Airport security is probably the absolute worst part about flying. The waiting, new rules, TSA searches, and body scanning machines that don't have Superman's x-ray vision.
After years of flying around the world for business, I've perfected the art of getting through airport security as fast as possible. Flying practically every week, you kind of get good at these things.
I want to share with you some tips, tricks and mostly common sense about crossing security — kind of like Chris Rock's rules for dealing with the police. As dumb as some of the rules seem, they serve a purpose. If you don't obey them, you're going to look suspicious. Here are 5 of my own to make you that much more efficient at going through security.
1) Oh, Liquids
Yes, this is probably the dumbest rule ever and has made flying 10 times more annoying than the pre 9/11 days, but I kind of like knowing that my plane isn't going to blow up.
If you have your toiletries with you, make sure you have them all organized together and that they're all less than 100mL. I use a toiletry organizer bag. It bends the rules, but if I know I will be flying through London Heathrow (LHR), I make sure to put the liquids in a clear plastic bag because they have the strictest rules.
If you want to have a bottle of water when you get to the gate, just dump your water in the bathroom or drinking fountain before you go through security. Empty bottles are totally fine. Just refill it back up at the fountain on the other side.
2) Get Your Stuff Ready In Line
You know it's coming, so why not just get ready while you're in line? A trick I learned was to put all of the things in my pocket (phone, wallet, coins), watch and jewelry into my carry-on bag (i.e. backpack) and my belt and jacket/hoodie/sweater slung over my arm so that when I get to the trays, I just dump it all in. This way you're not scrambling with your pockets when you're at the conveyor belt. Also, make sure you have your boarding pass ready because they always ask for it.
3) Get Your NEXUS/Global Entry Or Equivalent
NEXUS is the biggest time-saving investment you can make, especially if you're crossing the Canadian/American border frequently. NEXUS is a joint program between Canada and the US to get pre-approved low-risk travellers across the borders of either country more quickly. Originally for business travellers, regular travellers are also starting to see the benefit of the program for a mere $50 every 5 years.
The main benefit is the ability to cross customs incredibly fast, but a nice side bonus of having a NEXUS card is that you can go through the expedited security line, which can save you a lot of time. People that use the expedited line are typically also well-seasoned travellers, so you won't see too many newbie mistakes here either.
One interesting tidbit is that NEXUS is also being rolled out into 27 US airports this year and I got to experience this first hand. With my NEXUS in hand at LaGuardia in NYC, I was considered to be a PreCheck passenger, so I didn't need to remove my shoes, hat or jacket when going through security.
4) Pick Your Lines Wisely
If you've seen the movie “Up In The Air,” you'll know what I'm talking about. Never get into line with seniors or families with kids. Look for a line with business-looking folks. Frequent fliers know what they're doing so chances are the line will be faster.
That being said, this really isn't a fool-proof way to move faster through security because often times you don't have a choice of what line you go into and each line is never composed of a certain type of traveller.
5) Order Matters
The way in which you place your items on the x-ray conveyor belt can help speed things up when exiting security. Here's what I always make sure I do:
- If shoes have to come off, I never take them off until the last moment and when it's time I add them to the front of all my other stuff on the conveyor
- Laptops and miscellaneous stuff come next, including that belt that I already took off
- Last is always my carry on bag
My line of thinking around this is that I always want to be able to put on my shoes first. Next, if I do have a belt, I want to be able to get that on right away. Then with my laptop in hand, I can then quickly slide it into my carry on bag and get the heck out of there.
What Not To Do At Airport Security
- Don't joke about bombs or terrorists. You might think it's funny, but if security overhears, you'll find yourself in trouble.
- Refusing to do the body scan. It's within your rights to refuse, but that means an automatic pat down and swab scan.
- Rage quit. If security's giving you a hard time, now's not the time to throw a fit. Losing your temper where national security is concerned is not so smart.
Featured photo via Flickr schermpeter42