You’ve planned your trip to the airport down to the minute. You left the house on time, despite the fact that you had to go back twice for your wallet and passport, checked traffic and plotted the best route, and even reserved your airport parking in advance. Car parked, bags checked, boarding passes printed–all with minutes to spare!
Then comes the moment of truth. You head toward the gates and see a long, multi-headed, snake that threatens to throw your whole schedule off-kilter, and possibly even cause you to miss your flight — the airport security line.
TSA pre-check can save you a lot of time by pre-designating you as a trusted traveler. Certain airlines offer this designation (which, as well as more information, can be found at https://www.tsa.gov/tsa-precheck). Upon approval, you will be issued a Known Traveler Number (KTN), which you enter when making flight reservations. “TSA PRECHK” is printed on your boarding pass, and you just look for the lanes designated for such travelers. Shoes, belts and light jackets can stay on, while laptops and your 3-1-1 bag can stay in your bag. It is always possible, though, that check-in time can take longer, as TSA employs surprise security measures and expedited screening is not guaranteed.
A handy little tool is the TSA’s wait-time check, found here, where you can enter your airport and view security wait times (only for TSA PreCheck for some sites), as reported by those travelers who have gone before you. While you’re there, do your fellow travelers a solid and spend some of that time you saved and post your own security wait time via a link on the same page.
Likewise, the Global Entry program (http://www.cbp.gov/travel/trusted-traveler-programs/global-entry) run by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) offers pre-approval, allowing international travelers quick entry into the U.S. via automatic kiosks at certain airports. Approval requires a background check and in-person interview, and members may still be chosen for further examination upon entry into the country. Global Entry membership can be revoked if one is found violating terms and conditions.
And once it’s your turn, you don’t want to waste any time. Be prepared to get through security quickly and be on your way.
- Slip-on shoes also slip off painlessly. No need to untie and tie shoelaces.
- Don’t wear metal items, such as jewelry and belts, which can set off the alarm and cause you to go through the scanner multiple times until you pinpoint the alarming object.
- Likewise, take great care not to pack prohibited items in your carry-ones. If in doubt about an item, enter its name in the box under “When I fly can I bring my…” in the upper right hand corner of the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) Website. Most airline Web sites also have a list of prohibited items you can check against. This will save you the time AND embarrassment of having to be patted down and your suitcase searched in front of everyone.
- Packing liquids, creams, aerosols, pastes and gels in a quart bag separate from your carry-on luggage will expedite screening. Remember that you’re limited to the number of items 3.4 ounces or less each that fit into your quart bag. The Golden Rule here is the 3-1-1 rule.
- Travelers 18 and older will be required to show identification before boarding, so make sure you can easily grab it when necessary.
Preparation can go a long way to expediting your screening, but be prepared to be surprised — and still get to the airport with plenty of time to spare.