Travel Tips

How to Streamline Airport Security

Get through airport security quickly by streamlining your process

Whether you travel weekly for work or you’re considering hopping on a plane for the first time for a vacation, you will no doubt have to go through airport security. Waiting in line for TSA can be a massive headache, and if you’re new to traveling, the airport security process might even feel confusing or overwhelming. There are people everywhere, long lines, and, if you’re unlucky enough, some particularly smelly shoes being removed right next to you.

Plus, there are a lot of things you might not even realize you have to do while waiting in the TSA line, from taking off your shoes to taking your laptop out of your bag. If you aren’t prepared, each individual step can become an annoyance as you try to inch closer to your gate.

Knowing how airport security works and what to do ahead of time can really help you speed up your travels and avoid hiccups on the way. Let’s go over how to streamline airport security, so you don’t have to spend any more time waiting in the TSA line than is absolutely necessary.

How To Streamline Getting Through Airport Security

Getting through the TSA line isn’t the most fun part of any trip, but thankfully, there are a few ways to streamline getting through airport security. The key to getting through as fast as possible is to know what to do ahead of time. Waiting until you reach the front of the line to figure out what to do, take out your ID, and remove your laptop will not only slow down the process for you but for those traveling with you and those behind you in line. First of all, take advantage of the airlines’ checked baggage service. Before leaving for your trip, keep packing a suitcase with efficiency in mind.  A good example of this is checking the suitcase weight limit for your specific airline.

Now, let’s go over a few steps you should take before you even step in line to ensure that you’re prepared for the whole process.

Have Your ID Ready

As you approach the front of the airport security line, you’ll need to present the screener with your ID and, if applicable, your airline ticket. Ensure that you have your ID, ticket, and any other necessary documents, such as your boarding pass, and passports, in hand before you reach the front of the line to ensure the screening process goes as smoothly as possible. You don’t want to be digging through your pockets, purse, or worse, your fully-packed suitcase, looking for documents you could have kept on hand.

Remove Certain Devices And Items

Before sending your bags through security, there are numerous items you’ll need to remove from your bag. These items include any electronic item larger than a cell phone, such as tablets, laptops, game consoles, external batteries, and computers. You will also need to remove your bag of liquids, gels, and aerosols, following the 3-1-1 rule, from your carry-on.

Empty Your Pockets

Emptying your pockets is a simple yet critical step to getting through airport security quickly. Before reaching the front of the line, ensure that your pockets are free of keys, tissue, money, small pieces of trash, or any other items.

Take Off Your Shoes And Jackets

You’ll need to take off both your shoes and jacket to make your way through the scanner. To make this easier, wear shoes and a jacket that are easy to remove. You wouldn’t want to waste time fastening ten shoe buckles or tying up your laces while trying to keep the line moving.

Know The Mistakes To Avoid

Just as there are several things you should absolutely do before you step into the airport security line – such as having your documents ready, organizing your bag in a way that allows for easy removal of certain items, and removing your jacket and shoes  – there are a few mistakes you should ensure that you do not do.

Packing Prohibited Items

First, you should ensure that you have not packed any prohibited items. This is perhaps the most common but most violated TSA rule. Passengers who violate this rule usually do not do so on purpose; there is actually a long list of banned items, and not all of them are evidently dangerous. Still, they are not allowed on flights, and a TSA security agent will not allow you to proceed through security if you have any of these items in your bag.

Here are a few examples of items that you may not realize are not allowed in airport luggage:

  • Canned foods larger than 3.4 oz
  • Oils, vinegars, or sauces larger than 3.4 oz
  • Fresh meat, including seafood

Some localities have unique rules about what is allowed in bags, too. For example, passengers flying from Hawaii, Puerto Rico, or the U.S. Virgin Islands cannot travel with most fresh fruits and vegetables. For most passengers, though, fruits and vegetables are allowed to be packed in bags and brought through airport security. Keep in mind that any foods that are mashed, melted, or liquid will need to follow the 3-1-1 liquids rule.

Wearing Bulky Clothing

Wearing bulky, hard-to-remove clothing can not only cause issues with full-body scanners but can slow down the TSA line. Remember before arriving that you will need to remove your jacket and shoes as soon as you enter the front part of the TSA security line, so be sure to dress accordingly. If you’re going to a cold weather destination, wearing a warm jacket or parka may be unavoidable.

How Long Is Airport Security Waiting Time?

Now that you know more about how to go through airport security quickly, it’s time to talk about how long the average wait time is regardless of how prepared you are. Many factors can affect the average airport security wait time. Wait times differ at each and every airport around the nation; some airports are extremely busy, while others only see a few travelers pass through each day. While you can’t fully expect to know what your trip through TSA will be like, you can be sure to do what you can to streamline the process.

Wait times at each individual airport depend on how many people are at the airport at any given time. The number of people traveling can be affected by factors such as the time of day, ongoing events, the day of the week, and holidays.

Time Of Day

Different airports are busy at different times of day since different locations can draw in travelers for a variety of different reasons. The average busiest time of day at the Chicago-O’Hare International Airport (ORD), for example, is 9 to 10 am. This is early in the morning, during which businesspeople may be arriving or departing for their trips.

