18 Best Ways To Help You Get Through Airport Security Faster

Whether you are gallivanting around the world, on your way to visit loved ones, or just traveling a lot for work, there is no getting around TSA and airport security. Until recently, the time it typically took to get through airport security was somewhat manageable as long as you arrived several hours before your scheduled boarding time (via USA Today). But, as more and more travelers are taking to the skies, the overall process is taking much longer.

Of course, nobody likes waiting in long lines before going on vacation or sprinting to their gate because a big chunk of their travel time was spent getting through security. Yet, amid the great travel surge, even when utilizing some of the best airport hacks, travelers are experiencing hiccups and unexpected delays (via The New York Times). So how can you speed up the process? Thankfully, there are a few things you can do to help you get through security faster.

Prep before arrival

First and foremost, preparing before you arrive at the airport is often a real time-saver. Just ask any frequent traveler — learning the TSA ropes can save you crucial time. A quick overview of the standard TSA rules and regulations will allow you to plan accordingly. Typically, this means packing wisely, laying out your airport attire, and placing any carry-on items in easy-to-reach spots. For instance, you will need to take out your electronic devices or laptop, so now is the time to make them accessible or even opt for a more user-friendly carry-on bag.

Likewise, wearing boots, belts, or anything you are frequently reminded to take off, just takes up more of your precious time (via Eagle Creek). So try to avoid the extra pat down if you can. That said, it can be tempting to do all your prep work later or maybe even leave it for the night before/the day of. But why not save yourself the added commotion and prep a few days before you head to the airport instead?

Wear TSA-approved clothing

Speaking of airport attire, everyone loves comfy or cute airport outfits. But before you don your favorite fashion accessories, ask yourself if it will cause issues with the metal detectors. If the answer is yes, you already know what needs to happen next. By opting for easy-to-remove and TSA-approved clothing and accessories, getting through the latter part of security should be a breeze. So, remember to put your outdoor jackets in your carry-on luggage and to wear slip-on or take-off friendly shoes with socks (via TSA).

Travelers should also avoid if at all possible, wearing clothing items with multiple pockets like cargo pants or with hidden pockets, which includes your new travel jacket, vest, or hoodie (via USA Today). Clothing with ample pocket space can easily be filled up with change, keys, AirPods, small metal objects, and other prohibited items that will set off the metal detector or lead to further inspection. Taking little things like this into consideration will help streamline getting through airport security.

Have your documentation ready

After getting your carry-on luggage together and planning your TSA-approved ensemble, it is time to prepare your documentation for the big day. The good news is that getting your documents ready has recently become much easier. Not too long ago, travelers were required to provide a slew of printed-off documentation, along with their ticket and their passport (or ID card). But, currently, you no longer need to bring a book report on why you are traveling, which is nice.

So, now that it is back to the basics — your ticket (paper or e-ticket) and passport or ID card — travelers really shouldn't be fumbling for these items in line. You can and should place your documentation in a spot that is easy for you to reach (via Cheapism). Knowing exactly where these important items are will speed up the process and prevent you from doing the semi-unpack in search of these items while in line.

Make a pre-booked reservation

In addition to properly planning ahead, savvy travelers should check to see if they are flying out of one of the few airports in the United States that offer pre-booking. That's right — several airports allow eager passengers to make a TSA appointment in advance (via Cheapism). Up to 72 hours before their scheduled flight time, passengers can essentially go online and use their smartphone to reserve a spot with TSA. It is worth noting that travelers will still have to queue up in their designated order once they arrive at the airport.

Nonetheless, pre-booking appears to make things happen a little quicker. Though this is a relatively new concept, if it does take off (pun intended), there is a strong likelihood that more and more airports across the country and maybe even the world will adopt this time-saving procedure. At the moment, passengers can pre-book their security experience at the following airports: Seattle, Dallas/Ft. Worth, Charleston, and LAX (Los Angeles).

Get TSA PreCheck

Travelers can also take advantage of several services that allow passengers to get through security faster. One particular service is TSA PreCheck or the Trusted Traveler Program. In order to sign up for TSA PreCheck, interested parties can complete an online pre-enrollment, confirm their eligibility, schedule an appointment at an enrollment center, complete their in-person appointment (with photo identification in tow), and pay the standard TSA PreCheck application fee (via TSA).

