look at where the different security places are, and then you can say, “Oh, well, that one’s 500, but maybe this one that’s over here only has 10 people.
” When I go to LAX airport, the Tom Bradley International Terminal is notorious for super long security lines. The international terminal is also connected to terminal four, which is the American Airlines terminal, which has typically very short lines. So when I go to the international terminal, if I’ve already checked in and I’m carrying on, then I will go through security through terminal four, American Airlines, and then just walk airside over to the international terminal.
So remember, you don’t have to typically go through the security checkpoint that’s closest to where you got your boarding pass. Typically you can go through any one, assuming that the airport is connected airside behind security. And earlier I mentioned TSA PreCheck. You should take a look at the TSA PreCheck line, and you should take a look at the regular security line.
Sometimes the TSA PreCheck line might have a gazillion people in it, and regular security might have two. In that case, it might be faster and easier to go through the regular security line with two rather than to stand in the really long PreCheck line. Tip number 10, if you have a bottle of water with you at the airport, drink your water before you go to security, and don’t throw that water bottle away.
Keep that water bottle, and fill that water bottle up after you go through security. There is nothing wrong with bringing an empty bottle through airport security. They don’t want you to bring liquids, but an empty plastic bottle, no big deal. But you do really have to make sure that you drink the whole thing.
One that always slows down the security process, and I see it all the time, are people that have that water bottle on their backpack or on the side, even when the security people are saying, “Please remember no water bottles,” and the person’s like, “I don’t have any water bottles.
” Then you go through security, and they’re like, “By the way, I was talking to you, ha ha ha.” Now, one exception for bringing water through security is if you’re traveling with a baby. In the U.S. if you’re traveling with a baby, you can bring an unlimited amount of water through as long as it’s clear that the water is for the baby within reasonable amounts.
Tip number 11, when you’re going through security and you’re interacting with the security offers, be polite and be cheerful. You know what? Their job isn’t fantastic most of the time. They deal with cranky people that are in a rush that don’t enjoy going through secondary security. I don’t enjoy going through secondary security, but I try to make it as easy on the security officers as possible.
So when they say, “Hey, you’ve been selected for special screening. Can you come over here with me?” Don’t give them lip. Don’t be like, “I’m in a rush.” ‘Cause you’ve been selected. They’ve got to do their job. Just be like: Okay, what’d you like me to do? You want me to go over there? Absolutely.
Hey, if you’re going through my bag, if you have any questions or you’re looking for something, let me know, I’ll be happy to tell you where it is. And so just try to be as polite and cheerful as possible. It will help you get through the whole experience a whole lot faster. If you’re cranky and miserable and mean, likely they will take longer just to kinda spite you about that.
And now when I say be cheerful, cheerful but don’t make any jokes, jokes about bombs and things like that. That’s probably better left for another time and place.
Tip number 12, keep your boarding pass and ID handy. Yeah, that boarding pass that I said that you printed out earlier, keep it handy.
Even after you’ve gone through the first check, they might ask for it again later. It typically doesn’t happen in the U.S. They typically just ask for it once. But other airports around the world, sometimes somebody checks it when you get into security, and somebody looks at it again when you’re going through the metal detector.
And so don’t shove that boarding pass someplace you can’t find it again. Keep that boarding pass and ID handy in case another security officer asks for it as you go through security. I have a pocket in my backpack that I always put my boarding pass so that if somebody asks me for it, I know exactly where to take it out, and I don’t have to think and wonder and be like, “Oh, where did I put that boarding pass?” Tip number 13, empty your pockets.
I often get popped for having some ChapStick or some tissue paper in my pockets. Take it out, put it in your backpack, put it in the bin. And by the way, if you’re going through an airport that uses body scanners and you don’t really wanna do that, you can often ask for a pat down inspection instead.
Tip number 14, if you’re at the airport and you’re not sure what to do with electronics, because, frankly, it changes at every airport in every line. Even within the U.S. it’s not consistent as to whether you have to take them out or whether you have to leave them in. If you don’t know, just go ahead and ask.
