Let's Get Through Security Faster This Summer, OK?

Sunday, June 22, 2014
Your alarm goes off at a hellishly early hour, but who cares? Those precious two weeks off start today and you don't want to waste a minute. You zip to the airport, park the car and, boom, you're at the terminal. Hello, Vacation!

But first, the final hurdle: security. Where time as we know it ceases to exist and lines drag on forever. Only one question now: Will you make your plane?

I usually breeze through TSA checkpoints. You can, too. Here's how.

7 Ways to Get Through Security Faster

Airports will be mobbed this summer with once-a-year fliers who don't know all the security rules but no reason for you to be stuck behind them.

1. Join a fast-track program: Sign up for PreCheck or Global Entry if you do a fair amount of international travel for two big reasons:

Cheap: PreCheck costs $85, Global Entry costs $100, and membership is good for five years.

Fast: PreCheck gives you a dedicated security line where shoes and jackets stay on, laptops and toiletries remain in your bag. Global Entry allows you to bypass long lines at Customs and Immigration.

Not a member of PreCheck? You might get special treatment anyway. The TSA sometimes plucks random passengers from slow lanes into PreCheck for free; if you're one of the lucky ones, remember to keep your shoes on and keep moving. PreCheck members are already less than thrilled with you since they had to pay for this privilege; don't make things worse by slowing things down.

2. Don't pack liquids or guns: You already know one great way to slow down a security: Carry a water bottle through the line. Another: Pack a gun in your carryon. Don't laugh, more than 1,800 firearms were confiscated by the TSA last year ("I forgot it was there") and more than 80 percent of those guns were loaded. Take a quick refresher course on security rules here.

3. Pack neatly: If a TSA officer has trouble interpreting the X-ray of your bag ("What the heck are all those wires?"), they'll open it and paw through it. That takes time but it takes two seconds to wrap up ear buds and charger cords into neat bundles with clips or twist ties.

4. Hang on to valuables: Ever had to race back to security because you left a passport, phone or tablet there? Keep your eye on this stuff at all times. Security doesn't want it; it's actually a pain for them because they have to hold lost items for at least 30 days. But because most of us don't bother to put an ID tag on our electronics, reunification can be tricky. Hang onto valuables, watch them like a hawk and don't forget to pick them up.

5. Get the app for line wait times: There are a few of these apps out there, including the TSA's own, which tells you airport wait times for various lines in different terminals. It also has a feature called, "Can I bring my [whatever]" through security so you'll know whether that souvenir snow globe is forbidden (it isn't).

6. Get special assistance ahead of time: If you have a medical problem or condition that requires extra time or assistance, contact TSA Cares before you travel. There can be long delays for travelers who don't take this extra step. Also, if you have a child traveling alone, get to the airport a little early so you can pick up a "visitor" boarding pass allowing you to accompany the child to the gate (but call ahead first or request this when making the reservation).

7. Keep your cool: It's easy to get annoyed or frustrated in a long, slow line, but if you have a gripe, consider waiting until later to make a formal complaint. While it's true that the Portland, Oregon, man who was arrested after stripping in protest at a security checkpoint was ultimately acquitted, he did miss his flight.

Final tip: Nothing could be more time-consuming than going through security twice but it could happen. Airlines are starting to crack down on baggage transgressions and if your bag is too big you could be sent all the way back to the ticket counter to check it and pay the fee.

Opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author.
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