After the September 11 attacks, airline travel was forever changed by new regulations and tightened security. To make things worse, in 2001 Richard Reid unsuccessfully tried to light a bomb hidden in his shoe on an American Airlines flight. The incident spurred a new rule requiring passengers to remove and screen their footwear. Then, in 2006, a plot was uncovered in which terrorists planned to detonate explosives disguised as soft drinks. Homeland security reacted with a ban on all liquids. On Christmas Day 2009 a Nigerian man known as the “underwear bomber” tried to blow up a plane with explosives sewn into his undergarments. The result was AIT body scanners being placed in airports. Every new terrorist attempt has created another screening step for airline travel. As the rules have become more stringent, the time required to get on a plane has doubled from what it used to be in the 20th century.
At this moment, I’m standing in an airport security line that is longer than most queues at a Disney theme park. The good news is I’m getting out of here a little faster than my fellow passengers. Let me share a list of things that can save you a few minutes here and there and will ultimately add up to less stress getting to your destination.
Don't Check Your Luggage
If there’s any possibility of bringing your essentials and not checking luggage, then don’t check luggage. Find out the rules for carry on luggage or personal items and buy a bag that size that rolls. Try to get a bag with an outside zippered pouch to put your phone, wallet and keys in while you’re being screened. You can completely skip the check-in line as well as the baggage carousel. This one tip can save you over an hour of waiting and save you money on paying luggage fees. (You don’t really need three pairs of shoes.)
Dress Like a Travel Pro
There’s nothing worse than being behind the person who’s got boots to unlace, scarves to untie, layers of outwear to shed, dangling jewelry and more bags than they can carry. Don’t be that person! Wear hoes that can be slipped on and off quickly and keep your bling bling and outerwear in a bag or have it ready to drop into a bin. If you feel it necessary to have as much jewelry as Mr. T, put it in your carry on. Once you’re at your gate, you can bejewel yourself to your heart’s content. Tired of taking off your belt? I wear a hiker money belt that lets me stash extra cash for an emergency and since there’s no metal on it, security devices don’t detect it.
Use Electronic Mobile Passes
Most airlines have kiosks where you can check in without talking to an agent and print your ticket on the spot. That can save you a lot of time if you don’t have to check luggage. However, electronic passes are a better option and don’t even require you to go anywhere other than your gate. Many airlines will allow you to create your pass when you check in on app on your phone and when you’re passing through security, you just hold your phone screen over the scanner and let the officer look at your ID. No wasted felt pen check marks and circles. In Europe, there are turnstiles that allow entry through security by using the same method and eliminate unnecessary security personnel. If you have an iPhone, you can store these tickets in your electronic wallet.
Don’t Stand in the Middle of a Walkway
People that walk out of a plane and stop in the middle of the foot traffic to talk on their phone or organize their stuff create a traffic jam that slows everyone down. Move yourself and your luggage to the side and be considerate of those around you. Have your documents handy if you’re boarding a a plane before you walk up the the gate.
Wrangle Your Electronics
This year there was talk about prohibiting laptops in the cabin, but fortunately that has not come to pass as of yet. You do still have to pull your laptop out of your carry on and put it in its own bin, but you can expedite the process into one fluid move. I’ve got a thin neoprene foam sleeve that protects my computer that is rarely questioned. I just pull it out of my bag, case and all. I keep the power cord, external drives, batteries and all my peripheral cords in another bag. I never have to pull them out or dig through a laptop bag or cords to find my computer. I also save on space.
Trusted Traveler Programs
There are three types of prescreening: TSA PreCheck, which works throughout the U.S. and costs $85 for five years; Global Entry, which requires an interview, background check and fingerprinting and costs only $15 more for five years and works internationally. Then there’s Clear, which at this moment only covers 20 or so domestic airports. The advantage of any of these programs is shorter lines, and you may not have to remove your shoes or take anything out of your bag. You have to pay for this privilege, but if you travel often, the time you save will pay for it.
Above all, think a few steps ahead. Make a plan and be aware of those around you. Get rid of your water bottle and empty your pockets before you get to the security scanner. Allow enough time to get to where you’re going and you’ll have time to relax before you get on your plane.