Each day, TSA screens an average of 2.2 million passengers. While the thought of waiting in hours-long lines might make you dread traveling, with a little preparation, you too can breeze through airport security lines. Here are four tips to help you travel smarter the next time you fly.
Sign-up for a known traveler program
If you’re reading this well ahead of your next trip, you can be proactive about speeding through airport security lines by signing up for TSA PreCheck, Global Entry (which includes a membership for TSA Pre), or CLEAR. All three programs provide you with a longer-term solution to beating lines at the airport.
If you’re currently at the airport, questioning whether you’re going to make your flight, do a quick scan for a CLEAR kiosk. If you’re flying out of one of CLEAR’s 30 airports, you can sign up for the service on-site. You’ll need to complete the application process and provide the necessary documents (which you will have on you in order to clear security anyways)—but the process will take less time than it would to wind your way through security.
Consider flying through smaller airports
Up until recently, I was a firm believer in ‘bigger is better’ when it came to my flying experience. Bigger planes, bigger seats, bigger airports—what’s not to love, right? Well, after some stellar travel experiences through airports like T.F. Green International Airport (PVD) in Providence, RI, Westchester County Airport (HPN) in White Plains, NY, and Capital Regional International Airport (LAN) in Lansing, MI, my perspective has changed. Smaller airports offer perks you might not think of, including: a higher level of efficiency at check-in, lower chances of delays caused by air traffic, and lower wait times at security.
While some small airports don’t offer TSA Pre, you likely won’t need it. Last time I flew through LAN I was the only person in the security line. Wait time of 0 minutes? I’ll take it.
Plus, the prices are often comparable or even better than flying into larger airports. And if a winter storm derails your travel plans, you won’t be standing in line for hours waiting for the other 200 passengers on your flight to get rebooked.
Take your snacks out of your carry-on
Over the summer, TSA began asking passengers to remove all food from their carry-on bags for extra screening. This new policy, which actually went into effect in 2017, helps TSA agents screen cluttered carry-ons more easily. So, if you’re traveling with any food and you’re not TSA Pre, plan to take your snacks out of your carry-on to expedite the screening process.
Pro tip: When you’re booking your flight with Hipmunk, you can view your aircraft and its amenities—like complimentary snacks—ahead of time. This way, if you know in advance that you’ll score free snacks on your flight, you don’t have to worry about packing, unpacking, then repacking them at the security checkpoint.
Here’s how to view your aircraft prior to booking:
1. Enter your flight criteria and dates, then click search.
2. Once the results load, navigate over and click the ‘Show me’ dropdown on the right, then select ‘Aircraft’.
4. When available, you can also view photos of inside the aircraft, along with any amenities like Wi-Fi and complimentary food and beverages.
Check your powders
Laptop in a separate bin – check. Liquids in 3.4 ounce containers (or smaller) – check. Powders in checked bag – huh?
That’s right. As of June 30th, foreign airports are placing heavier scrutiny on travelers flying into the U.S. with more than 12 ounces of powder in their carry-on bags, per the TSA’s new policy. To avoid the added screenings (and further delay getting through security), place any large amounts of powders in your checked luggage.
Your 2.2 million fellow travelers will thank you for it.