Record-breaking crowds have already passed through U.S. airports this summer. Here’s how to get through airport security quickly with your sanity intact during this peak travel period.
If you flew anytime this summer, you probably won’t be surprised by the following statistics. The week of June 24-30 was the busiest week in the history of the TSA. On the Friday before the Fourth of July, more than 2.67 million passengers and crew members passed through TSA checkpoints, nearly breaking the all-time record of 2.71 million on the Sunday after Thanksgiving in 2004.
The Independence Day holiday certainly contributed to the busy airports that week, but the crowds are part of an overall trend this year. The growing economy has helped increase airline travel about 4 percent each year, USA Today reported in May. In fact, six of the TSA’s top 10 busiest travel days since the agency was created in November 2001 have happened in 2018. Five of those days took place in June 2018 and the sixth happened on May 25, the Friday before Memorial Day.
Typically, the TSA screens between 2.2 and 2.3 million people a day, but these higher than average numbers aren’t expected to go away anytime soon with similar crowds expected around Labor Day weekend.
While this might make you want to rebook your vacation as a road trip, all it takes is a little preparation and a lot of patience to make it through the airport security line quickly with your sanity intact. Here are three newer TSA policies to keep in mind the next time you fly to make the whole process a little less stressful.
1. Check your powders
By now, you know you can only carry on liquids in containers 3.4 ounces or smaller, but did you know powders could slow down the security line now, too? As of June 30, foreign airports are placing heavier scrutiny on travelers flying into the United States with more than 12 ounces of powder in their carry-on bags, per the TSA’s advice. Skip the added screenings and check large amounts of powders, or just leave them behind.
2. Get to the airport earlier than you’d think
For travel this summer, the TSA recommends arriving anywhere between 90 minutes to two hours before domestic flights and up to three hours before international flights to give yourself enough time to get through long security lines, The Points Guy reports.
Regular (non-@TSA Pre) line is super scary though. All pax grouped together, including “Premier Access.” I asked a @United employee how long the first-class line is and he responded “six hours.” Passengers are PISSED and super frustrated/nervous... being obnoxious doesn’t help. pic.twitter.com/XdU0MnkAYW— Zach Honig (@ZachHonig) July 5, 2018
3. Take your snacks out of your carry-on
In recent months, travelers have reported being asked to remove all of their food from their carry-on bags for extra screening. The TSA told The New York Times that this new policy went into effect in 2017 to help TSA agents screen cluttered carry-ons more easily. If you’re traveling with any food, just go ahead and take it out of your carry-on along with your electronics to avoid being asked to do it later.
I got stopped at TSA for having too many snacks in my backpack and not taking them out but GIRL GOTTA EAT AND IM NOT PAYING FOR YOUR AIRPORT FOOD (*gets bagels on concourse*)— Caroline Craig (@CeeJayCraig) June 14, 2018
This article originally appeared online in July 2018; it was updated on August 30, 2018, to include current information.