We all know that getting through airport security isn’t what it used to be. And while most of us also know enough to pack the Swiss army knife deep into checked luggage or, better yet, leave it at home, there are several other things you can do to pass through security checkpoints with the least amount of stress possible.
Here are some tips on how to get through an airport security check with your sanity intact:
- Leave time for the unexpected. It sounds obvious, but be sure to give yourself ample time to not only get to the airport, but also to clear security. On average, it’s best to give yourself an hour or more for domestic flights and two to three hours for international flights.
- Use your real name. When booking your flight, be sure to type in (or give the person taking your reservation) your full legal name. You could face unnecessary scrutiny at security if the name on your boarding pass doesn’t match the name on your driver’s license or passport.
- Understand the new restrictions regarding liquids and gels. According to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), travelers may now carry through security checkpoints travel-size toiletries (3 ounces or less) that fit comfortably in one quart-size, clear plastic zip-top bag. In addition, travelers can bring onboard beverages or other items puchased in the secure boarding area. If you have a bottle bigger than 3 ounces, pack it in your checked luggage. (It doesn’t matter if there are only 3 ounces of liquid in the bottle — if the bottle itself is larger than 3 ounces, you will not be allowed to bring it through security.)
- Wear shoes you can slip off easily. Now that the removal of footwear when going through security has become commonplace, it’s best to wear shoes or sneakers you can easily slip out of. Have your shoes off and ready to place into an X-ray bin before reaching the checkpoint.
- Think ahead about what you’ll wear on the plane. If you’re wearing a few layers of clothing on the upper half of your body, be prepared to remove them. Remove your jacket or sweater ahead of time and have them ready to place into the X-ray bin. You should also remove your belt and watch if you’re wearing them. Be sure to read Business Travel Safety Tips for more good advice.
- Empty your pockets completely. Place your wallet, spare change, keys, cell phone, and any other items you keep in your pockets inside your carry-on luggage. If you set off the metal detector for any reason, you’ll face the possibility of being frisked on the spot, or pulled aside so they can check not only your socks and pockets but also your bags.
- Have your laptop out. Remove your laptop from its carrying case when putting it through security. Also make sure the battery is charged, because the security guards may ask you to turn it on to ensure it is what it appears to be. It’s also a good idea to label your laptop with your name, phone number, and address.
- Avoid flippant humor. Answer all questions posed to you by airport authorities clearly and politely. Avoid making jokes when answering a security agent’s questions, no matter how friendly and casual your interaction with the agent seems to be.
- Exercise patience. Be prepared for a random security search, and maintain your cool should you be chosen for one. Comply in a cordial manner with all that’s asked of you and you’ll be on your way in no time at all.
- Have your backup numbers handy. Have all phone numbers you need for your business trip stored on your cell phone should you hit a security-related snag.
Be sure to visit the TSA Web site for security alerts, helpful advice, and specific information regarding the security screening experience.