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30 TSA Tips That Will Make Security Screening a Cinch

The long slog through airport security is one of the least pleasant parts of travel. Yes, it's dehumanizing to be herded like cattle and face undue scrutiny when you're just trying to get from A to B, but this is the small price we pay for setting off on grand adventures around the globe. Knowing the rules so you can slide through the TSA screening process as quickly as possible is key to starting your journey on the right foot. You'll be on your way before you know it with a bit of preparation.


01 Choose your shoes wisely

Man Putting Shoes Into Tray For Airport Security Check

There are no two ways about it—you have to remove your shoes at the security checkpoint. Why not make it easy for yourself and wear shoes that you can easily slip off and on again? Nobody needs the hassle of untying, unzipping, or unbuckling fiddly footwear, only to do it all again a few minutes later. Bearing in mind that your feet will be bare, don't skip socks! Airport floors are not only freezing, but they're also far from immaculate. Nobody wants a case of athlete's foot ruining their vacation.


Kids under 12, seniors over 75, and people with TSA PreCheck can leave their shoes on.


02 Take off any body piercings

Blurred Airport security check at gates with metal detector and scanner

Generally, standard piercings like earrings won't set off the security scans. Even if they do, they're pretty simple to remove. However, certain metal body piercings may trigger the machines, requiring you to go through a manual pat-down.

A TSA agent may ask you to remove your body piercings in a private area if additional screening is necessary. Rather than taking the risk, remove any body piercings before you make it to the security screening. If you are concerned about your piercings closing up, consider glass piercing retainers.


03 But don't remove your jewelry

At the airport security checkpoint

Believe it or not, you don't have to part with your bling when passing security screening. Every year, hurried travelers needlessly leave behind hundreds of necklaces, bracelets, watches, and other prized items at the security checkpoint. Your everyday jewelry, such as earrings or wedding rings, shouldn't set off any alarms. If it does, a security agent will help you determine the issue.


04 Limit your liquids

Passenger Puts Liquids Into Bag At Airport Security Check

Remember the 3-1-1 rule: any liquid or gel you carry on board must be in individual 3.4-ounce (100 milliliter) containers or smaller, and every container must fit into a single clear, quart-sized bag. Skip pricey travel-size items and buy empty travel-size bottles to fill with your favorite products. Just make sure you label everything. Keep the quart-sized bag easily accessible in your carry-on. Are you worried about keeping hydrated before your flight? Bring an empty water bottle and fill it once you're through security.


The 3-1-1 rule does not apply to liquids in checked luggage.


05 Medication and milk for babies are exempt

Woman preparing baby milk formula in kitchen

Breastmilk, formula, and prescription medication, including eye drops, insulin, or syringes, are exempt from the 3-1-1 rule—as long as you declare them at the security checkpoint. This means you can carry more than 3.4 ounces of these substances without a plastic bag. Just make sure your prescriptions are in their original labeled containers. Though this isn't a requirement, it speeds up the screening process. Additionally, many states and foreign countries have their own rules regarding traveling with medications, so research the guidelines for your destination.


06 Survey the area

Side view of multiracial people standing in queue to check in in airport hall

After arriving at the airport, you might feel tempted to go to the shortest security screening line. However, a short line doesn't necessarily indicate a fast one. Take a look at who makes up each line. A bunch of traveling business people will probably move through security faster than a family that only travels once a year. As an extra tip, move to the sidelines at larger airports. New and casual travelers will often just walk straight ahead, making the outer security queues much more efficient.


07 Don't bring weapons and weapon look-alikes

It should go without saying that you shouldn't attempt to bring any weapons aboard a flight, but the TSA finds thousands of improperly stored firearms every year. You must keep all firearms in locked hard-sided containers in your checked baggage. You also have to declare them to the airline.

These rules also apply to toy or replica weapons and firearms.

You don't want to get held up at TSA because you kept your cosplay katana in your carry-on. It is worth noting that replicas of explosives, like hand grenades or mines, are always prohibited in both carry-on and checked baggage.


08 Pay attention to the powder rule

Close up shot of luggage being inspected by security at the airport. SolStock / Getty Images

In June 2018, the TSA set a new regulation on powdered items following a security incident. Now, any powder 12 ounces and above in carry-on luggage is subject to additional security screening, including makeup, drink mixes, detergent, spices, coffee, baby powder, and protein powder. Powder-like items under 12 ounces should be good to go, but you must still remove them from your carry-on and claim them. Remember that gunpowder is never allowed on any aircraft under any circumstances.


09 Don't wait until the last minute

baggage inspection system, security and safety concept

Every second counts when you're stuck in snaking security lines. Don't be that person who's feverishly fumbling through their bag at the last minute. Not only is that stressful for you, but it's annoying to everyone else equally eager to get to the end of the line. Make sure you have your passport, boarding pass, and any other travel documents readily available before you get anywhere near that first checkpoint. And start taking off your belt, shoes, jacket, watch, and any other items that will go in the bins well before you reach that conveyor belt.


