Shuffling through airport security lines is a tedious process, and it can be a lot worse than merely tedious. You could lose valuable possessions by leaving them behind in your haste to get to the gate, or be stopped for hand inspection and possibly miss your flight. Here are a few tips to get you through faster and more smoothly.
The rules say all your carry-on liquids (lotion, cream, shampoo) must be in bottles no bigger than 3.4 ounces, and they all must fit in one quart-size clear zip-top bag. (Some airports give away plastic ziplocks, others charge for them; but you, the smart traveler, will think ahead and pack your own in advance.) You can buy tiny travel-size bottles, but it is cheaper and more eco-friendly to transfer liquids from large bottles into smaller, reusable ones than to buy new every time. Even toothpaste must be in a small tube, not a rolled-up large one. Exceptions are medications, baby formula, and breast milk.
If you have to go through security lines twice, as you sometimes do when flying internationally, pack any oversize liquids (such as those lovely bottles of rum you bought in the duty-free shop) in your checked baggage. Otherwise they will likely be confiscated.
Some forbidden items are obvious: guns, gasoline, explosives, swords. Others are less so: scissors with blades longer than 4 inches are not allowed, but less than 4-inch blades are okay. So are screwdrivers and wrenches 7 inches or under. No bats, ski poles, or golf clubs. No snow globes. Find more particulars at the TSA website
Wearables and Valuables
Wear loafers or other shoes that are easy to slip off and on. (Socks advised.) Put them directly on the conveyor belt, not in a bin. Don’t wear a metal-buckle belt if you can avoid it. Do not place your watch, jewelry, cell phone, or coins loose in a bin, making them easy objects for someone else to grab. Instead, put them in a pocket of your carry-on bag or purse while they go through the screening and then retrieve them.
Avoid having to remove your laptop computer from its case by using one that can go through the line intact. These are the requirements:
– The case must have a laptop-only section that can lie flat on the x-ray belt
– No metal snaps, zippers or buckles in the laptop-only section
– No pockets in the laptop-only section
– Nothing but the laptop in its own compartment
– The case can be unfolded and lie flat on the x-ray belt
Consumer Reports recommends these as checkpoint-friendly: Aerovation Checkpoint-Friendly, BuiltNY Sleeve, Skooba Skins, and Targus Zip-Thru Corporate Traveler. They range from $20 to $130.
Memory alert! Laptops are easy to lose or leave behind. Be sure to ID yours with a pasted label, tag, or whatever works.
If you are carrying an item that is permitted but sharp and your bag is hand-inspected, warn the inspectors. It’s best not to start a trip by injuring a security inspector with a sharp object.
Don’t bother with all the pretty wrapping. You may well be told to unwrap the gifts for inspection. Save the paper and bows for later.
Find the Fast Line
When you get to the security lines, you might see signs for Expert, Casual, and Family. Many U.S. airports now have these options, and if you know the drill and don’t need extra time, you qualify as an Expert. Another way to spot a faster, shorter line is to turn toward the left. Most people tend to turn right.
If you are traveling with another adult, agree to have one person wait while the first goes through the detector and gets to your belongings. This helps protect your stuff from theft or someone else accidentally taking it.
Finally, after you have quickly stepped into your shoes and grabbed your bag, take a last check before you dash to the gate. It is all too easy to leave an item in a bin. Pick up all your things, take a deep breath, and enjoy the flight.