- Getty Images
Getting through the security line is arguably one of the most stressful parts of an airport experience- and it’s exponentially worse if you’re running late.
If you want to get through the chaos as quickly as possible, make sure you’re not making any of these common mistakes.
You’re flying at peak times.
- Oli Scarff/Getty
It’s not always possible to fly at less popular times, such as at a super early hour or on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, but make it a point to book during these slots whenever you can.
SmarterTravel suggests that, in addition to planning around holiday travel, you’ll be wise to avoid peak times like between 4 – 8 pm on Friday and Sunday evenings. While summer travel can make security lines extra long, flying during off-peak seasons can be a more relaxed experience.
You’re not utilizing helpful apps.
- Yuri Gripas/Reuters
Some apps can help you better predict wait times- and provide fast answers to common flight and security questions.
Your security questions can quickly be answered using the TSA’s app. The MyTSA app “provides airline passengers with 24/7 access to the most frequently requested airport security information on any mobile device.” The app can also help you estimate how busy the airport is likely to be during the time of your flight based on the TSA’s historical data.
Plus, there’s an app that can tell you the estimated security wait time. Travel company TripIt provides wait times within their app using new technology. According to Travel + Leisure, “TripIt’s new system – developed in partnership with a company called inside – relies on sensors installed at airport security checkpoints. These sensors send information to TripIt, which is then able to predict a more accurate wait time.”
The app can also provide you with real-time updates while you’re standing in line.
Your airport style is slowing you down.
- REUTERS/Brian Snyder
According to Who What Wear, there are some common outfit culprits that can slow you down in an airport security line. Among them are bulky or puffy jackets, lace-up shoes, and sneakers, metal bracelets or chains, hair accessories, or extra bags.
Keep your travel outfit streamlined to avoid being slowed down further, questioned, or subject to extra search. Leggings, jeans, and minimal basics work well, along with slip-on sneakers and a compact carry-on. Needed an excuse to rock some new athleisure? Consider this it.
You aren’t taking advantages of special perks and programs.
- Brendan McDermid/Reuters
If you travel often, you might be able to take advantage of perks that can speed up the time it takes you to get through airport security.
According to The Points Guy, achieving “Elite Airline Status” at certain airlines can help you get priority when it comes to security, among other perks. Plus, this perk is sometimes extended to your travel companions if you’re traveling in a group.
Haven’t achieved elite status as a frequent flier? Programs like Global Entry and TSA Pre-Check can help you skip long security lines. The process involves an application, paying a fee, and in-person interview, but final approval will grant you privileges for a period of years.
It’s also worth checking if your credit cards cover the cost of these special perks. Some credit cards, like the American Express Platinum Card, will offer you credit for the cost of your Global Entry or TSA Pre-Check membership.
You don’t actually know the rules.
- Chip Somodevilla/Getty
Security queues are often chaotic, but knowing the rules can help you stay aware and move through the process quickly to the best of your ability.
TSA mandates that you carry liquids, 3.4oz each or less, in a clear, quart-sized plastic bag and ensure its easily accessible when you pack your carry-on. Make sure your bags are free from banned items.
Be prepared to take off your jacket and shoes and to remove your electronic devices for screening.
You choose the wrong line.
It might appear that all chaotic security lines are the same, but this isn’t actually the case. Andrea Feczo, the host of ABC’s Vacation Creation, told Brit + Co that some lines do move faster than others.
“When you get to security, make a lap around the area before you commit to the line; take an extra minute to see what’s going on and how many agents are on location. Most of the time, you should pick the line closest to the TSA PreCheck security line,” she advised. “This works because if the precheck line gets quiet, the agent will likely pull people over from your line.”
Though it might seem contradictory, she went on to explain that the opposite occurs when screening carry-on bags. “In this case, look for fewer agents per screening – the best situation looks like one line per agent manning the machine. If you see two people behind the machine, chances are one of the agents is in training, making the process longer.”
You lose your cool when you’re stressed.
- Jeff Swenson/Getty Images
Never underestimate the power of kindness, and asking for help.
TSA staff have the power to move you through a security line more quickly at their own discretion, and will often accommodate those in a potentially disastrous time-crunch when alerted. So stay calm and respectful if you’re in a rush- it could help.
Treating those around you and the people helping you through the process with respect is critical, whether you’re rushing to get through security or not.
You’re making inappropriate jokes and comments.
There are some phrases and terms that could get you flagged by TSA- and prolong your airport security experience.
Jokes about guns, bombs, and explosives are especially bad ideas.
“While we do have freedom of speech in the United States, any mention of these items while in the airport or security lines can get you pulled and questioned,” Phillip Farina, safety and security advisor at Farina and Associates, Ltd, told Reader’s Digest.
You’re not packing your suitcase carefully.
In some cases, the way you pack your suitcase could get you flagged and further lengthen your airport security journey.
If you have items in your suitcase that could potentially look like an explosive device, such as curling irons or phone chargers, it’s important to pack them separately. If they’re bunched together in the same section of your suitcase, it could raise suspicion.
According to Lifehacker, “The key is to pack your suitcase in such a way that we keep anything that might appear to be a triggering device physically separated from anything that might be mistaken for explosive material.”
Your important IDs and documents are buried in your bag.
While waiting in line at airport security, know the location of your ID, boarding pass and any other necessary documents.
When packing and heading toward security, take note of which pocket or purse you’ve stored them in so you don’t waste time digging through your suitcase once you get to the front of the line.
For more great stories, head to INSIDER’s homepage.