Whether you are flying solo or with people who need your attention and assistance, domestic or internationally, you can get through the airport quickly with these 8 tips.
- Leave yourself plenty of time. This one seems obvious, but we’ve all had at least one time we’ve been caught out, time-wise. When I’m traveling, I base my airport arrival time on the flight information (If you think that flights may be experiencing delays, check the FlightAware app, in which you can search individual flights and get real-time status updates.), the current security checkpoint wait times (available at myTSA), the traffic from where I am to the airport in question, and my past experience flying at that time of day. Then I add about 20-30 minutes to my estimate. It’s much easier and less stressful to sit down in the concourse and wait a few extra minutes than to race through the airport like a cross-country runner because I’m worried my flight is boarding.
- Check the TSA website or the MyTSA app to learn about airport delays, security line time estimates, and to double-check permitted and prohibited items in both carry-on and checked bags. If you are flying from a different country (flying back to the US, for example), double-check that your carry-on items are allowed on flights originating in that country (for example, you can carry your knitting pins and yarn from the US on international and domestic flights, but you cannot carry knitting pins onboard flights originating in the United Kingdom.)
- Pack your carry-on for easy access when you go through Security. Carry-on liquids, gels, and aerosols must be no more than 100 ml (3.4 oz) each and all those items must fit into a quart/liter-sized clear zip-top bag (yes, Sephora and other outlets have a brilliant, durable translucent quart-sized bags, but some security details want clear). Keep all electronics in the top of your carry-on (including wires, batteries, and plugs). Wear easy off-and-on shoes. And remember to remove your watch/fitness tracker/jewelry/pocket items before stepping through the scanner (whether metal detector or the newer millimeter scanners).
- Pack any checked luggage for efficiency and easy-but-secure TSA access. If you want a lock on your checked baggage, make certain it is TSA-compliant. TSA randomly selects a percentage of checked bags for hand search after check-in, and if the officer cannot open the lock, they will remove it. (And if TSA does search your bag, they’ll leave an official note inside your case to alert you.) Make sure you include your name and contact information both inside and outside any bag, checked or carry-on.
- Check your boarding pass carefully for any TSA PreCheck notification – even people who aren’t enrolled in the TSA PreCheck program sometimes receive a pass if they are traveling with those who have TSA PreCheck. Depending on the airport, TSA PreCheck allows you to keep on your shoes, light outerwear, leave liquids and/or electronics in your carry-on for screening. If you have PreCheck, or any other priority boarding notification (ie Delta One, Virgin Upper Class) look for the appropriate screening line – it can save you significant time.
- When you reach the head of the security line at the airport, make sure you: Have your boarding pass and ID out for inspection.
1. Remove your liquids bag and put in a bin.
2. Remove all electronics, wires, batteries, and plugs, and place in a separate bin.
3. Remove any outerwear (jackets, sweaters, scarves, hats), your shoes, any belts, and any and all items from your pockets. You should also remove larger pieces of jewelry, such as wearable fitness trackers (eg. Fitbits, apple watch), earrings, bracelets, etc.
4. If you have liquid medications (ie. insulin and syringes, EpiPen) make sure you have a letter from the prescribing physician outlining your requirements and equipment.
5. Once you’ve been cleared by the scanner, and your belongings by the x-ray machine, confirm that you’ve collected all your items before leaving the immediate area.
- If you travel frequently at all, you might want to enroll in either the TSA PreCheck or Global Entry programs. Both programs require a similar amount of personal information and vetting, the application starts online, and membership in either lasts for 5 years. With TSA PreCheck $85/5 yrs), you receive expedited screening 92% of the time, with no need to remove shoes, laptops, liquids, or jackets. This prescreening works at 67 domestic airports in the US. Global Entry ($100/5 yrs) participants, on the other hand, receive TSA PreCheck 95% of the time they travel domestically or internationally, as well as expedited border entry back into the US when returning from international destinations. Note that once you DO get a KTN (Known Traveler Number), you’ll need to actively add it to your airline profiles so your membership/prescreening can be attached to your ticket.
- If you choose not to enroll in either TSA PreCheck or Global Entry, make sure you have the Mobile Passport app. You can avoid most of the border queues using Mobile Passport, and it’s free to use. But note that the mobile passport app works only for US ports of entry, and US citizens, as well as Canadian citizens with a valid passport and B1 or B2 visa. When your international flight is preparing to land, simply open the application, input your passport information, take a selfie, input your travel information (port of entry and flight information), and answer the border questions. The app will respond with a QR code that you have 4 hours to use at the border in the Mobile Passport lane. (You may also upgrade to a paid subscription ($14.99/yr) that allows you to securely store your passport information in the app, and does not have the 4-hour time limit.)
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