With all of the protective measures in place (and for good reason, I might add!), airport security is still a challenge, especially for the inexperienced traveler. For most of us, it feels like the rules change on a daily basis. Understanding some general dos and don’ts can get you through security and on your way to your final destination easier and faster.
#1 PREPARATION IS KEY
- Know the airport security rules that apply to your travel destination. For travelers to/from the USA, remember 3-1-1 for liquids, gels, and aerosols, and check out TSA.gov for the most up-to-date security-related information. For travelers to any other country, search airport security + [your country of destination] in your Internet browser for additional details.
- Be ready when you’re in the security line. Have important documents such as your passport or ID and boarding pass in your hand, ready to go. And, please, please, for the love of all that is holy, please put your phone away. Security officers (and fellow travelers) don’t want to hear your conversation, much less wait for you to send your text, especially when you’re next in line.
- Make copies of important documents. Snap a photo of your passport, visa, ID, boarding pass, itinerary, credit card, medication or allergy list, etc. on your phone, keep a physical copy with you (or in a safe place such as a hotel safe), and give a copy to your emergency contact. You never know when an emergency may arise, so it’s better to be prepared.
#2 PACK INTENTIONALLY
- Decide on carry-on v. checked baggage in advance. TSA has an extensive list called What Can I Bring? that can help you decide on whether to and where to pack it. And, head’s up, bag weight matters for both carry-on and checked bags when you’re traveling outside of the USA. Personally, I’m not a fan of dragging around a huge piece of luggage in a crowded airport, so checking a bag for $25-$50 is my go-to. And remember, if you use a valet to help you with your bags, in most (not all) locations, it is customary to show your gratitude by tipping the valet.
- Double-check your personal items before you get to security! No, I’m totally serious here! Think about it . . . when was the last time you cleaned out your go-to purse or backpack?! I understand, there’s important stuff in there. I’ve been there too! But, believe me, you don’t want to be pulled out of the security line and into a back room for a full-body search, all because of that random little something you forget was there, right?! 😉
- Again, understand your destination. Some locations will not allow certain types of food items into the country. For example, Guatemala + beef jerky = no
bueno🙁 . And, it may be difficult to drag rolling bags on cobblestone streets in many European cities. You’ll want to know this ahead of time to ensure your snacks or meds won’t be confiscated, and you’re able to physically get your bag where you’re going.
#3 TIMING IS CRITICAL
- Get to the airport early. Acceptable timings are 2 hours prior to domestic flights and 3 hours prior to international flights. For my friends who may lack on the time management skills (I know you’re out there!), set an alarm, schedule your taxi or Lyft (<–affiliate link) ahead of time, or ask a more punctual friend be an accountability buddy. Quite often, security lines are long and cumbersome. So, don’t chance it . . . the hassle (and cost!) of rescheduling from missing your flight is simply not worth it!
- Select your security lane carefully. Avoid lines with children or large groups as these tend to take longer. Your best bet is a security line next to priority, business, or first class as these typically have fewer travelers passing through and shorter wait times.
- For travel through the USA, download the MyTSA app (Apple iTunes or Google Play). You can get up-to-date information on security wait times, TSA Pre✓® locations, delays or weather conditions, and much, much more.
➡ Share with us below! How do you avoid long delays and frustration at airport security?
P.S. For frequent travelers through the USA, I definitely recommend applying for a Trusted Travel Program such as TSA Pre✓® or Global Entry to help expedite your airport security and customs processes. It has literally saved me HOURS of wait time!