“Last call for passenger [YOUR FULL NAME HERE]”. Your stomach turns and drops...you’re still stuck in the security line, and no one will budge. How were you supposed to know everyone chose to fly out the same time as you?! You can try to make excuses, but deep down you know it’s your fault. Okay, we’re only trying to scare you a little, but there are plenty of ways to avoid this nightmare scenario and make sure you’re getting through airport security fast. Chances are as long as you’re not reading this in the security line right now, you’ll be fine. Getting through TSA quickly is all about preparation. Here’s how to set yourself (and others) for success.
Rolling bags can really come through in the clutch when you’re making a mad dash to reach your gate before the doors close. Also, they’re just more convenient when strolling at a reasonable pace. Even if you don’t travel a ton, making sure you have good rolling luggage will make getting through the airport faster a breeze.
It’s 2021: almost every airline has the option to check in online ahead of time. That way, you can completely bypass the gates and save 5-10 minutes of waiting for a machine and printing your boarding pass. It may seem like a pretty small difference, but when push comes to shove, you’ll be thankful you’re prepared (and paperless).
Anyone who travels often knows gates can (and do) change like the wind, especially on connecting flights. To get through the airport faster, make sure you always reference the local airport display boards the minute you get off the plane. If you have time and there’s no line, double check with the nearest gate attendant. Depending on the airport, there can be a massive difference in distance between C24 and C25. When making or missing your flight can come down to seconds, the exact location of your departure gate is essential to know.
Everyone makes mistakes, especially in a new place. Make sure to give yourself as much of a buffer as possible, especially when connecting through an unfamiliar airport. It’s always better to be bored at the gate than kicking yourself mentally while you watch your plane pull away on the tarmac. An hour layover may seem like a lot, but can quickly dwindle into 15 minutes by the time you get off the plane and get your bearings. Giving yourself a solid two hours is always a safe bet when possible. Then, you can go through the airport at a more leisurely pace and maybe even grab a bite to eat if you need it
If you travel regularly, even more than a couple times a year, TSA Precheck can save you a lot of time and headache at the airport. It’s pretty easy to enroll. You sign up, pay $85, attend a 30-minute interview/screening, and once cleared, get TSA Precheck status for 5 years. Many mid-size and large airports often have expedited precheck lines, as members don’t have to take off their belt or shoes when going through security. In addition, you can leave your laptop inside your luggage. All that quickly adds up to save you crucial time in getting through airport security faster.
Dressing up for the airport is a thing of the past. Dressing for the airport though is still an excellent idea. The ideal airport outfit means something light and comfortable, with low-key footwear free of complex lacing or buckles, so that you can take them off easily. Even though the airport is always a bit chilly, it’s best to leave multiple layers at home. Try to limit outerwear to a light jacket if you can. If you don’t mind, it’s always best to take off your shoes and belt just a bit before you actually reach the metal detectors. That way, you’re immediately ready to go through security faster without holding up others behind you.
If you find yourself in an absolute flight emergency, it’s always okay to let people know what’s going on and ask them to cut the line. Usually, most folks won’t be in an extreme rush and will let you go ahead of them if there’s a chance you’ll miss your flight (we’ve all been there before). Be sure to read the room, there are times when lines are especially congested, putting everyone in a crunch. If and when you pull the emergency card, be extremely gracious to others and don’t rush the TSA either. And when you travel in the future, make sure to pay it forward.
Don’t bring too many oils, salves, lotions, or any drinks at all in your carry on luggage if you can avoid it. Do your research ahead of time and make sure any toiletries you carry on the plane fit comply with federal regulations. After all, a mandatory search with the TSA can take up to 20 minutes, adding a lot of unnecessary time to reaching your gate. Do a quick check to make sure any water bottles you’re carrying on are completely empty. The TSA agents will always find them and make you empty all water bottles before going through security.
A key to getting through the airport faster is to travel only with carry-on luggage if possible. Checking bags is time consuming and costly. If you’re going on a long trip or need to check multiple bags, make sure to give yourself 30-45 extra minutes of time at the airport. Traveling with carry-on luggage only will also save you time on the back end of your trip, as you won’t have to wait at baggage claim once you land at your final destination.
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