Traveling is typically an exciting experience but getting there can be wrought with delays and other issues. Running late is a major problem that can ruin a vacation experience, and it usually starts at the airport. Traveling during peak times, being unprepared, and not understanding the rules can all derail your vacation plans.
While experienced travelers may know tips and tricks that can help to make their airport experience smoother, new travelers may not. People who travel frequently inevitably learn how to navigate the airport more efficiently, saving themselves the stress of running fanatically to their gate or becoming frustrated when detained by security personnel who want to review their carry-on contents. If you are planning your next trip that require air travel, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with your departure and destination airports and to plan ahead. Here, we’ll take a look at some of the top tips and tricks for getting through airport security faster the next time you fly.
Know the Rules Before You Go to the Airport
If you fly infrequently or you will be flying for the first time, it pays to know the rules before you arrive at the airport. Nothing is worse than being surprised when you get there and becoming subject to delays that would have been avoidable with a little prior research.
The first thing you need to think about is packing your carry-on and personal items. Visit your departure airport’s website to determine what can and cannot be bought on board. The website will provide instructions for packing liquids, including beverages, as well as how to proceed through security checkpoints with these items. Generally, you will want to have toiletries and other liquids in travel-sized containers that are then stored in a resealable plastic bag. Keeping these items stored together will not only keep things more organized but also help security personnel to easily see your items, all of which will get you through the line faster.
If you are traveling with a laptop or other large electronics like tablets, you should also familiarize yourself with the rules for these items. The Transportation and Security Administration (TSA) has specific rules for these items at security checkpoints, so you should be sure to familiarize yourself with them before heading to the airport. In general, large electronics must be removed from bags and carrying sleeves and placed in their own separate bin to go through security. For laptops, consider purchasing a TSA-approved bag so you do not have to remove your device when going through security. In some cases, you may be asked to remove your laptop from its bag anyway, so you should be prepared for this, as well.
Plan Ahead If You Have Extra Bags and Gifts
While it may seem that rushing to the airport shortly before your flight departs will save you time in the security line, this is a common misconception. Waiting until the last minute is not only frustrating, but it may result in a missed flight or connection. It’s better to be prepared and arrive with plenty of time to reduce the chances of a delay.
Some travelers save more time by shipping their luggage ahead of their flight so that they skip the airline’s bag checking process. This is also helpful when returning from a trip where a lot of gifts were purchased. In many cases, shipping luggage or other items is more cost-effective than dealing with hefty baggage fees, especially for oversized or heavy items. If you can’t ship your items, double-check your airline’s policies on additional bags or large items, and be mindful of restrictions and additional fees.
If you must bring gifts with you, make sure that they are not wrapped. TSA agents cannot effectively view the contents of wrapped packages and may unwrap them to verify. This process will create delays and ruin gift wrap so it’s a good idea to just wrap presents when you make it to your destination.
Keep Travel Documents Handy
The airport is a busy place and even the most organized and calm people can easily become rattled from the hustle and bustle. Traveling by air requires documents such as boarding passes, passports, and photo identification, which travelers must have with them with while keeping track of other personal items, travel companions, children, and even pets. Having documents stored in various places will cause unnecessary grief at the security checkpoint so it’s a good idea to have a designated place for documents that can be accessed quickly and easily. Major airlines have mobile apps that allow travelers to access flight details and their boarding passes, and using an app can cut down on the number of documents that you need to keep up with. TSA agents can scan your mobile boarding pass with ease and get you through the line faster compared to fumbling with a paper boarding pass. Also, if you do not have checked baggage, downloading your mobile boarding pass will save time because you won’t need to visit the airline counter to obtain a physical boarding pass.
Travel During Off-Peak Times
One of the easiest ways to avoid security checkpoint delays is to travel during off-peak times or seasons. Peak airport times are generally mornings from 6:30 AM to
9:30 AM, as well as late afternoon/evening from 3:30 PM to 7:30 PM, so scheduling your flight outside of these times will likely save you a lot of time in the security line.
In addition to planning outside of peak flight times, certain time of the year are also considered peak travel periods. Traveling during holiday seasons like Thanksgiving or Christmas means you will need to plan ahead by getting to the airport earlier than usual. Also, you should be sure to research other major events that may be going on either in your departure city or the destination city, as these events can also impact the volume of people at the airport.
While traveling by air can be exciting, getting there doesn’t have to be stressful. Use these helpful tips to make your next airport experience a smooth one.