The busiest times at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL), on the other hand, are 1 to 2 a.m. and 11 p.m. to midnight. These times are in the middle of the night, unlike the Chicago-O’Hare International Airport’s busy early morning hours. Because the busiest hours at each airport in the nation vary, it is important to do some research before you even plan your flight to ensure that you will be in the security line at a minimally busy time.

Events And Holidays

More people travel during the holidays than at any other point during the year. In fact, during the 6-day Thanksgiving travel period, the number of long-distance trips increases each year by 54 percent. During the Christmas and New Year’s holiday period, the number rises by 23 percent. If you are traveling on or around Thanksgiving, Christmas, or other winter holidays, it is almost inevitable that you will experience long wait times at the airport.

Local events can also contribute to longer wait times. For example, if a massive convention, concert, or political rally is going on in a major city, the airport in that city might be particularly swamped during the week of that event. Researching local ongoing events can help you plan your flight around them and arrive at a minimally busy time.

Getting Through TSA Efficiently

Of course, your individual airport security wait time depends on how efficiently you and other passengers can get through TSA security. If you or another passenger slows down the process by taking time to find their ID, present other documents, or remove items from their bag, the line might be slower than expected.  This is why it is so important to prepare as much as you can before you arrive at the airport security line.

Brief History Of The TSA

The Transportation Security Agency (TSA) was founded on November 19, 2001, in response to the series of terrorist attacks in New York, Pennsylvania, and Virginia on September 11, 2001. At this time, President Bush signed the Aviation and Transportation Security Act into law. The Aviation and Transportation Security Act required that federal officials checked 100% of airport baggage, thus resulting in the creation of the TSA.

Changes Over The Past 20 Years

The organization has changed a lot in the past 20 years, with travelers’ airport security experiences also seeing substantial changes. For example, after a passenger attempted to bring a bomb hidden in their shoe aboard a plane in 2002, the TSA required all passengers to start removing their shoes starting in 2006. After briefly disallowing liquids entirely, the TSA enacted its current 3-1-1 liquids rule, which allows passengers to bring liquids, gels, and aerosols in amounts of only 3.4 ounces or less in a single, clear, resealable 1-quart plastic bag. In 2010, the organization introduced full-body scanners designed to detect even non-metallic weapons and threats.

TSA PreCheck And Global Entry

In 2011, the TSA PreCheck® program was introduced, allowing frequent passengers to streamline their airport security line experience. The program operates on the basis of making risk assessments about passengers before they arrive at an airport checkpoint. This way, federal officials are still able to keep other passengers safe while speeding up airport security lines.

The Global Entry program was founded a few years earlier, in 2008. The Global Entry program is essentially the international version of TSA PreCheck. Passengers who are eligible for Global Entry are pre-approved, low-risk travelers and can receive expedited clearance upon arriving at their destination in the United States.

TSA Wait Times

TSA wait times greatly vary from airport to airport. While some airports may have lines that span as long as over 20 minutes on average, some airports can often get you through their TSA security line in less than 10 minutes. Of course, times vary from day to day and can depend on the numerous factors we mentioned before, like currently ongoing events and the holiday season. Because of this, airport average wait times should not be considered a guarantee that each traveler will get through the line in that amount of time.

Airports With Best TSA Wait Times

  • Salt Lake City International (SLC) - 9.1 minutes
  • Washington Dulles International (IAD) - 10.5 minutes
  • Boston Logan International (BOS) - 10.6 minutes
  • Minneapolis-St. Paul International (MSP) - 13 minutes
  • Charlotte Douglas International (CLT) / Detroit Metropolitan (DTW) (tie) - 13.2 minutes

Airports With Worst TSA Wait Times

  • Newark Liberty International (EWR) - 23.1 minutes
  • George Bush Intercontinental (IAH) - 19.8 minutes
  • Miami International (MIA) - 19.6 minutes
  • Baltimore-Washington International (BWI) - 18.2 minutes
  • Harry Reid International (LAS) - 17.3 minutes

The Parking Spot

Waiting in the TSA line can be a headache – especially at airports like Newark Liberty Intentional or George Bush Intercontinental, where lines can be as long as 20 minutes on average – but one way to make your traveling much easier and more seamless is to park near the airport.

The Parking Spot offers amenities that make near-airport parking significantly more enjoyable; for example:

  • Continuous friendly airport parking shuttle service
  • Covered, open-air, and valet parking available (select locations)
  • Always open, 24/7/365
  • Fast and easy check-in & check-out
  • Well-lit, fully-fenced
  • Luggage assistance available
  • Complimentary chilled water
  • Airport Parking Reservations available

All you’ll need to do is make a reservation on the Parking Spot website or app, where you’ll find the best deals available for nearby airport parking. Once you park, one of our shuttles will take you from your car to your destination, ensuring that you’re always on time for your flight and that you can make it to the airport security line before it gets too busy.

Remember that by joining our Spot Club, you’ll receive numerous benefits, such as:

  • Waived reservation fees
  • Opportunity to earn Free parking
  • Discounts

These are just a few of the reasons that so many travelers are loyal members of our Spot Club. Experience the luxury of easy parking near the airport while traveling with us on your next trip!


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