TSA: What to Know to Make Airport Security Faster, Easier this Summer

First of all, put down that gun. Now that we have your attention, the TSA reminds us that guns are not allowed in carry-on bags. They tell us this because a record number of travelers have been bringing guns through security. And getting caught. And slowing down the lines for everyone. Some tips for faster security.

What You Can’t Pack

If you follow these  simple rules, you won’t hold up the line (and maybe miss your flight).

  • Do not pack guns: Guns and most knives and even replicas of weapons. You may pack unloaded firearms in checked-baggage if you complete the proper documentation.

Recently, a man carrying what he thought was an inert grenade through Los Angeles International was stunned to learn that maybe the WWII era weapon wasn’t quite inert. How many innocent bystanders missed their flights when the terminal was shut down? Leave this stuff at home.

  • No fireworks: As we get closer to the Fourth of July, you will likely hear more stories about TSA officers confiscating everything from sparklers to professional grade fireworks. These are not allowed on airplanes, not in carry-ons and not or in checked baggage.
  • No large amounts of liquids: If you go through security with a large bottle of water, you’ll be asked to drink it or dump it. If you have to pour out a bottle of $80 duty free Scotch, that’ll hurt. Large amounts of non-flammable liquids – more than 3.4  ounces – must go in checked-bags though there are a few exceptions for things such as baby formula.

What You Can Pack

  • Small amounts of liquids: For carry-on bags, put all toiletry-type liquids in containers no larger than 3.4 ounces, and they must all fit in a single, quart-sized zip type bag. If you plan on packing such things in a checked-bag, go crazy and buy the  economy size shampoo but watch those bag weight limits; on most airlines, anything over 50 lbs. will cost you an additional fee.
  • Snow globes: The souvenir of choice is officially OK for carry-ons, as long as it’s “about the size of a tennis ball.” Caution: If you intend to put your snow globe in a carry-on, it must fit in the same quart-size zip bag that your toiletries are in.

When in Doubt

If you don’t know whether the TSA allows you to pack an item, there is a simple fill-in-the-blank TSA app for smartphones (you can also find this on their website) that allows you to ask, “Can I bring my [whatever]?” Quick and efficient.

How to Pay a Little for Faster Security

Outside of getting a pilot’s license and flying for an airline, the fastest way to get through security is by signing up for PreCheck or Global Entry.

Besides the slightly higher price, Global Entry will help you speed through U.S. lines when returning from international trips.


Published: June 12, 2014