If I had a nickle for every time someone said, “Airport security is a great experience,” I would have exactly zero nickles. Airport security has grown to be more complicated, with more rules resulting in more hassles. This has been especially true since the TSA (Transportation Security Administration) was formed in the aftermath of 9/11. Despite all the patting, swabbing, poking, and wiping (yes each one of those actions have been performed on me by TSA agents) there are actually ways to make getting through security a bit less of a hassle.
Here are six of the best ways to make your TSA experience a little bit (or maybe a lot!) less miserable:
1. Avoid bringing electronics with removable batteries.
When you go through security, you are asked specifically to remove laptops from your baggage…but not tablets like the iPad. Why? The TSA isn’t worried about electronics, they are worried about removable battery compartments that can hide bombs. You can save yourself the hassle of unzipping your bag and placing your laptop in a separate bin by just travelling with a tablet instead.
Next Page: Solid alternatives to liquids. Yes, they exist.
2. Opt for solid alternatives to liquids.
TSA has asked us to use “travel sized” (precisely 3.4 oz. or smaller) amounts of liquids such as soap, lotion, creams, and shampoo. All of that needs to be in one quart-sized clear plastic bag that we have to dig out and put in a separate bin to be x-rayed — a lot of hassle for basic necessities while traveling. However, there are solid alternatives to all those items. In fact, on a recent trip my wife and I took to Florida, neither of us had a single bottle of liquid. All the soap we had was in solid form, including the shampoo and hair conditioner. All of it came from my wife’s favorite soap company, Lush, which makes solid-form soaps (Amazon conveniently sells Lush products). There are many other alternatives, you just have to look for them.
Next Page: Think twice about removing that belt.
3. You don’t always have to remove belts.
Not all belts have metal in them. Unlike shoes, removing belts isn’t mandatory. This means, if you have a belt without metal, it can stay on. Buying a belt just to fly with may very well be worth saving the hassle (and sometime embarrassment if you have loose pants) while going through security.
Next Page: The pros and…ok, mostly pros…of TSA Precheck.
4. Look into TSA Precheck.
TSA Precheck is pretty fantastic, to be honest: No removing shoes, no taking out laptops, no removing light coat, and no invasive body scanner — just a simple metal detector and x-ray for your baggage. The best benefit of using TSA Precheck is you get to skip the standard line. I got through security in under 5 minutes on my way back from Las Vegas with Precheck. If you don’t automatically qualify (like active duty military or certain federal employees) you can apply here for $85. Once approved you are good for 5 years.
Next Page: Going out of the country? Go Global Entry.
5. Consider joining Global Entry.
If you travel a lot internationally, this is a great program. It is basically the same idea as TSA Precheck but for U.S. Customs and Immigration. Instead of being interrogated by U.S. Border Patrol on your return to the United States, you simply scan your passport at a kiosk, answer a couple of questions on a touch screen, and continue on your way. Again, a lot shorter lines and a lot easier to pass through. As an added benefit, membership in this program also makes you automatically eligible for the TSA Precheck. The application fee is $100 and lasts 5 years. You can start your application right here.
Next Page: Be on your best manners.
6. Be polite to TSA and other airport security staff.
There is a legitimate and healthy debate on what rules should and should not be in place to protect the safety and privacy of travelers. Even if you disagree with certain policies, remember one thing: These people are just doing their jobs, trying to make a living to support their families. Not to mention, they have the power to detain you, perform additional searches, and slow your progress down significantly while going through security. Being cooperative, nice, and polite will keep them happy (hopefully) and will make you a happier traveler.
Hopefully some of these tips will be time-savers and prevent you from pulling out your hair the next time you go through airport security. Leave a comment if you have found a nice trick that helps avoid hassle at airport security.