We’re gonna say it: Going through airport security is one of the least enjoyable parts of traveling. When you’re exhausted, under-caffeinated and itching to get to your gate with enough time for a drink, you’re not exactly in the mood to get held up by the metal detectors. Airport security procedures are meant to keep us safe, and we’re thankful for the vigilant TSA agents who make sure we get to our destination in one piece. It can just really, really be a pain, especially on big travel days when the lines are long and everyone’s on edge. Fortunately, it’s possible to ensure your safety and get through security more efficiently. At this point, we’ve sort of gotten it down to a science.
1. Get pre-checked as a safe traveler.
For frequent travelers, pre-check security packages are major time savers. You’ll have to pay to apply for these programs, but if you travel often the price may very well be worth the time you save. Check out our guide to the many different packages to determine the one best for you.
2. Check—and Double-Check—Your Clothes for Metal.
Seems like a no-brainer, right? But many travelers can get held up at security because they forget that their shirt has metal buttons or that their jeans have metallic stud accents. Even underwire bras can get flagged by metal detectors (hear that, ladies?). Look for these little details on your clothing when planning out your travel outfit and you’ll breeze through metal detectors.
3. It Might Not Be Enough to Remove Your Shoes
Unless you’re pre-checked, you’ll likely have to take off your kicks to clear security. But placing your sneakers in the tray may not be enough. Gel inserts are not allowed in your shoes or in your carry-on bag, and if you’re spotted with them you could be looking at an unnecessary time delay. Instead, pack them in your checked luggage and put them in your shoes after you’ve landed.
4. Wear Clothes that Fit
Nope, this isn’t sartorial advice. Though loose-fitting clothing seems like a comfy option when flying, security personnel may be suspicious of a getup that looks too loose or ill-fitted to your body type. They don’t know if you’re trying to hide something, and this could result in more (you guessed it!) security screenings.
5. Bring More Bags
When you go through security, you’ll ideally want to have as few items on your person as possible. This gives the metal detectors and the guard with the wand less to scan. The reality? There’s stuff you’ll want to keep with you, either as outfit accessories or in-flight comforts. Instead of showing up at the airport wearing and toting all of these things, pack with a nesting doll approach in mind: Pack a bag within your bag. Rather than fumbling to remove your earrings, cufflinks, hand sanitizer bottles, and whatever else you might need to put in the tray before going through the metal detectors, put all of these loose things in a clear plastic bag and keep it in your carry on. When you get to the scanner, just remove the plastic bag and place it in the tray. This will allow security officers to check your personal items more efficiently.
Another option? Keep all of your (non-liquid) personal items in a jacket or coat with lots of pockets, then remove it while going through the detector or scanner. The only caveat with this approach is that you don’t want to wear a coat that looks suspicious (no large trench coats, please!), as this could also cause you to be pulled aside for additional screening. Go for a track coat or anorak jacket instead.