For many of us, our biggest hassle while travelling is airport security. How long it can take you to get through airport security is usually down to factors outside of your control, but there are steps you can take to minimize your chances of being pulled aside, waiting in line or holding everyone else up.
When to Travel
Usually it’s not being stopped by security that makes the security process so long; it’s the other travelers standing in front of you. If you don't want to end up in long security queues and the risk of missing your flight, try and travel outside of peak travelling times. These peak times are usually weekends, early mornings and evening flights. There is also a peak time within your own flight – being one of the first to check in means you won’t have as many people from your plane built up in front of you when it comes time to pass through security. Being (dangerously) late can also help, but won’t get you through any faster (and depends on the boarding status of other flights).
How Is Your Luggage Packed?
If you are stopped by airport security, you can expect every piece of your hand luggage to be checked. Pack in advance and don't leave it until the last second. For the purposes of getting through security quickly its best to a) Pack light and b) Pay in layers. Pack the majority of your clothing to the bottom and any other items, such as electronics, on top. Cover them with the rest of your clothing so they don't get damaged. Packing neatly in layers makes it easier for airport security to skim through what you are carrying before moving you along.
It doesn't matter whether you are heading abroad on a family vacation or you are catching a domestic flight, either way be prepared to show your proof of ID several times. Keeping your air ticket, boarding pass and passport close at hand will make the process go much faster. Be prepared to show your documentation on request, so keep it in the side pocket of your hand luggage or in your pocket where you can pull it out quickly. You've seen what happens otherwise - people fumbling through multiple pockets and generally taking too long. Don't do that.
Keep Large Electronics Accessible
Electronics throw up the most red flags at security. Whether you are carrying a large laptop or camera, keep these items in your hand luggage. Ensure they are charged so that should you need to show them to airport security, they can see that they are in full working order (apparently a common request). Also ensure you wrap any cords neatly so they do not obscure other items.
Be Prepared for the Scanning Machines
At any airport you need to be scanned, but the nature of the scanning will vary. You can ensure you fly through by having any electronics, such as mobile phones and any metallic objects out of your pockets and ready to put in the basket in advance. If you are carrying gifts in your hand luggage, don't wrap them, since you may be asked to unwrap them. If you have to conceal them from inquisitive family members you can use a plastic bag and some tape.
In many countries you may be required to remove your shoes. I like to wear lace up boots most of the time, but stick with trainers when flying as they can be slipped on and off easily. Same goes for jewellery and watches - make a mental note of what you'll need to present and what you'll need to remove.
If you are unsure on what liquids and items you can carry with you, check the airline website.
Though you may have accidentally brought prohibited items through security before, intentionally doing so is a terrible idea. Put all your toiletries neatly in one bag including any prescription medication that you don't need on your person. Be sure to have a copy of your prescription for any medication with the medication.
Investigate Other Options
Recently expediated screening services such as TSA’s precheck for US Domestic travel are becoming more popular. If you qualify for them then they're well worth looking into; especially if you fly frequently.
George works as a travel writer at car hire company Sixt.co.uk. He plans to cycle Europe (starting in Slovakia) with a friend as soon as he has the right tripod for the job.
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