Getting to the airport on time doesn’t mean much if you’re stuck in security five minutes before boarding. With over two million travelers moving through 440 federalized airports in the U.S. per day, there’s quite a bit of competition to get your gate on time. But you don’t have to be at the mercy of what can feel like sluggishly slow security lines. These expert-back tips will ensure you get through security quickly enough to have time for that $7 cup of airport coffee.
1. Prepare in advance
Sure, you still need to comply with basic screening procedures, but an $85 TSA PreCheck membership that lasts five years means you don’t need to remove your shoes, laptop, light coats, liquids or belts. TSA data found that program members, on average, waited less than five minutes to be screened last month.
If you travel between the U.S. and Canada often, a Nexus might be perfect for you. Available at nine major Canadian airports, the Nexus groups passengers into a separate expedited lane while traveling within North America.
“The Nexus card is a must. It’s only $50 for five years, and speeds things up significantly at airports. It used to do the same at border crossings, but it doesn’t seem to be given priority these days unfortunately, which is annoying.” —Nigel Beale, travel editor, Literary Tourist
2. Keep your cool
Pioneered by Israeli airport security, 2,000 TSA agents are now trained in cracking down on suspicious passengers through behavior detection, according to ABC News. While research from the journal Frontiers in Psychology found that evidence is lacking in these tactics, it certainly doesn’t hurt to be on your best behavior.
“Be pleasant, but not happy. As weird as it sounds, I imagine everything can be suspicious except politeness and civility. Don’t ask the TSA how their day is going. They just want to wave you through.” —Jean-Pierre Karwacki, editor, Time Out Montreal
3. Stick to the limit
Hotels are continuously upgrading their in-room amenity offerings to secure return visits, according to a study from the Cornell University School of Hotel Administration, so now’s your chance to pack light — and keep the arguments to yourself when TSA doesn’t approve of the job you did.
“Travel-size cosmetics are your friend when it comes to staying within the 100ml limit. Try to avoid stingily packing a half-used tube of toothpaste and then arguing its remaining volume later. Check ahead with your hotel to see if they can provide anything you’ll need and avoid packing that stuff altogether.” —Jean-Pierre Karwacki
4. Consolidate your belongings in line
Anything can happen between the time you place your belongings on the conveyer belt until you reunite with them again. The TSA blog suggests concealing anything of value in your carry-on, since a stolen passport is the easiest way to miss your flight. But no matter how long the line is, you can still group your belongings together beforehand so that you’re not fumbling around once it’s your turn.
“While I’m waiting in line, I remove my watch, wallet and belt and put them into pockets of my suit jacket or winter coat depending on the season. When I get to the belt, I drop my jacket down and I’m good to go. I have TSA PreCheck so I don’t have to remove my shoes, laptop or liquid. I’m all about advanced preparation, thus the removal of accessories.” —David Barrett Graver, senior editor, Cool Hunting