The announcement over the airport PA system reminds the traveler not to accept packages from unknown persons and to keep a watchful eye over his/her own luggage, “in this time of enhanced security.” Any frequent air traveler has come to be weary of the TSA security checkpoint, after all no one really wants to deal with having their belongings or person scrutinized, but more often than not it is prolonged by other, unprepared travelers.
Here’s what you can do to speed yourself through TSA security.
1) Empty your pockets before getting in line. I carry a soft-sided bag, anything in my pockets goes into the side pocket – change, keys, wallet, belt, phone, everything. Make a plan and remain consistent about where you stow your belongings – travel is difficult if you lose track of your wallet. In line, I unbuckle my belt which either goes into a bin with my jacket and shoes or it goes into the bag.
One quarter in your pocket will double your time in the screening area. You’ll set off an alarm, the TSA agent will ask you to check again, and through the machine you go again…or through a hand screen.
2) Know how many bins you will need to screen your belongings and pack your bag appropriately. It sounds like a simple thing, but you know you have on a jacket, you’re wearing shoes and a belt, and carrying a notebook computer. The jacket and shoes can go into one bin, the computer goes in alone. 2 bins. Have change in your pocket? Watch? Grab the correct number of bins to avoid having to reach back or otherwise disrupt the process. Put them down on the table in front of you. Down goes the soft bag, which goes on the conveyor first, then my bins slide in right behind it. Maybe you’re carrying liquids – you’ll need another bin for these.
3) Wear slip-on shoes. Unless you’re a minor or a senior, you’re taking off your shoes in the security check point. Do yourself a favor and make it easy on yourself to not only take them off, but get them back on once through the checkpoint. Thigh-high boots, laced up dress shoes or sneakers take some time to remove, but getting them back on is a chore. Your goal is to get through the security check point as quickly as possible, and that means collecting your belongings after having been screened. The jacket comes off, and into a bin. The shoes come off, and into the bin with the jacket.
4) Notebook computers have to come out of their bags and go through the x-ray in a tray by itself. I carry my notebook in my soft-sided bag, packed right on top and the last thing I put in. Once at the security checkpoint, I unzip my bag, drop the computer into a bin alone. At this point, it’s almost one swift motion.
5) Once cleared through the checkpoint, be prepared to collect your belongings. The bag comes through, then the bin with my shoes, then the computer. I grab my shoes and slip them on – if you regrettably decided to wear those boots, or dress shoes, you’re carrying them away and putting them on in another area after having walked around a small section of the airport in your stocking feet. The notebook is taken out of its bin, and back into my bag. I now have my belongings and can now move out of the screening area. A short walk out of the screening area, the belt goes back on and the contents of my pockets are then replaced. If there’s a time crunch, those items are already stowed in the bag, and you can retrieve them later.
6) Be polite. When approaching the first agent who reviews your boarding pass and identification, be polite. Look the agent in the eye, answer questions when asked, smile. Their job is to make sure you’re appropriately in the area; your goal is to get screened as quickly as possible. There is no reason not to be polite.
7) Know what you can and cannot carry onboard. Know how much liquid or gel is permitted to be carried; and do not carry any prohibited items. Since there is an evolving list of items that are prohibited, if there’s a question in your mind about what you can carry, check with the TSA first. Their “Prohibited Items” list is available at http://www.tsa.gov/traveler-information/prohibited-items.
If you’re thoughtful about what you’re carrying through security and come to the checkpoint with a plan for getting your belongings (and yourself) through the checkpoint, you will save yourself and your fellow travelers time.