The Top 7 Airport Security Dos and Don’ts
Few things get our blood pressure going as much as a chaotic airport security experience. When you're stuck behind a disorganized, discombobulated traveler – or worse, if you're that person – it suddenly feels as if the world is falling to pieces. But it doesn't have to be that way!
What are the top dos and don'ts of making it through airport security in one piece? Read on and we'll share our most valuable tips.
Top 7 Dos and Don'ts of Airport Security
1. Do: Be Prepared
Channel your inner Boy Scout and make sure to take the time to prep everything you'll need before you head to the airport. This means the most important, your travel documents – make sure your passport or photo ID are valid! – which should be readily accessible by you at all times. That's right, please don't shove them at the bottom of your backpack; the panic you'll experience as you frantically search for them at the front of the TSA line won't do you any favors.
Depending on your destination, you might need proof of vaccination against COVID-19 (or other illnesses); make sure to have both paper digital copies of these certificates as well.
You'll also want to be sure you've got any medication, tech essentials, and other creature comforts with you. Keep them organized in travel pouches, or if you're more practical, clear plastic zip-top bags will do the trick.
2. Don't: Forget to Give Yourself Extra Time
As the post-pandemic travel boom continues, more and more passengers are moving through airports across the U.S. and the rest of the world. This often means longer lines at security, higher wait times, and overall greater margin for error. Do your part and make sure to arrive at the airport with plenty of extra time. If you're flying domestically and checking a bag, this means about two hours before departure. If you're traveling abroad to another country, you'll want to have at least three hours on your side.
By arriving early, you'll minimize stress levels as you wait to check-in, check your bags, and head through security. Staying calm means you're less likely to get frazzled, and do something silly like leave behind valuable personal items as you rush to the gate. Trust us, you don't want to be that person!
3. Do: Invest in TSA PreCheck
Time is money. Do you fly more than once or twice a year? It's time to invest in TSA PreCheck; Global Entry is an even better bet if you travel internationally, as PreCheck comes included with the membership. How much time will you save at airport security if you're part of the program? According to data from August 2021, 96% of TSA PreCheck members spent less than five minutes to get through screening. Five minutes!
If you're eligible, you won't need to remove shoes, belts, light jackets, electronics or laptops, or your carry-on liquids. Imagine how much greater your peace of mind will be going through security knowing that you won't have to go through all of those extra steps!
Check out our blog post if you're curious as to the differences between TSA PreCheck and Clear.
4. Don't: Bring Prohibited Items
We know, this sounds extremely obvious. But you'd be surprised at how many travelers continue to head through airport security with items that are banned by TSA. In fact, firearm catches at TSA checkpoints hit a 20-year high in the first nine months of 2021. Most travelers aren't aware that they're bringing something prohibited in their luggage, but the delays to the screening process are still the same.
5. Do: Pack Like a Pro
No one wants to look like a rookie. Pack strategically and your travel experience will improve exponentially, guaranteed. Keep your important travel documents (boarding pass, ID or passport, phone) in an easily accessible pocket, since you'll need to show these more than once as you move through the airport. By keeping them in a centralized area, such as a document holder or pouch, the process will be a breeze.
Keep your carry-on liquids in an approved clear plastic bag and make sure they're easily removed from your luggage before going through the screening. Double check for compliance, as TSA is unforgiving if liquids surpass the 3 oz. limit. As for electronics, you'll need to can laptops and tablets separately, so it's in your best interest to have those packed in a way that you can easily remove and replace from your bags.
By thinking it through before you head to the airport, your security experience will be that much more pleasurable. Remember, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
6. Don't: Forget to Check TSA Rules Beforehand
If you have any doubts or concerns about what you plan to pack, the TSA is extremely helpful and communicative through its website and social media channels. Its website has an extensive FAQ section and even boasts a "What Can I Bring?" tool that lets travelers enter the item they plan to pack and receive confirmation if it's allowed or not.
Don't forget to check out the TSA Twitter account for up-to-date travel tips and policies; if you prefer, Facebook Messenger is another channel through which you can make contact. The service is available from 8 AM to 7 PM Eastern on weekdays and from 9 AM to 7 PM on weekends and holidays.
7. Do: Dress Comfortably
Perhaps every traveler's most-dreaded moment of going through airport security is when they have to remove their shoes, belt, jacket, hat, and pretty much everything else. By this point, you know what to expect, so make it easier on yourself. Slip-on shoes are ideal, and try to avoid anything with metallic accessories. If you trip up the metal detector or need more time to unlace your boots, the travelers behind you will make their frustrations known.
If it's colder outside, wear loose layers that can fold easily to be put into the plastic bins at screening. In general, breathable fabrics that adapt to a variety of climates or situations will make your travel experience that much more comfortable.