If you are a frequent traveller by air, then you would know that the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is there for your protection. That said, no one likes waiting in line or even missing their flight because of delays or issues with airport security clearance. If you’re hoping to pass through the metal detectors with greater speed and efficiency, here are just 12 tips for the next time you fly.
1. Look Up Luggage Rules
Some things aren’t ever allowed on a plane. Some are only allowed in checked luggage but not carry-on luggage. You may be most familiar with the TSA’s complicated rules regarding shampoos and nail clippers, but you should also be aware of their stance on electronics, firearms, construction tools, medical supplies and flammable items like lighters.
2. Gather Your Liquids
Speaking of shampoos, if you plan on bringing any liquids in your carry-on luggage, it’s a good idea to put all your tiny bottles in a clear baggie. This will save you time and energy in the luggage line. Instead of rummaging through your bag and individually presenting your bottles for inspection, you can simply put the baggie in the tray and pass it along.
3. Get Connected
The TSA has an app called MyTSA that will connect you with your local airport and keep you updated on things like delays, weather patterns and luggage rules. There’s also an FAQ in case you have any questions about the size of your water bottle or the weight of your bag. It’s a handy resource to have as you prepare for your trip.
4. Dress Appropriately
You’ll need to remove your shoes at a security checkpoint, so leave the lace-up boots at home. You’ll also want to avoid wearing lots of metal that could set off the metal detectors, so think twice about all those belts, earrings and pockets full of loose change.
5. Know Your Options
If you don’t want to go through a metal detector or an Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT) machine, you can opt for a pat-down by TSA personnel. This takes longer and is a bit more intrusive than simply walking through a machine, but it might be worth it if you have safety concerns about the imaging software. On the flip side, if time is of the essence to you, the machines can really speed up the security process.
6. Assume You’ll Be Inspected
Pack your bag like it’s inevitable that security personnel will want to rifle through it; this will save you a lot of inconvenience and embarrassment if it becomes true. Instead of having to take your personal garments out of your bag because the TSA agent can’t see what’s underneath, you’ll be able to show them a well-organized bag with all items clearly visible.
7. Be Careful With Your Lunch
While most solid foods are allowed through security, there are a number of liquid food items that aren’t, including jams, sauces, syrups and gravies. Your meal might also be subject to additional screening measures if it’s suspected of violating TSA policy. Unless it’s absolutely critical that you have food at that particular time, maybe hold off on lunch until you’re inside the airport.
8. Don’t Wrap Your Gifts
Wrapped gifts aren’t banned or automatically inspected, but TSA agents reserve the right to make you unwrap them if they suspect something is amiss or if they just want visual confirmation of what you’re carrying. To avoid the waste of ribbons and bows, keep your presents unwrapped until you’re completely through airport security.
9. Don’t Delay
Don’t wait until you’re physically at the checkpoint to start removing your jewelry or collapsing your baby stroller. Be prepared for the checkpoint before you arrive; this can save you valuable minutes while you’re in line, especially if you’re running late for a flight.
10. Talk To Your Children
Everyone has to be screened at an airport, including young children, so make sure you talk to your kids about the security process. Try to make it a game where they can have fun removing their shoes and jumping through the metal detector. The less fussy they are about the process, the quicker everything will go.
11. Know Your Rights
Before you even step foot in an airport, make sure you understand what the TSA can and can’t do in regards to your belongings or your physical safety. If you don’t know the rules, check out legal sites by groups like the International Law Firm of Shirkhani and Alavi. People like founding partner Shahram Shirkhani have posted many guidelines about clearing airport security.
12. Be Respectful
You may not like the TSA, but they’re just doing their jobs, and complaining to them won’t get you through the line any faster. Even if you’re inconvenienced with a random check or luggage inspection, stay polite and don’t cause any grief. Whatever you do, don’t rant about terrorists, bombs or anything else inflammatory.
These are just a few things to keep in mind as you travel. Whether you’re attending a local conference or jet-setting halfway around the world, you’ll appreciate a shorter waiting time in the airport.