I would say about half the time when I get up to the X-ray machine, I ask the security officer in the back. I say, “Hey, laptop in or out?” Simple question. If you need to take it out, they’ll say, “Out.” If you keep it in, leave it in. Just ask ’cause if you don’t ask and you assume that it goes in there, that’s the time that you will have need to have taken it out, and the whole thing takes a lot longer.
Tip number 15, keep calm, keep cool, keep composed. Nobody likes to be picked for secondary inspection, but if you keep calm, cool, and composed, everything just goes a lot smoother, and you’ll remember to take all of your stuff. The people who are super rushed and super frazzled, those are the people that end up leaving their laptop in the bin and not taking it with them.
So just kinda keep a cool head, keep a mental checklist of all the things that you typically take out, and remember to put all those things back in the bag, put them on your wrist. Do a little mental checklist before you leave security to make sure you have all your stuff with. And as I promised earlier, I wanna share with you some surprising things that you can and can’t bring through airport security in the USA.
I was perusing the TSA website in preparation for this video. I know, such interesting reading. But actually some of these things are really interesting. And it surprised me that, for example, you may not bring a magic eight ball on the plane. You know the magic eight ball that you shake and it tells your fortune? Yep, those are prohibited to go through airport security in the USA.
And I guess on this one, the TSA actually had a sense of humor on their website. They said, “We consulted the magic eight ball, and it told us, ‘Outlook not so good.'” I bet you didn’t know that TSA has a sense of humor. Now, another kind of ball that’s okay to bring on airplanes are bowling balls.
Yes, you can bring a bowling ball through airport security and carry it on. But you know what you can’t bring on? You cannot bring a bowling pin through airport security. Why? Because the TSA considers a bowling pin an item that could be used as a bludgeon or as a weapon. I don’t know about you.
I would be more scared of the bowling ball than the bowling pin. Now, something that often goes with bowling is alcohol, and you can carry on alcohol onto the airplane in 100 milliliter or less containers as long as it is not 140 proof or more. That is 70% alcohol. If it’s 70% or greater, you cannot carry it on.
In fact, you can’t even check it in ’cause in that case, they consider it flammable or an explosive. Some other things that TSA considers weapons that are kind of odd are screwdrivers over seven inches long. If it’s less than seven inches, it’s okay to carry on. Greater than seven inches, nope, can’t go through.
Scissors that are greater than four inches from the pivot point, also considered weapons. Can’t carry those on. Something that was really bizarre, and I don’t even see how it’s a weapon, but foam toy swords. You may not bring foam toy swords through TSA airport security. Now, a couple of things that are okay to bring through airport security but can be kind of controversial or fuzzy.
Number one are snow globes, a super popular tourist thing to bring back. You can bring snow globes as long as they’re 100 milliliters less of liquid. And the TSA says, “Uh, that’s about the size of a tennis ball.” If the snow globe is bigger than a tennis ball, it needs to go in your check-in luggage.
And all of your snow globes have to fit in your one-quart bag of liquids. It’s also okay to bring canned food in your carry-on, but the TSA says canned food because it’s metal will likely lead to extra screening. So if you don’t want extra screening, don’t bring canned food in your carry-on.
And I often get a lot of questions surrounding medical marijuana, if that’s okay to carry on in the U.S., and I’m just gonna say that one’s complicated. If you wanna know more about that, dive into it on the TSA’s website. I’m just gonna say I think that’s a particularly dangerous area because the federal government still considers marijuana to be illegal, so medical marijuana and CBD oil at your own risk.
And the last one that I thought was particularly surprising, and there literally is an entry on this on the TSA’s website, is that it is okay to carry onboard a live lobster. Apparently there must have been a lot of questions about can I bring my live lobster on board, and, yes, you can bring your live lobster through airport security.
Though to bring it through, it must be in a clear plastic spill-proof container. And the TSA agent will visually inspect your lobster going through airport security. Well, if you liked this video, you might enjoy watching another one of my videos. Click right here to watch my video about 30 habits of experienced air travelers.
I’ve traveled over a million miles, and I’ve made a lot of mistakes, and in this video I dive deeper into sharing those mistakes so you don’t repeat them for stress-free and easier travel, not just through airport security, but in general.