Once approved, you can use the often much shorter security line and fly with ease. That said, most applicants are approved within three to five days after completing their in-person appointment. However, there are instances where application approval can take up to 60 days. So it is recommended that you apply at least 60 days before your scheduled trip and renew two months before your 5-year membership expires (via TSA).

Sign up for Global Entry

Yet another commonly used service available for travelers is Global Entry. Passengers that have Global Entry are granted expedited clearance with customs (via U.S. Customs and Border Control). Here, all you need to do is download the app and follow the necessary prompts to get signed up. 

There is a yearly fee for this app, but with it comes low-risk traveler status which you can use to bypass long lines upon your arrival in the United States. But that is not all — Global Entry members are also entitled to TSA PreCheck benefits, which means you can use the shorter TSA PreCheck security lines at airports.

Use Clear

Another option for frequent flyers is to use Clear. Similar to TSA PreCheck, Clear offers passengers a quick, easy, documentation-free way to get through security. Here, you can opt to sign up online or in person at the airport on the day of your flight (via Clear). 

With Clear, travelers can speed up the identity verification experience by using those interesting-looking machines that scan your eye or use your fingerprint — no ID or other information is required! After which, travelers can then go through the simplified security checkpoint that is used for TSA PreCheck passengers.

Make use of your airline status

If you happen to travel quite often, then chances are you have racked up some miles. Better still, if you exclusively use a particular airline and have a travel credit card with said airline, you probably have reached some tier of elite status. For instance, on Delta, your elite status gets you access to a host of Sky Priority perks, such as early check-in, free checked bags, and premium boarding lanes. With this level of status also comes — you guessed it — some form of accelerated security (via Delta). 

An added bonus here is if you happen to be a Delta American Express cardholder, there are often discounts for Clear and TSA PreCheck. That said, it is worth noting that other airlines, including American, Alaska, JetBlue, Southwest, and United, also offer similar perks.

Book premium class

Of course, not everyone flies on a regular basis or uses one particular airline exclusively. But where there is a will, there is a way. In fact, non-frequent flyers can still get through check-in and thus security much quicker when they book first class or opt for some of the pricier seats. 

Most of the major airlines, including Delta, Southwest, United, JetBlue, and American, all offer access to expedited security when you book a first-class or premium seat (via The Points Guy). Plus, who doesn't love a little more legroom, ample meal choices, and a glass of pre-takeoff wine or champagne?

Utilize the MyTSA App

For travelers who are never in one place for too long, keeping track of all the airports you frequent can be challenging. So if you find yourself flying out of more than one local airport, the MyTSA app should be in your bag of tricks or on your phone. This uber-convenient app allows travelers to be in the know when it comes to weather conditions, traffic issues, possible delays, wait times, and more (via Million Mile Secrets). 

You can also utilize the MyTSA app to find which airports have TSA PreCheck security lines and Clear machines. So, this is definitely another travel app worth downloading if you want to stay on top of multiple airports and their security traffic in real-time.

Think ahead when choosing your flight

Besides having all the latest travel apps, elite status, and time-saving memberships, travelers can get through airport security faster by attempting to avoid the crowds altogether (via Mind The Travel). Frequent travelers know that finding the most affordable flight with the shortest flight time that works with your schedule or travel itinerary is a learned skill. And, just when you think you have thought of everything, it hits you — the crowds.

If everyone is traveling during winter break, even TSA PreCheck passengers will likely experience longer wait times at airport security. So what can you do, right? Well, you can think ahead when choosing your flight. For example, only a select few know that it is usually cheaper to fly on Tuesdays. The reason is that many airport-goers typically don't head out on this particular day of the week. So not only can you save some money by flying out on Tuesdays, but you can also get through airport security a lot quicker sans the masses.

Stay at the hotel in the airport

Another way to bypass all the other travelers in line is by staying at the hotel at the airport the night before your flight. Spending the night in the airport hotel is ideal if you have a morning flight or are taking the red-eye. 

