A guide to airport security

airport security

I spend a lot of time discussing really specific places and attractions. But no matter where you’re going, there are a couple of experiences that are unavoidable. One of those is airport security. Here are some tips and tricks to make the security check quick and painless for yourself and everyone around you.

Dressing for security check

Even if you’re not traveling with any carry-on bags, you’ll need to go through some kind of metal detector or body scanner. This means that your clothes have to be free of anything that will make the scanner go off. To avoid prolonging your security check or a sexy pat down from TSA, avoid wearing belts, watches and any accessories that you may forget to remove before passing through the metal detector.

If that’s unavoidable, start removing these small items while you’re in the line so you’re not scrambling to throw your small items into a bin. You can tuck them into your carry on before you start going through the security process. You’ll also run less of a risk of leaving these things behind.

In addition to accessories, you’ll usually be required to remove your shoes before passing through the body scanner. There are two important considerations when it comes to shoes:

  1. You want to wear comfortable shoes you can easily slip in and out of. The security line at an airport is not where you want to spend 10 minutes lacing up your hooker heels.
  2. You want to consider how you prefer to walk around shoeless at the airport. Sandals might be good if you don’t mind being barefoot. If you prefer to avoid your feet touching the bare floor of some random airport, wear socks.

Packing for security check

Of course, other than your body, your bag will be scrutinized as you go through security. Though it varies from place to place, in general, you’ll be required to remove certain items from your carry on bag and put them in a bin to be scanned separately:

  1. Liquids (that are no more than 3 ounces)
  2. Laptops and tablets

Your liquids should be inside a clear ziplock. Your laptop will usually be scanned in its own bin.

No matter what else is in your bag, these two things have to be accessible. If you keep that in mind when you pack, you’ll expedite the security process. No one wants to stand there barefoot while you rummage through your dirty underwear for your bag of liquids. So make them accessible. Keep them in an external pocket or at the top of all your things.

Occasionally, an errant bottle of water will make its way into your bag. This is especially true if there is an unexpected security check at a connecting airport. So when you see those TSA agents, take inventory of where that Coke bottle you were drinking went. If you forget it, prepare to have your bag searched and your hands checked for suspicious materials. It’s a stupid reason to give a stranger access to your bag and to extend your security check by 15 minutes.

The process

A proper security check is like a precise dance. If you do anything out of order, you throw everything else off and then you’re creating a bottleneck where you could otherwise have a quick and smooth experience.

Instead of waiting impatiently or catching up with Instagram, you should be preparing for security the moment you get in line for it. Start emptying your pockets of change, electronics, keys. You can put that into your carry on or your coat before they even check your boarding pass and clear you for security.

Next, start thinking about how many bins you need so you can create enough space in line for your stuff and avoid having to go back to get an additional bin. Remember that you’ll need a bin for small bags like purses and briefcases. In some airports, your larger carry on must also go in a bin. Pay attention to what people are doing in front of you so you’re not lost when it’s your turn.

You’ll also need a bin for your shoes and any jackets or sweaters. These can usually go together. And if you have room, you can also throw your bag of liquids in there with them.

Finally, you’ll need a separate bin for laptops or tablets. These are the items you definitely don’t want to forget at security check so put that into the machine first. Because you won’t forget to put your shoes back on, but if your tablet is all the way at the end, you may walk away with your bags and leave it behind.

When you put your bags on the belt, try to avoid leaving a ton of space in front of you while you remove your belt. Always keep pushing forward so the people behind you have a chance to start their process. This is basic air travel etiquette. The more you sprawl out on the belt, the longer the line gets behind you. It’s also courtesy to line up for the metal detector in the order in which you finished accommodating your bags. Sometimes you’ll have to file in with people from the neighboring line. Be respectful of the order.

Usually you and your items will be scanned roughly around the same time. It’s like taking an escalator with your grocery cart at the grocery store. Though it doesn’t always pan out that way, there is usually a steady stream of people ahead and behind you. So when you’re past security and waiting for your bags, be mindful of the people behind you. Instead of putting your shoes on at the end of the line, you can grab your bags and your shoes and reaccommodate everything where it won’t disturb anyone else. Most airports have benches or tables at the end of the security check for precisely this.

Though security rules are always changing, these basic considerations can help guide you through most airport security checkpoints. Your fellow travelers will thank you for not being a hot mess.