7 Tips From TSA to Make the Security Line Smooth and Easy
KEEP THIS TIME-SAVING ADVICE IN MIND WHENEVER YOU HEAD TO THE AIRPORT NEXT.
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Airports are always hustling and bustling—and with the summer travel season looming, they're only bound to get busier. Of course, more travelers means more people that need to make their way through security checkpoints, so you'll want to prepare for longer lines and wait times. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is preparing as well, offering important recommendations to simplify the screening process. Read on for seven tips the agency recommends to make the security line smooth and easy.
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Sign up for PreCheck.
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If you don't have TSA PreCheck—which allows you to enter a separate (often shorter) security line—you've probably experienced a pang of jealousy when watching others bypass the regular line. PreCheck does require you to enroll ahead of time, but TSA says the program is actually a perfect gift to yourself.
"Members of the popular TSA PreCheck program have access to checkpoint lanes that move faster than standard checkpoint lanes because travelers who are enrolled in TSA PreCheck can leave on their shoes, belts, lightweight jackets and they can leave electronics and small containers of liquids in their carry-on bags," the agency wrote in a Dec. 2022 news release. According to TSA's data, 92 percent of those with PreCheck waited less than five minutes at checkpoints in November last year.
Ahead of the 2022 holiday season, the agency also announced a price drop for PreCheck, which is now $78 to enroll in a five-year membership and $70 to renew.
Download the myTSA app.
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These days, there's truly an app for everything, and TSA is no exception. Also on its list of suggestions is that you download the free myTSA app.
"You will love its many features, the best of which is the 'Can I bring?' feature," the press release reads. "Type in the name of an item and the app will let you know immediately whether you should pack it in a checked bag, carry-on bag, either or neither. The app also has a link directly to TSA's social media team so you can send a question via Facebook Messenger or Twitter."
In addition, the app allows you to select your home airport and those you frequent, keeping you up to date on flight delays. But the real bonus is in your ability to check estimates of the wait at security—no more guessing games! "The myTSA app will enhance every traveler's experience," the agency said.
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Upgrade your carry-on game.
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There's nothing worse than going to pack your carry-on and forgetting about the liquid requirements. Keep yourself prepared and the next time you're at the drugstore, grab a few of those cute travel-sized toiletries (3.4 ounces or smaller). They even sell reusable options so you can fill them up using your regular-sized shampoo or lotion.
Having these on hand will be extra convenient, as all you'll have to do is pop them into your clear quart-size bag when you're ready to go.
Be aware of medication dos and don'ts.
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Whenever you're gearing up for a trip, you want to make sure you pack your prescriptions and any sort of over-the-counter medications you'll need during your travels. With that in mind, TSA asks that you consider a few things—especially if your medication is considered a liquid.
"Medication in liquid form is allowed in carry-on bags in excess of 3.4 ounces in reasonable quantities for the flight," the TSA explains. "It is not necessary to place medically required liquids in a zip-top bag. However, you must tell the officer that you have medically necessary liquids at the start of the screening checkpoint process. Medically required liquids will be subject to additional screening that could include being asked to open the container."
Pills are allowed in "unlimited amounts," the agency adds, and if it's something that you need immediate access to, pack it in your carry-on as opposed to your checked baggage.
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If you're extra excited about your travels, you may pack days in advance, but TSA has a few words of advice if you tend to haphazardly throw your necessities in at the last minute.
"It takes time for TSA officers to make sure a jam-packed, cluttered, overstuffed bag is safe," the agency says. "And the more time it takes to screen your bag, the longer you—and everyone behind you—are stuck in line."
To keep yourself in order and maximize space, invest in some packing cubes. These nifty little mesh bags help you stay organized while packing, while going through security, and when you eventually unpack at your destination.
Know what you can't take through security, and take extra care if you own a firearm.
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It's important to have a firm understanding of what you can and cannot take through a security checkpoint—and double-check anything you're unsure of with TSA's "What Can I Bring?" tool.
One thing that definitely won't get past TSA is a firearm. If you plan to travel with a gun, TSA says that a hard-sided case is a worthy investment. According to the agency's Dec. 2022 press release, options are available at sporting goods stores, gun shops, and online.
"You can travel with a firearm as long as it is packed properly," the agency said. "If it's not packed properly, you will come face-to-face with a police officer and you'll get a hefty civil citation from TSA."
The "proper" way to transport your firearm is to make sure it's unloaded and packed in one of these hard-sided cases. You'll also need to declare it at the airline counter so that it can be stored in the cargo hold as opposed to the main cabin.
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Level up your checked luggage, too.
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If you tend to overpack, you might prefer to check your bag and eliminate the need to follow TSA's many rules for carry-ons. But your bag is then in the airline's hands and potentially a target for bad actors if left unattended. So, if you do hand your bag off, you'll be that much more relaxed in the security line if you're confident it's secure.
One way to achieve this confidence is by investing in a luggage lock—but the trick here is that it should be TSA-compatible.
"If your checked bag triggers an alarm during the security screening process, the bag will need to be opened so that a TSA officer can resolve the alarm," the agency explained in its press release. "If there is a TSA-compatible lock, then the TSA officer will use a master key to open the lock to peek inside the suitcase and then re-lock the suitcase afterward." If your lock isn't compatible, it'll be cut off and your bag will be left to fend for itself.
A surefire way to check if your lock is compatible is by looking near the keyhole. You should see the letters "TSA" engraved with a code number, which lets the TSA agent know what kind of master key they need to use.