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I’ve been flying throughout my whole life, but I’ve only been going through U.S. Airport Security for half of it. Too many times, I’ve seen people go through Airport Security as though they’ve never done it before; I try to give them the benefit of the doubt that maybe they never have. Nonetheless, I feel like there are some easy tricks to help any traveler improve the experience for themselves, and those around them.

If you catch me throwing shade at you in the Airport Security line, it’s probably because you didn’t follow these four rules.


1. Pack Intelligently

The secret to being the person who gets through Airport Security seamlessly has everything to do with how you pack: if you put your toiletries at the bottom just next to your computer and your photo ID, you’re going to have to uproot your entire bag to get to the items you need to remove. Thus: don’t do that.

Pack your toiletries right on top in a plastic Ziploc bag. They won’t leak, I promise.

Slip your computer in along the side of your bag. Stick the cords in wherever you like, but you should be able to slip your computer in and out without affecting anything else.

Oh, and be sure not to pack any of these forbidden items on airplanes – because they’ll pull your bag out of the line, and you’ll slow everyone down, including yourself!

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2. Wear Socks but Skip the Jewelry

I’m one of those people who loathes socks, so I give this advice a bit begrudgingly. The reality is, you’re going to have to take your shoes off going through security, so if you hate standing barefoot on floors where a million other people have stood with their sticky feet and stinky socks, put a pair on.

Things to leave off: jewelry and bobby pins. In today’s airport security age, you’re likely going to go through the full body scan (get over it), and those things light you up like Christmas. If you can just keep your jewelry in a front or coat pocket, you’ll avoid getting the extra screening or pat down. Unless that’s what you prefer… no judgment!

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3. Do the Sideways Shuffle

When you arrive at those sterile little silver tables after waiting in the line for what feels like eons, it’s important to be ready to remove the necessary items quickly. In fact, if you can start getting ready while you stand in line, even better.

For reference, here are the official rules from TSA:

  • Remove your jackets, scarves, hats, belts, and shoes. (Wear a tank top under your hoodie in case they ask you to take it off too.)
  • Remove your clear plastic (1qt) bag of all liquids of 100ml (3oz) or less.
  • Remove your laptop computers; iPads and eReaders can usually stay in your bag.

Thus, if you’ve packed your bag intelligently and dressed smartly, you should be able to remove these items from your bag and body while gracefully sliding your items down the tables toward the conveyor belt. Please don’t stop at the far end of the tables to do all the steps; smooth security passage means you’ve got to multitask and move along as you unpack.

Once you get through security, and assuming you don’t have my luck to get stopped for a security screening, you need to get everything back in. This is again when it’s a good thing to not disrupt your whole bag to remove the necessary items; slide your computer back in on the side and put your toiletries on top of everything, zip it closed, and go.


4. Get the Heck Out of the Way

This is the magic secret to making everyone happy at TSA: don’t get in the way. Being conscientious that everyone hates the process, and trying to be as quick and efficient as possible, makes everyone a happy camper. That means you may need to grab your stuff off the “output” conveyors and move to a bench to re-tie your cute boots (speaking of, slip-on shoes and boots are another good items to wear). It may mean that you stand back to let other people collect their items before you. It may mean squishing yourself against a wall so that others can pass to join a different line. Whatever you do, try and do it quickly and without disrupting anybody else.

Maybe I’ve been flying too long, if these sound a bit snide. The reality is that I’ve been through security in other parts of the world, and it’s often no different that U.S. Airport Security. Nonetheless, our lines are often longer, more unpleasant, and more time-consuming. Follow these rules, and you’ll improve everyone’s experience before you even get to the airport.

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