Avoiding Holiday Airport Chaos: How to Get Through Airport Security Faster

The airport security line is many travelers’ nemesis for a reason: it’s often long, delayed, and responsible for hair-pulling levels of stress. And during the holiday season? All that chaos and stress is ramped up tenfold! Thankfully, there are some clever ways around those long lines that can help you prep for airport security and get through the airport faster – and with far less stress.

Enroll in TSA PreCheck & Global Entry

TSA PreCheck is the federal trusted traveler program that allows those enrolled to go through a shorter, faster security line. People with TSA PreCheck don’t have to remove liquids, laptops, belts or shoes from their bags or their body before going through security, and the lines are often shorter and much more manageable.

If you’re traveling internationally this holiday season, Global Entry is the way to get through airport security faster. Signing up for Global Entry automatically enrolls you in TSA PreCheck and helps you clear customs quickly upon arrival. But be prepared: in order to get through the airport faster during the holiday season, you must start the enrollment process now, as sending in documents and getting the necessary security checks done does take time.

Prepare your travel wardrobe ahead of time

Laying your clothes out the night before leaving for the airport might remind you of your school days, but when prepping to race through a stressful, long security line, this easy step is worth it to prevent the worry about missing your flight that will be on your shoulders all day. For optimum security line efficiency, follow these rules of thumb for your travel day outfit: 

  • Wear shoes you can slip off – loafers, mules, slides or laceless athletic shoes are great options
  • Make sure none of your clothes contain metal. Metal shirt buttons, jean studs and even bras with underwire can all set off metal detectors.
  • Leave your hair down or check what you tie it back with. Hair ties and clips can contain metal pieces that could ping a metal detector, so be mindful of how you style your hair on the day of. Sometimes even bobby pins are enough to do the trick

Pack your carry-on neatly

You don’t need to perfectly fold every pair of pants, but getting through airport security faster can often hinge on how well your bag is packed. TSA is known for doing random luggage checks, and having things organized will help you repack quickly when needed.

If you don’t have TSA PreCheck, be sure your large electronic devices (laptops or tablets) are easy to access and remove, and that any liquids follow the 3-1-1 rule: 3.4 ounces of gels, liquids or aerosols in one quart-sized clear plastic bag, and only one per passenger.

Empty your water bottle before security

Full water bottles are a common reason TSA stops passengers for further screening. While saving money on water is an admirable goal, be absolutely sure that Stanley bottle is empty before you set foot in the security line. If nothing else, having to turn around, dump out the water and stand in line again is a really quick way to wilt from embarrassment.

How to get through the airport faster after landing

When you make it to your destination, chances are you’re thinking about three things: getting off the plane, getting your luggage, and getting your holiday plans started. Just like there’s a strategy to getting through airport security faster, there’s also some strategy to be applied at the end of your journey.

Pre-pack your personal item

When the captain announces the plane is making its final descent, it’s time to pack up. Put away your electronic devices, stow your headphones, snacks and anything else that meandered out of your under-the-seat item during travel, and prepare to grab it and go. Your seatmates will also thank you for being ready to hop out of your seat the moment it’s time!

Have your documents in hand

If you need to clear customs or are handling a device like a wheelchair that requires special accommodations, be sure you have everything you need to go through that process in your hand when you deplane. Many airlines also offer the option to keep some documentation on your phone – doing so will reduce the risk of a lost ticket or other information you need at your destination.

Put an AirTag on your checked luggage

Losing a checked bag is the worst-case scenario for many travelers, but the good news is that you don’t have to leave its fate entirely in the hands of the airline. Placing an AirTag or other Bluetooth locator inside your luggage will help you know where your bag is at every step of the way – which can also help you if you lose it in the terminal.

Clearly mark your luggage

A bright ribbon or colorful luggage tag can make a world of difference when you’re waiting at the carousel with scores of other weary travelers. If you know your black suitcase is the one with the bright yellow bag tag, bam! You’ve shaved minutes off of your time waiting at baggage claim hoping that the black bag someone down the line grabbed isn’t really yours.

Ship your luggage

Avoid baggage claim altogether by shipping your luggage ahead of time to your final destination. Not only will it save you time at the airport, but it also means no added worrying about weight limits and lost baggage. You’ll be able to skip right off the plane directly to spending time with loved ones. Less stress, more celebrating!

Holiday airport chaos is a formidable opponent for even the most seasoned travelers. Preparing well ahead of time can help you get through the airport faster and get to your destination with less stress, fewer headaches, and all your luggage in tow.

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