Breeze Through Airport Security Like a Boss
We all know how awful travel logistics are! Thinking of the state of plane travel today — especially the lines and the TSA — will inevitably elicit groans of anger, eye rolls, and nightmare stories.
It's right in many ways that flying lacks much of the glamour and elegance of 50 years ago. We live in a world with more complex problems and issues.
But since you must deal with the lines and security if you want to fly — how about making the process as painless as possible? Here are my tips to help you breeze through airport security like a boss.
Online check-in: most airlines allow you to do check-in online 48-72 hours before you are due to depart. You can print your boarding pass, pick your seats, and even pay fees. Online registration will speed up the process at the counter at the airport. If you aren't checking bags, you won't have to stop at the desk.
Weigh your bags: Overweight bags will cost you a fortune in both time and money. Also, they slow down the line. People manically search through their luggage for things they can carry on or throw away to reduce costs. Please don't do it. Weigh them before, and you won't have a ton of fees.
Choose your line with care: Everyone tends to go straight for the shortest path. But a line with two families with several small children will most likely move a lot slower than a line with six business people.
Go left and to the outside: 90% of people are right-handed. Naturally, they tend to head towards a line on the right. People are likely to choose middle rows for metal detectors. So go to the left; the farther left, the better. Those manage to move much quicker.
Pack carry-ons carefully: put anything that the TSA will not be interested in (underwear, clothes, books, etc.) at the bottom of the bag, so you don't have to take them out. It would be best if you put anything they want to see at the top of the bag (medicine, liquids, food, and electronics), so you can quickly find them. Pack lotions and cleansers in 3 oz bottles and place them in a clear plastic bag together. It doesn't have to be fancy; I use a Ziplock bag.
Prioritize your devices: if you aren't going to use your camera or laptop on the plane, put them in your checked bags. The TSA makes you take out each device and place it in a separate bin for inspection. Keep one device like phone or iPad; put it on the top of your carry-on, which is easily accessible.
Keep travel documents together and easily accessible. I suggest a small case for your tickets and passport and place it in a side pocket of your carry on by itself. Then you won't be digging through everything to find them.
Dress for success: you will have to remove the following: anything with metal, shoes, jackets, belts, etc. Wear slip-on shoes (I like ballet flats or Toms) keep your jewelry in a separate baggy in your carry on until after you have gotten to your gate, and then you can get everything out and put it back on at leisure.
Get co-branded credit cards: These are great for people that fly frequently. You accrue miles or points, and they usually come with side benefits like priority boarding, etc.
Expedite, if possible: many international airports offer expedited service for a small fee. It is worth its weight in gold! An official meets you and immediately escorts you to the front of security and customs lines. They also usually have a posh VIP Only waiting area.
Plan accordingly: While you're in line, get prepared. Note how many bins you'll need for your stuff. Take some time to figure out the most efficient way to get everything on and off the belt so you can go through and move as quickly as possible.
Get on the list. Consider signing up for the TSA trusted traveler program called Pre-Check, which is now available in many airports. It can offer you perks like not needing to remove your shoes or laptop for a speedy trip through security.
Get Zen: You can focus on the bad (like long lines), or focus on the trip you have been looking forward to for a long time. Take deep breaths; close your eyes, and do a quick meditation. Suppose you have a long flight coming up try doing pre-flight stretches. A positive attitude will decrease your frustration with the situation.
Troubleshoot like a pro. Things rarely go as you planned. Your flight could get delayed, or you could miss the connection. Don't panic. Troubleshooting will allow you to tackle any issue calmly.
Use apps that keep all your info organized, and keep you informed. You can often get rebooked without having to wait in line to speak with a gate agent.
Program the numbers of your travel advisor, hotel, cruise, airline, car rental agencies, etc. I suggest you organize them under one name — for example, assign the 'last name' of each item as "Italy Honeymoon." If you do this, every contact for the trip is in one spot for easy access.
We know it's tough sometimes, but don't forget the one travel essential you cannot live without is patience.
Everyone is in the same boat, and they want to get through security too. A smile and a "thank-you" will always be appreciated. I've known many people who've gotten unexpected happy surprises (fees waived or upgrade) just for being polite when everyone else was falling apart. See where it gets you!