But even if you don't have an early flight, you can still take a load off when you book a room at the airport (via The Points Guy). Wonder why? Typically, the hotel in the airport offers its own security line for guests. Thus, stress-free and streamlined is the name of the game here, which means no more scrambling to get it all together at 3 a.m. or earlier only to end up waiting in line.

Get dropped off at the airport

Even if you live close to the airport or within a short driving distance, it is hard to deny that being dropped off often moves things along rather quickly. Whether it is public transportation, a share ride service, or a loved one who takes you to the airport, it is almost shocking how much time you save (via Thrifty Traveler). This means you no longer have to deal with parking or dragging your luggage through a seemingly endless parking structure.

Moreover, when domestic travelers get dropped off at the airport, they can utilize curbside check-in. Curbside check-in is fast and convenient for travelers on the go. Plus, it allows passengers to bypass dropping off their bags inside, walk straight up to security without wasting precious time, and surpass the long security lines before they happen.

Pack appropriately

Of course, in order to make it through airport security without a hitch, packing appropriately is a must (via TSA). Who among us hasn't experienced delays due to items that TSA doesn't allow? Still, savvy travelers, especially those short on time, should always make sure that their luggage is not filled to the brim with things that won't make it past TSA (via Reader's Digest).

TSA agents are absolutely sticklers for the rules, so it is important to keep that in mind when packing. Even if you know that you'll need something that TSA may or may not permit you to have on board, it is better to go without in the interest of time.

Make carry-on items easy to inspect

When packing appropriately, don't forget to make carry-on items easy to inspect. Whether it is your toiletry bag, your child's backpack, or other travel essentials, if TSA wants to take a closer look at your belongings, the easier they are to inspect, the faster you can make it through security (via EZ Packing). So, do yourself a favor by at least covering some of TSA's well-known basics, like having all your liquids (under 3.4 ounces) in one bag that you can access easily.

Similarly, travelers with gifts on-hand should leave them unwrapped just to be on the safe side. And if you are traveling with children, it never hurts to conduct your own pre-security inspection for prohibited items like toy weapons, packed-away electronics, outside food, and anything that won't fly with TSA. Doing so can help prevent unpleasant delays when going through security.

Check your bag

With so many rules and regulations regarding carry-on luggage, it is sometimes easier to simply check your bag. Sure, checking your bags these days seems to be a hot-button issue — some frequent flyers are for it, while others are against it. But you know what happens when you check your luggage? You have less stuff that needs to be inspected by TSA (via Capsule Suitcase).

That said, if you are worried that the airline will lose your luggage if you check your bags, you are definitely not alone. Travelers with multiple connections should absolutely use their discretion and pack accordingly. For direct flights, however, the likelihood of your luggage getting lost is very low. So, in this instance, you should not be afraid to free yourself up a bit and glide through security.

Double-check the latest regulations

TSA security rules and airport regulations are constantly changing. Trying to stay on top of it all can therefore be somewhat challenging (via Upgraded Points). But, in the long run, knowing what you can and cannot have on board at any given moment is undoubtedly beneficial. Plus, it only takes a few minutes to check the TSA website to see if anything has changed since the last time you flew.

In fact, TSA recommends that travelers check their packing list twice before heading to the airport (via TSA). There is even a handy section on the TSA website that is regularly updated and goes over, in painstaking detail, what passengers can and cannot bring on board. There is also a section for what is allowed and what is prohibited in checked luggage. So there is really no reason you should not give the most up-to-date info a once-over, especially if you want to get through security as fast as possible.

Put on a happy face

With so many ways to get through airport security more efficiently, you might think there is nothing left to do to speed the process along. But you'd be wrong. More often than not, unless you own a private jet, you don't walk into the airport with a smile on your face and a little pep in your step. The truth is that traveling involves a lot of planning, queuing up, waiting around, and often a dash of anxiety.

Nonetheless, you might be surprised to learn just how far a little kindness, patience, and understanding can go (via The Points Guy). Sure, there are probably many TSA agents that love their jobs and only want the best for every passenger they meet. But one thing is for sure, unruly, angry, or less-than-enthused travelers definitely don't help speed up the security process. So, if all else fails, try showing a little empathy when you can, and remember that everyone's just doing their job.