Ready for take-off: Time-saving tricks for breezing through airport security

Procrastinators beware: without a doubt, the most effective trick for zipping through airport security is to plan ahead.

Pack to unpack. Check with your airline regarding carry-on and checked bag restrictions. As you pack, remember that when you go through security you’ll be required to unpack electronic devices larger than a cell phone and liquids packaged according to the 3-1-1 rule. Pack electronics and liquids in the smaller of your two carry-on bags so you can access them quickly.

Know before you go. If possible, choose to fly during off-peak hours. If you must travel during peak times, many airport websites such as New York’s JFK provide security wait times in real-time.

Fast pass. Do you use a mobile app to preorder coffee from your favorite café? Membership in Transportation Security Administration (TSA) programs like TSA Pre✓® and Global Entry is like having that same front-of-the-line access.  

TSA Pre✓ membership expedites the domestic airport screening process in two ways. First, at most airports Pre✓ passengers queue in a separate, expedited line. Second, Pre✓ passengers are exempt from removing laptops, liquids, shoes, belts and light jackets. According to TSA, 92% of Pre✓ passengers wait in line less than 5 minutes.

To enroll, submit an online application; attend an in-person interview to provide fingerprints, supply citizenship and ID documents; and pay $85 for a 5-year membership. If you travel internationally, Global Entry is for you.*

Two bin rule. How many bins does it take you to get through security? Pack so that you only need two: one for larger electronic devices and one for liquids, your small carry-on and any items from your pockets. Remember, with your TSA Pre✓ membership, you likely won’t need a bin at all.

What not to wear. Save time before the scanner by packing your heavy jacket, and save time after the scanner by wearing slip-on shoes and socks.

ID, please. Think of your valid photo ID and your boarding pass as a set. Keep them together – safe, but handy – until you arrive at your gate. If you’re using an electronic boarding pass, take a screen shot of it before arriving at the airport in case your cell phone service is interrupted.

More questions? Visit the TSA website.

*According to TSA, Trusted Traveler Programs applicants should expect delays in processing due to a backlog caused by the partial government shutdown earlier this year.