10 Lay out your larger electronics

Hand luggage, backpack with camera and lenses and computer being scanned by airport security check x-ray machine.

One of the things that seriously slows down security lines is removing your electronic items from your carry-on. The good news is that you don't have to remove every single device—your electric toothbrush can stay in your bag. However, any item larger than a smartphone, such as a tablet, laptop, or DSLR camera, should go in a bin to be X-rayed separately. And, yes, the cases for your electronics need to be scanned, too.

If you travel with your laptop often, consider investing in a TSA-friendly bag to ensure it's protected and lies flat as it travels down the conveyor belt.


TSA Precheck members don't need to remove electronics of any size for separate screening.


11 Don't wrap your gift

woman holding shopping bag at the airport Henrik Sorensen / Getty Images

As anyone who has been in an airport in December can attest, there's nothing like traveling during the holidays. Airports that are typically devoid of any traffic suddenly look like Grand Central Station. Plus, many people are traveling with gifts, which often means additional scanning and manual checks. Shipping your gifts ahead of time or leaving them in your checked baggage are the best ways to breeze past the TSA.

If you must bring them with you, skip the wrapping. A TSA agent will likely have to remove the wrapping anyway, adding time to your wait and wasting your wrapping efforts.


12 Mind your manners

Airport Security Check with Young Businessman

This one's pretty much a given, but giving security agents a hard time won't do you any favors. In fact, being rude or uncooperative is a surefire way to delay your journey. If a TSA agent asks you a question, give them direct and straightforward answers. This is not the time to joke about terrorism or bombs unless you want to find yourself detained — or worse, miss your flight.

Don't argue about trivial matters either, like whether or not your bottle of body wash really is under 3.4 ounces. You might think a security agent is in the wrong, but they have the power at this point. Starting an argument with them is going to get you nowhere fast.

If you're respectful and follow the directions you're given, you'll speed things up for everyone.

A great carry-on bag can be a major help.


13 Don't forget about the PreCheck program

Sign encouraging passengers to register for the time-saving TSA Prec Check program in the United Airlines (UA) terminal EQRoy /

If you fly frequently, you might want to consider using the TSA's PreCheck program. This pre-screening system will allow you to skip long lines and get fast-tracked through security in a restricted-access lane. The application process includes a background check, so you won't have to go through the usual security rigmarole involving shoe removal or anything else.

If you travel internationally, consider Global Entry, which includes PreCheck-like perks along with expedited re-entry into the US.


14 Don't forget about duty-free

Sunglasses Fun in Duty Free

You might have saved yourself a few bucks buying booze from the duty-free shop, but you still need to put those items into your checked bag -- otherwise, you aren't going to clear security. The 3-1-1 liquids rule applies to anything you buy at the airport before you reach the TSA checkpoint.


15 Download the MyTSA app

My TSA android apps displayed on google play store NEERAZ CHATURVEDI /

One of the best ways to boost your chances of sailing past the TSA is by downloading the official MyTSA app. It provides passengers with helpful airport security information specific to their chosen airports. The app can also predict how busy the airport will be and provide delay information. You can even request live assistance from security experts and TSA agents if you have any questions about what you're allowed to bring through the screenings.


16 Maximize your time with online check-in

Black woman, airport and self service kiosk for check in

In today's digital age, there's no need to wait in long lines at the airport. Most airlines offer the convenience of online check-in, usually available at least 24 hours before departure. By checking in online, you can select your seat, print your boarding pass, and even pay for checked luggage from the comfort of your home. This not only saves you time at the airport but also allows you to arrive later, reducing the stress of rushing through security. Embrace technology and start your trip with ease by checking in online.


17 Dress smartly for an easy security experience

airport worker using sterile gloves while doing luggage inspection talking to the passenger

Loose, baggy clothing might be comfortable for travel, but it can cause unnecessary delays at the security checkpoint. TSA agents may suspect prohibited items hidden in loose-fitting clothing, leading to a pat-down inspection. Opt for well-fitting, comfortable attire that doesn't raise suspicions. Remember, your choice of clothing can make the difference between a quick pass through security and an unexpected delay. Dress smartly, and you'll be on your way in no time.


18 Keep your pockets clear for a quick pass through security

Security agent at airport check in gate with metal detector and scanner to passenger

We've all been there—a forgotten set of keys or some spare change in the pocket triggers the alarm, causing delays and frustration. Avoid this common pitfall by emptying your pockets into your hat or jacket before approaching the security line. By keeping your pockets clear of any items, you'll breeze through the metal detector and be on your way to your gate without any hiccups.

Placing your items in your carry-on luggage before you get in line is another option.


19 The importance of including your Known Traveler Number

Boarding pass in smartphone

Ever wondered why some travelers zip through security while you're stuck untying your shoes? The secret could be a Known Traveler Number (KTN). If you've signed up for TSA PreCheck or Global Entry, make sure this precious number is on your boarding pass. It's like having a magic key to a faster security line. So, double-check your airline profile, or the next time you book a ticket, ensure your KTN is included. It's a small step with big rewards.


