Ways to Get Through TSA Airport Security Faster

Tips to Get Through Airport Security Faster


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Tips to Get Through Airport Security Faster

Security System

With pent-up travel demand surging, getting through security to board a plane or re-enter the country is even less fun than it was before the pandemic. And it's rarely quick, unless you're flying a private jet. Fortunately, there are a few things all of us can do to shave a few minutes off of the screening routine and make travel less frustrating — including a new reservation system at some airports that will let you skip the line for free.

Related: Your New Air Travel Checklist

Security Check Point

Book a TSA Appointment

Some airports are offering a new way to get through the Transportation Security Administration's checkpoints: a pre-booked reservation. In order to take some stress out of traveling during the pandemic, Seattle was the first airport to test the process and has made the Spot Saver reservation system permanent. Similar free reservation systems are available at a number of other airports including ones in Dallas/Ft. Worth, Los Angeles, and Charleston, North Carolina. Passengers can book a TSA appointment online starting 72 hours before their flight, then scan a QR code on their phone to enter designated checkpoint lines for a faster, hopefully headache-free experience.

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TSA PreCheck Signs in Indianapolis
TSA PreCheck Signs in Indianapolis by EasySentri Sentri (CC BY)

Sign Up for TSA Precheck

Of course, there's also TSA PreCheck, which is much more widely available. A five-year membership costs $78 and allows travelers to speed through security without having to remove shoes, a jacket, or belt, or taking laptops out of bags. In November 2022, 92% of PreCheck passengers waited less than five minutes, the TSA says. About 200 airports and 85 airlines provide this option.

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Get Airline Elite Status or Fly First Class

Get Airline Elite Status or Fly First Class

Another way to speed up the screening process (for those who can afford it) is to get airline elite status. Even some travelers with midtier and high-tier status can use priority screening lines along with first-class passengers, and the perk often includes traveling companions. Don't fly enough to earn elite status? There are other ways to get it, such as through airline credit cards.

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Asian woman wearing protective face mask in international airport.

Buy Priority TSA Access From the Airline

Various airlines sell expedited security screening, including JetBlue's Even More Space, which the airline promises will get travelers into security checkpoint fast lanes in a long list of cities around the country and is available when buying an Even More Space seat. Similarly, United offers Premier Access. Starting at $15, passengers can access a dedicated airport check-in line and exclusive security lanes at select airports.

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Essential travels during lockdown - woman with face mask checking in online while waiting near arrival departure board

Global Entry

Operated by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Global Entry expedites clearance for pre-approved, low-risk travelers arriving into the United States. Membership costs $100 and requires a rigorous screening via online application and in-person interview, after which travelers can enter through automated airport kiosks.

Check Extra Electronics
Family in protective face masks in airport during COVID-19 pandemic

Inspect Your Kids' Bags

Are you traveling with young children? Did they pack their own carry-on luggage? Trish McDermott, a family travel expert, recommends checking children's luggage for TSA-prohibited items before going to the airport. At the very least, check them before getting to a security checkpoint.

Related: 12 Tips for Smooth Travel With Kids

Fly Clear Station
Fly Clear Station by Phil Hollenback (CC BY-NC)


CLEAR is not the same as TSA PreCheck or Global Entry, a fact many travelers don't grasp. A $189 annual fee gets members through security lines in five minutes or less via dedicated lanes to security screening checkpoints. A bonus: Three family members or friends can be added for $60 each per year each by a family member in the program. "It takes mere minutes to sign up, which you can do at any airport that has CLEAR," says travel writer Nikki Pepper, former editor of the travel website Oh the People You Meet. "Once approved, your CLEAR membership gets you to the front of the line — even the PreCheck line — with a simple fingerprint verification."

Bangkok,Thailand - April 07 2020. Temperature control zone, monitor of thermal scanner camera to check people entrance of Siam paragon shopping mall in Bangkok during Coronavirus, Covid 19 outbreak.

