Airport security is the bane of travelers everywhere. What should be a matter of keeping us safe has often devolved into waiting in lines that can take hours to get through. It’s easy to give up and conclude that there’s nothing you can do about it, but that’s where you’d be wrong. Here are five easy ways to get through airport security faster. (See also: Stuck at the Airport? Relax With These 14 Easy Self-Care Tricks)
1. Get TSA PreCheck
PreCheck is a rapidly expanding program that allows travelers to opt out of the standard lines and receive expedited screening. With this screening, you don’t have to remove your shoes, belts, or light jackets. Your liquids and laptop can stay packed, and you won’t have to go through the fully invasive scanners, just a plain old metal detector. Not only are the lines shorter here, but they move quicker as well.
To get PreCheck, you can sign up for it in two different ways. One is to enroll directly in PreCheck through the TSA. Doing so requires an $85 application fee and if you are accepted, your membership is good for five years. The other way is to enroll in the Global Entry program, which speeds you through immigration upon arrival in the United States, and also includes TSA PreCheck access. Global Entry has a $100 application fee and is also good for five years. Finally, there are many credit cards that offer a $100 credit toward the application fees for either TSA PreCheck or Global Entry.
Once you have been approved for either program, you’ll receive a known traveler number that you’ll have to enter into your airline reservations for airlines that participate. Then, your boarding passes should indicate access to the PreCheck lines.
2. Enroll in Clear
Before you can begin your actual security screening, you must pass through a TSA checkpoint that verifies your ID and your boarding pass. Clear is a private company that uses fingerprint and eye scanners to verify your identity. The Clear program allows you to bypass this document check (and the line for it) and proceed right to the x-ray machines. Once they verify your identity, you can still use the PreCheck line if you are eligible. A one-year membership is $179, or $15 per month.
3. Hold elite status with any airline
When you have elite status with an airline, you are entitled to a shorter line at security in most airports. The justification for letting your relationship with an airline determine your access to government services is that the airlines pay for the lines to be policed.
I’ve been able to access these lines with a card showing elite status from any airline, even if it’s not the one I’m flying. This only works with the regular security line, not the TSA PreCheck line, but it’s better than nothing. (See also: Best Airlines for Scoring First or Business Class Award Seats)
4. Use the MyTSA App to check wait times
Larger airports often have multiple TSA checkpoints, and even some smaller ones do, too. You can quickly find out where the shortest wait time is by using the MyTSA app. In fact, this app will also share when is likely to be the busiest times on a particular day, so that you can plan your trips accordingly.
5. Prepare before you reach the checkpoint
Too many people feel that the time to remove all the metal from their pockets is right before passing through the metal detector. Others feel that they need to unpack and repack their carry-ons right on the tables before the x-ray machines. Instead, you can speed up your trip through security by performing these tasks before you even get in line. I like to clear my pockets and prepare my carry-on in the terminal before I approach security, and I have no problem going around people who have chosen to do this at the last second, holding up everyone else.