How to Get Through Airport Security Faster

If you are among the 30.6 million people traveling by air this Thanksgiving holiday, you will likely experience excruciatingly long TSA security screening lines. To combat this, here are some tips to help make your wait as minimal, and as stress-free, as possible.

Start by packing your carry-on lightly. A tightly packed carry-on requires additional time for the TSA officers to check. Separate your electronics larger than a cell phone (laptops, iPads, video game consoles, DVD players, and video cameras) and make them easily accessible for you to pull out and place into separate bins for proper X-ray screening.

Prepare a 1 quart-sized, clear, plastic, zip-top bag of liquids before arriving at the airport. Remember the 3-1-1 rule. If you can squeeze it, squirt it, pour it or spray it, it must be less than 3.4 ounces and packed into a one quart-sized clear, plastic zip-top bag—the size just a little larger than a sandwich bag. Only one bag is allowed per passenger. For prescription medication or baby formula in a larger container, separate it from the rest and notify the TSA officer before it goes through the scanner. Snow globes are now allowed, but they must be smaller than a tennis ball and will fit into your 3-1-1 baggie along with your other liquids—please remember, only one 3-1-1 bag per passenger.

Pack all coats and jackets in checked baggage when possible. All coats and jackets must go through the X-ray machine.

Do not wrap gifts. If security officers need to inspect a package, they may have to unwrap it. Don’t wrap gifts until you reach your destination.

Pack undeveloped film in your carry-on bag; the equipment used to screen checked baggage may damage undeveloped film. If you are transporting high speed (800 ISO and higher) or specialty film, you may request to have it physically inspected when presented at the screening checkpoint instead of undergoing x-ray screening.  TSA recommends leaving your film in the unopened manufacturer’s packaging.

When in doubt, leave it out. Unsure if you can bring an item through the checkpoint? Put it in your checked baggage, leave it at home, or check the website for details.

Dress the Part – If you set off an alarm during screening, the TSA officers are required to find out why. They will conduct additional screenings to make sure that the object that set off the alarm is not a threat.

Advanced Imaging Technology: Before you enter an AIT machine for screening, we strongly recommend that you remove ALL items from your pockets, as well as certain accessories. These include your wallet, belt, bulky jewelry (it’s O.K. to wear your wedding ring), money, keys, and cell phone. Removing these items will reduce the chance of additional screening after you exit the machine.

Body piercings: Certain metal body piercings may cause the machines to alarm, which will result in additional screening. If this happens, you may be asked to remove your body piercing in private as an alternative to a pat-down search.

Shoes: To go through security faster, consider wearing slip-on shoes and socks. Please remove your shoes before screening. Put them directly on the belt to go through the X-ray machine instead of in a bin with other items. It is safe, easy, and gives officers a better look. Tell a security officer if you are unable to remove your shoes because of a disability, medical condition, or a prosthetic device. If this is the case, the security officer will visual and physically inspect you.

TSA Pre√:  You can get through the lines faster with TSA’s Pre√. Learn more at

Have the Following Ready: You should present the following documents to a TSA officer at the checkpoint:

If you don’t have identification (lost, stolen, etc.), you will need to give the security officer information that will help verify your identity. Please allow additional time since this slows down the screening process and will result in additional screening. (Children do not have to show identification.)

Hassle-Free Security Tips

  • Arrive on time. Ask your airline what time you should arrive for your flight – arrival time recommendations vary by airline and day of travel. Remember to leave enough time to check your bags and go through security.
  • Think before you speak. Belligerent behavior, inappropriate jokes and threats are not tolerated. This kind of behavior will delay you and may cause you to miss your flight. If necessary, TSA officers may call local law enforcement.

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