20 Travel with ease using TSA's disability notification card

Back view photo of old woman moving in wheelchair in the lobby at airport. Copy space in left side

Navigating airport security with a disability doesn't have to be a challenge. TSA offers a Disability Notification Card that you can present to the TSA officer, ensuring an effortless and respectful screening process. This card helps communicate your needs without unnecessary conversation, making your journey through security more comfortable and dignified. If you require special assistance, don't hesitate to utilize this valuable resource.


21 Traveling with pets? Know the security protocol

little dog in the airline cargo pet carrier humonia / Getty Images

Bringing your furry friend on your trip? Be prepared to remove your pet from its carrier during the security screening. While you hand-carry your pet through the metal detector, agents will screen the carrier separately with an X-ray. Remember, you will need to remove their leash before walking through the detector. Being ready for this process will help you prepare, ensuring your pet stays calm and you can both avoid issues. Traveling with pets can be a joy, so make it hassle-free by understanding the rules.


22 Navigate the new normal with COVID-19 airport policies

Asian woman wearing protective face mask in international airport. eggeeggjiew / Getty Images

The pandemic has brought about significant changes to airport policies and procedures. From mask mandates to social distancing guidelines, understanding the new rules is essential for a stress-free travel experience. Research your specific airport's COVID-19 policies before departure to ensure you're prepared for any changes. When flying internationally, certain countries may have very different mandates than the US, so be ready for their rules, as well.


23 Embrace patience and attentiveness for a pleasant airport experience

Passengers standing by security scanner at airport AzmanL / Getty Images

Airport security can be a complex process, and patience is key to a stress-free experience. Listen carefully to TSA agents' instructions and follow them promptly. Being attentive and patient not only helps you move through security more quickly but also creates a more pleasant environment for everyone. Remember, a positive attitude and a willingness to cooperate can turn a routine security check into a smooth start to your journey.


24 Leverage credit card perks for TSA PreCheck/Global Entry

Bottom view traveler businessman man wear black suit stand outside at international airport terminal use mobile

Did you know that your credit card could pay for your fast-track through airport security? Many travel-oriented credit cards offer to cover your TSA PreCheck or Global Entry fees. That's right, you could get those coveted security shortcuts for free, courtesy of your credit card company. Check your card's benefits or call customer service.


25 Understanding airline-specific baggage policies

Unrecognizable woman in stylish casual outfit traveller standing over grey background, carrying yellow luggage and backpack, holding passport and flight tickets

Before you pack that extra pair of shoes, remember that not all carry-on luggage policies are created equal. Airlines have their own rules, and what works for one might not work with another. Spare yourself the last-minute baggage shuffle at the airport by checking your airline's baggage policy ahead of time. It's a simple step that can save you time, money, and stress.

Speaking of carry-ons, check out our list of the best carry-on bags for every situation.


26 Special rules for Basic Economy tickets

Hand-luggage compartment with suitcases in airplane

Traveling on a Basic Economy ticket? Brace yourself for some of the strictest baggage policies in the skies. These tickets often limit you to one carry-on bag and a single personal item with specific size restrictions. Forget about any checked bags unless you're ready to pay extra. In addition to your one personal item, some airlines allow you to bring instruments, pets, and special items, though you will need to check the rules ahead of time. There's also usually a standard fee for these items.


27 Take advantage of the CLEAR program

For those who find themselves constantly racing through airports, CLEAR can be your time-saving ally. Unlike TSA PreCheck, CLEAR uses biometrics to verify your identity, letting you skip the ID check line and head straight to screening. It's an investment that pays off in saved time and reduced stress. Plus, it works in tandem with TSA PreCheck, making your airport journey smoother than ever.


28 Proper identification and documentation

Closeup of man holding passports and boarding pass at airport

Navigating airport security is a breeze when you're equipped with the right documents. Your driver's license or passport is just the start. If you're jetting off internationally, don't forget your passport needs to be valid for at least six months beyond your travel dates to enter many countries. Double-check your documents before you leave home, and keep them handy for a smooth start to your journey.


29 Preparing your pet for travel

Cat in carrying case at airplane in sunrise

The key to traveling with your pet is preparation. Since your pet will have to be in a travel carrier for several hours, give them time before the trip to get used to the carrier. Remember that some airports may have working canines around the airport, so your pet shouldn't be skittish around other animals. If your pet does present difficulties, you both may need to go to a private screening room. Each airport also has different guidelines for service animals, so make sure to contact them for more information before your flight.


30 Addressing Screening Concerns

Travelers in long lines at Denver International Airport going thru the Transportation Security Administrations (TSA) security screening areas Jim Lambert /

If your screening experience wasn't up to par, you can ask to speak with a supervisor at the checkpoint. You can also share your concerns with the TSA Contact Center. There are agents available to take your phone call, or you can choose to submit an online form. These agents handle everything from broken luggage locks to unprofessional or inappropriate treatment during your screening.


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