Four Tips for Getting Through Airport Security Faster

Spend more time traveling and less time queuing.

Whoever said "it's not about the destination, it's about the journey," clearly never had to wait in the security line at an airport. Frantically pulling out laptops and liquids while hopping on one foot to remove your shoes leaves little pleasure in the journey to an airport gate.

Keep your stoke high for the adventure ahead by utilizing these tips to get through airport security with ease.

Get Organized Before You Get in Line

We've all been stuck behind them — those people who get to the front of the security line and seem surprised to learn that there are rules about what you can and cannot take through screening. As a frequent business traveler, I make a sport of trying to guess who they are and pick my line accordingly.

Don't be one of these folks. Instead, get organized ahead of time. 

Pack your carry-on with the security checkpoint in mind. Pick a bag that gives you easy access to your computer and other large electronics, like the Eagle Creek Wayfinder backpack. Put your allowable liquids (3.4-ounce or less) in an Eagle Creek Pack-It Specter Quick Trip and place them at the top of your pack so you can grab them without digging around.

Drink your coffee, water, and other consumable liquids before you get in line, and either hold onto your ticket and identification or place them in your jacket pocket for quick retrieval.

Dress for Easy Screening

When you get to the security checkpoint, you'll need to remove your shoes (unless you have TSA Pre-Check, or are over the age of 75). Either loosen the laces on your shoes while you wait in line to make taking them off easier or, better yet, wear slip-on shoes. Once your shoes are off, you'll walk through a metal detector of body scanner and then have to wait around for your carry-on, so wear socks.

The TSA will ask you to remove your jacket or sweatshirt and send it through the X-Ray machine, so make sure what you're wearing as a base layer is fit to be seen in public. Long, flowing skirts will get you a 1:1 appointment with a TSA agent for a pat-down, so unless that's your jam, best to avoid flowy clothing. 

You'll likely need to remove your jewelry, too. You can place it in one of the small bins the airport provides at screening, or better yet, take it off before you get in line and stow it securely in a zippered pocket of your pack.

Get TSA Pre-Check or Book Premium Class

The fastest way through security is to score a spot in an expedited line reserved for members of TSA pre-check and those holding premium class tickets. 

In September 2019, the TSA reported that 93% of pre-check customers waited less than five minutes to get through security. This is a result of the limited number of travelers who use pre-check, as well as the lighter restrictions. Pre-check travelers do not need to remove shoes, liquids, belts, jackets, or electronics from themselves or their carry-ons. 

There's a cost, of course (as of October 2019, it's $85 per year), which pays for the background check, fingerprinting, and identity verification required to be a member of pre-check.

Expedited security lines also exist for those with premium-class tickets. This doesn't always just mean first-class — many airlines offer expedited lanes for mid-tier elite tickets, too.

Book Smart

How long you wait in a security checkpoint has a direct relationship to how many people are flying. If you really want to avoid the line, book at a time when there is less likely to be a rush of travelers at the airport. Avoid school vacations, holidays, and Friday afternoons when business travelers are heading home for the weekend.

Many people, especially those with children, avoid flights before 7:00 am, so early-morning departures are often a safe bet. So are late-night departures — if you can tolerate a red-eye flight, you'll have a better chance of breezing through security. You'll likely get a lower fare than traveling during the day, too.

Looking for more tips on how to get through airport security faster? Check out this video from Eagle Creek.

Cover photo by Chris Engelsman

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

Sara SheehyAdmin

Writer | Nomad