Just a few months back, I had an experience that opened my eyes to how frequent business travelers handle heightened TSA security, long lines, flight delays, and more. Having rushed to the airport after a client meeting that went too long, we hurriedly printed our boarding passes, went through security, and made it to our plane just before its doors were closed. If it had been just my boss, he actually would have made it with minutes to spare. Why? He travels so often that he’s figured out how to get through security as if he’s moving at light speed by only traveling with necessary items that are security friendly. With that, I give you the frequent traveler’s guide to traveling better:
- No hats. Studies* have shown that people in hats get targeted by TSA for “enhanced screening” more often than not. I don’t know about you, but “enhanced screening” evokes an image of water boarding, no? This is something that I would prefer to avoid.
- Easy on and off jacket with pockets. The pockets are crucial for you to put your keys, wallet, and whatever else you carry in your pants pockets in. I notice that most people don’t run into trouble getting their jackets on and off, but they rarely put the contents of their pants pockets into their jackets in advance.
- Snapping watch band. No leather or plastic bands, ladies and gentlemen. Snapping bands are easy on and easy off, so if you wear a watch, get one that snaps. If you don’t believe that this will save time and hassle, think off all of the people burning holes in your back with their eyes as you fumble with getting everything else off in addition to a watch band that suddenly won’t cooperate.
- Non-metallic belt. No metal means you don’t have to take it off. Gentlemen, if you like to wear your pants loose, not having to remove your belt will save the rest of us from possibly seeing your drawers. Thank you very much. [CC photo from
- Pants that fit. Loose pants to TSA are like pieces of bacon to dogs and redditors. One look at those, and their hands will be all over you. Save time and personal space by wearing pants that fit.
- Slip on shoes. And, I mean real slip ons. Not the kind you have to grab the strap on the back, ladies. Gentleman, no boots or anything else. Get yourself some Eccos, Kenneth Coles, or some other decent shoe that slips on. You’ll save yourself a ton of time.
- iPad. Sure, you might not be an Apple fan boy, but tablets, much like phones, do not have moving parts and therefore do not have to come out of bags…if you’re carrying one, that is. Leave the iPad in your bag or just throw it in the bin with your jacket.
- Timbuk2 Command Messenger bag (if you carry a bag). Bags are not at all necessary if you’re on a day trip, so really consider whether you bring one with or not. The advantage of the Timbuk2 Command Messenger bag and other similar bags is that the laptop portion unzips from the rest of the bag so you don’t actually have to remove your laptop from the bag when you go through security. Doing this increases your speed through security and your ability to keep track of your laptop since it never leaves your bag.
- A priority pass. Sometimes, this doesn’t save you much time, but that’s only when the line at security is short. When it’s long, as it almost always is here in Atlanta, you skip right to the front by using the priority lane. You can easily get a priority pass by signing up for the right credit card or just being a frequent traveler and getting this as a status upgrade.
How to get through security faster:
- Print your boarding pass from home or the office.
- If your airport has a security section that most people think is only for one airline, go there. It doesn’t matter whether you’re flying that airline or not. You’ll get through faster and your wait will probably be shorter. In Atlanta, there’s a security area that a lot of people seem to think is only for people flying Delta. It’s not. It just happens to be near the Delta baggage drop. I go there every time and breeze through.
- Put everything from your pants pockets except for your ID and boarding pass in your jacket or bag and take it off. Unzip the laptop portion from your bag if you’re carrying one.
- Once you’re past the ID check, take off your shoes and carry them to the belt.
- If people are backed up behind someone who has to unload items into 15 different bins, walk to the front of the line, up by the X-ray machines, toss your things on the belt (or in a bin if you need one), and walk through.
Getting through security faster and more easily is really a matter of being ready for security and being prepared to bypass slow people. A lot of people question whether they should wait for that slow person, but from experience and because I’ve been in a rush more than once, security won’t mind if you walk right by a slow person. In fact, they will probably prefer it.
What tips do you have to make traveling easier and getting through security faster? Has there been anything that you’ve found that has saved you a lot of hassle?
Editor’s Note: This is a guest post from Eric Pratum.