Traveling whether for vacation or business can be a fun experience, but the experience in airport security can become miserable quick. I travel a lot for work and I am on an airplane at least once a month. Over my time, I have learned a few things that make my experience quick and easy.
Let’s review some of the things the TSA has to make you do, and how to make it better.
Step 1. When going through the checkpoint, they must review your ID and match it to your ticket. This way they can ensure only good people make it through.
When you get to this point, it is best to have your ticket and ID ready to go. If you are traveling as a family, please give all the tickets and ID’s to one person. This will make it easier for the TSA representative to process all of the information. If you have little kids, remind them of their age before you get to the TSA agent. The agent is required to ask the child how old they are, and we all know kids can get nervous when asked questions they are not prepared for.
If your airline has a mobile app, I recommend using it for this stage too. This one you can keep all the tickets in the mobile app and scan them fast. This means no more fumbling for the paper tickets.
Step 2. You will stand in line and wait to have your bags, and your person scanned through crazy machines.
This step is one of the most difficult for people, especially families. While you are waiting in line, you can do a few things that make your life easier. First you will want to take everything out of your pockets and put into the outer zipper pocket of your carry on, or put it in your bag. It doesn’t matter what you put it in, but just don’t hold it. Remove your belt and double check your pockets again, and put those all in your bag. This way when you get to the X-ray scanner you just toss your bag on the x-ray belt.
There are a few other items that the TSA gets a little touchy about. They want you to take out all of your liquids (3.2oz or smaller) and place it in a plastic bag, and in one of those bins. This is no longer a standard of the TSA, but they haven’t replaced the signs. Just leave the toiletries in your bag. You might get checked, but it is doubtful.
They will have signs and people telling you to take your laptop and CPAP (medical sleeping device) out of your bag and put it in the bin. Now the laptop you should take out and put in a bin all by itself. The CPAP can stay in your bag, they rarely complain about this. I would still put it on the top, so it is easy to get out, but I have only been asked once to remove it from my bag out of 100’s of trips.
We all know of the shoes coming off, but this can be done fast if you are prepared. If you can wear shoes that don’t require laces, it will make them easier to slip on and off. If you have laces (I typically do) I would untie them while standing in line. This way when you get to the x-ray belt you can just slide them off. Another thing, DO NOT put your shoes in a plastic bin! You want to reduce the amount of bins you have at all costs. Just place your shoes nicely on the X-ray belt and let them go through.
Step 3. Going through the human scanner thing
This one is simple; make sure there is nothing in your pockets! Nothing, no paper or coins, just nothing. Jewelry and rings are perfectly fine.
Step 4: Collecting your things
If you followed all of the steps above this should be fairly easy. Since we have all of our items in our bag, and our laptop is the only thing we need to put away, we don’t have much to do. Calmly put your laptop away, grab your shoes, and walk out of the security section in your sox (or bare feet). If you are with your kids, you should grab them too of course, but the first thing you want to do it getaway from all the other people.
There are typically multiple benches just outside of the security section, and even more a little further away. The first thing you need to focus on is getting away from the commotion. I will typically go to a farther place and take my wallet, keys and phone out of my bag and put them in my pockets. Next I put on my belt and shoes then head to my gate.
If you can do all if the above it will remove a lot of the stress and make it painless. The people who go into a panic because they waited until they were at the X-ray machine always amaze me. I have been known to be fully prepared by the time I get to the ticket validation (step 1) person.
I don’t show up to my flight three hours early, or even two hours early. Depending on the airport, I usually arrive about 1 – 1.5 hour before my flight departure time. If it is a major hub like O’hare, Atlanta, JFK, Miami, or Los Angeles I may show up 2 hours early, and even earlier if I knew there was bad weather at that location the previous day. I always use my mobile phone for my tickets, as for they are easier to keep track of, and my flight info is updated in real-time.
When they start to board the plane and call my section/group I ignore it and wait until all sections are boarded. I will wait until there is only maybe 15 people or less in line, and then board the plane. Why do I want to be on a plane any sooner? Most people are worried that their carry on will get checked because there will be no room in the overhead baggage carriers. I don’t care if they check my bag at this point because it is free, and since it was the last to be put it in, it will be the first one pulled out. Baggage claim is not that bad.