Navigating airport check-in and security is nobody's idea of a good time, but it doesn't have to take forever. Here are nine ways to help you get to your gate faster, presented by Mental Floss and Discover.
1. Check your airport's wait times.
You don't need to wait until you get to the airport to figure out whether or not there's a huge security line. Instead, you can just look at your phone. There are several apps that provide estimated checkpoint wait times based on crowdsourced data. Some apps also include airport information like terminal maps that can help you find your way quickly.
2. Have your documents handy.
Obviously, checking in online and printing out or downloading your boarding pass can speed up your airport time considerably. More importantly, you want to make sure that boarding pass, as well as your identification, is close at hand. Keep your necessary documents in an exterior pocket or in hand so that you don't have to worry about digging through your bag when you get to the front of the line.
3. Ditch your spare change.
The fewer things you have to take out and place in plastic bins when you get up to the TSA scanner, the better. Do yourself a favor and leave your pocket change at home. This will not only save you time during your security check, but it will likely prevent you from accidentally losing that money—a recent report found that U.S. travelers collectively left almost $1 million in change behind at security checkpoints in 2018.
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4. Streamline your luggage.
If you’re not checking your bag, you can pack your carry-on in a way that makes it easy to access everything you'll need to take out at screening. Keep electronics, your TSA-compliant bag of liquids, and anything else that might need separate screening in a side pocket or at the top of your bag so that they're easy to remove before you place them in separate bins on the conveyor belt. TSA agents sometimes ask passengers to remove books and even snacks from their bags, too, so it's handy to have those contained in an easy-to-reach place. As the TSA points out on its website, keeping your bag neat can also help speed up the process: "We recommend keeping your bag organized to help ease the screening process as it takes time for TSA officers to make sure a jam-packed, cluttered, overstuffed bag is safe," the agency advises.
5. Use products made specifically for security checkpoints.
The rules and regulations around carry-on luggage can be confusing. Rather than try to remember what the "3-1-1" rule actually means, invest in a few products that are specifically tailored toward air travel. A number of brands make checkpoint-friendly clear toiletry bags that come with refillable bottles you can use for liquids, meaning that you don't have to go through every lotion bottle you own trying to figure out if it's 3.4 ounces or less. You can also buy TSA-approved luggage locks and other accessories designed to make security screening easier for both you and the agents on duty.
6. Embrace “fast” fashion.
Just like buying TSA-compliant toiletry bags can speed up the security process, so can choosing the right outfit. Now, the TSA has yet to make its own line of travel clothing, but there are still steps you can take to make sure that you get in and out of that scanner lightning fast. Wear slip-on shoes. Choose clothing that's not too bulky and doesn't feature a million pockets or a ton of metal decoration—all of which can make you an easy target for extra security screening. Consider ditching your regular belt for a one with a carbon fiber or plastic buckle rather than a metal one so that you don't have to take it off before walking through. Swap your pullover sweater for a cardigan or zip jacket that's easy to remove. Wear as little jewelry as you can, and keep everything in your bag rather than your pockets.
7. Keep an eye out for far-away checkpoints.
Often, passengers will default to whichever security line is closest to them as they move through security checkpoints. However, if you look around, you may find an even shorter option if you walk just a bit farther. Make sure to examine the different checkpoint lines after you go through your ID and ticket check rather than blindly following the person in front of you. Some airports may even have out-of-the-way security checkpoints that most travelers miss altogether, meaning that those lines are often significantly shorter than their easy-to-find counterparts. Be sure to look around for checkpoints at the far edges of the terminal if the main line seems crowded.
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