Keep Liquids in a Separate Toiletry Bag

Having taken 20 trips in 12 months, travel tipster Jen Ruiz has her airport screening routine down to a science. Among her top suggestions is to keep liquids in their own bag. "I remove them from my carry-on even if I'm not required to," Ruiz says. "I've found that this is the main target that TSA is a stickler for at the X-ray point of security, even more so than electronics. Having an errant water bottle in a bag has caused me to be subject to an additional search, and if I don't separate my liquids I almost always have to stop, wait for them to go through my bag, and assess whether each item meets the 3.5-ounce restriction."

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Wear Slip-On Shoes

Wear Slip-On Shoes

This one is just a no-brainer: Shoes that are easier to slip on and off save time. Put the lace-up sneakers in the suitcase and opt for loafers or ballet flats, or some other easy-to-slip-on shoe. "Slip-ons will save you precious seconds when needing to put your shoes back on as your belongings pile up at the end of the X-ray conveyor belt," Pepper says.

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Put Small, Loose Items in a Jacket or Bag

Put Small, Loose Items in a Jacket Pocket or Carry-On

Get organized, says entrepreneur and frequent traveler Syed Gilani. "Put your mobile phone, wallet, or anything you don't need in your jacket or bag so when you take off your jacket, you don't have to offload each item in a separate bin and then try to collect in the end."

Take Unusual Items Out of Carry-On Bags

Take Unusual Items Out of Carry-On Bags

Cindy Graham, creator of Blue Bag Nomads, advises removing items from a bag that are unusual and might require further inspection. "It's just a common sense thing to do, but I follow this rule religiously now: When in doubt, take it out," says Graham, who was held up at a screening checkpoint in Cancun, Mexico, by an unusual pair of souvenir salt shakers. "It took 20 minutes for them to find them in the bag, question us, and then release us."

Related: Ridiculous Things People Have Tried to Bring on Planes

Don't Wrap Gifts

Don't Wrap Gifts

Traveling for the holidays or other gift-giving event? Don't pre-wrap gifts, Graham advises. The items may not make it through security in their wrapping, and if something has to be unwrapped, it means further delay. "If you need to wrap it before you arrive at your next stop, bring along a gift bag and tissue paper. No scissors or tape are needed," Graham says.

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Medical staff are checking the temperature of woman. Before entering the area with an epidemic Covid-19
Phynart Studio/istockphoto

Dress Appropriately

Travelers who don't have TSA PreCheck and must go through regular security lines should avoid outfits with multiple belts or accessories, says Eric Anthony, managing editor of the travel and lifestyle blog Houston on the Cheap. "Skip all the excessive jewelry too." Belts are time-consuming to take on and off, and jewelry may trigger a screening alarm. If a belt is necessary, try to take it off long before getting to the front of the line.

Suitcase packing for travel, COVID-19

Put All Food Items in One Bag

Food being carried for babies or young children will need to be inspected. Put all food in a single bag to keep the inspection quick, advises Jamie Harper, family travel blogger at Fly by the Seat of Our Pants. "If all the food is in the same bag, you can easily unload it into a box. TSA can check everything at the one time and then you can throw it all back into your bag," Harper says.

Related: 20 Snacks to Pack to Avoid Airport Rip-Offs

Use a Wrap to Carry a Baby

Use a Wrap to Carry a Baby Through Security

Heading through airport security with a stroller, carry-on bag, and more can be a small nightmare — especially when asked to remove a child so the stroller can be put through screening. Harper suggests making the process easier by using a baby wrap or baby carrier that attaches to the body to take an infant through security, keeping hands completely free. 

Related: 30 Gifts for New Parents

Traveling business man doing the check-in at the airport wearing a facemask

Kindness Counts

It's a rare traveler who hasn't once or twice in their lives shown up later than expected to the airport and needed a way to speed through security like a VIP. For such moments, Pepper says kindness can carry you a long way. "You'd be surprised what a simple 'Excuse me, but my flight is boarding' can do," she says. "Be nice. Hold up your boarding pass and politely shimmy by. This also helps, of course, if you let others do the same when it's their turn to do the cut-the-line dance. Travel karma. It's a thing."

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