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11 Secrets to Speeding Through Airport Security

Navigating airport security can be one of the biggest challenges you face when traveling. These tips will make the process as painless (and speedy!) as possible.

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Pre-check System signJim Lo Scalzo/Epa/Shutterstock

Get TSA PreCheck

Emily McNutt, news editor at The Points Guy, says the number one tip for getting through airport security faster is to enroll in the TSA PreCheck program, which she says provides access to a faster security lane. PreCheck passengers don’t have to take off their shoes or remove their approved liquids or electronic devices, so there are fewer hold-ups. And you might be surprised to know that there are actually 6 more pre-screens that will speed you through airport security.

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retina scanDavid White/REX/Shutterstock

Sign up for CLEAR

CLEAR is a relatively new biometric technology that sounds creepy but is super-helpful. It allows members to scan their iris or fingerprint in order to clear the identity part of security. “There’s no need to take out your license—all you need is your boarding pass to hand to the TSA agent,” explains McNutt. “Once you’ve cleared the ID check at the CLEAR kiosk, a rep will escort you to the front of the security line—either PreCheck or the ‘regular’ lane. Essentially, CLEAR is a way to make sure you never wait in line.”

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Travelers wait in line for security screeningTed S. Warren/AP/Shutterstock

Get airline elite status

There’s a reason frequent flyers choose the same airline each time if possible—it earns them elite status. With elite status (which you can earn with most major U.S. carriers after flying a qualifying number of miles or meeting a certain spending threshold), you automatically get a number of perks and benefits, including access to priority security lines. “It’s worth not waiting in the ‘regular’ lane if you can,” McNutt says. Having airline elite status will really save you during the holidays, when airports are jammed.

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department of homeland security signDavid Goldman/AP/Shutterstock

Plan for the security steps

It may sound like something you should already know, but how many times have you gotten to the security line only to realize you’re wearing shoes that are difficult to remove, plus a belt and jewelry? Oh, and you forgot to empty your water bottle. “By having your belongings already organized, you can speed up the process for yourself and those around you. While you’re waiting in line, take off your coat. Get your liquids in a clear bag ready to place in a bin,” says McNutt. And once you’re on the plane, you should know the 13 things airlines won’t tell you—but you’ll definitely want to know.

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Security Administration employeeSeth Wenig/AP/Shutterstock

Have your documents in hand

McNutt suggests that anyone without CLEAR have their documents—including both a photo ID and a boarding pass—ready in hand. That ensures you won’t hold up the line sifting through your pockets or purse to find them.

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Woman Scanning Tag On Luggage At Airport Check-inTyler Olson/Shutterstock

Carry the right bag

To get your belongings onto the scanner belt faster, bring the right type of carry-on bag, travel expert Dara Continenza of Hopper, an airfare-predicting app, told Southern Living. “Choose a lightweight carry-on bag with four wheels that handles easily and can be lifted onto a table with little effort.” Bags with an outside compartment for your laptop are helpful for expediting the process, too.

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security check areaTonyV3112/shutterstock

Upgrade to a premium class

It’s not a reason to pay hundreds more for airfare, but if you can fly business or first class, there are security perks. “Many airlines offer passengers access to priority security lanes if you’re flying in a premium class of service,” McNutt says. “The airlines differ, however, so be sure to ask when checking in.” If you’re in coach, though, you can still improve your situation with the very best airplane seat for every single need.

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Public Clock In Frankfurt Airport With CopyspaceGQ/Shutterstock

Fly at the right time

That might mean off-peak or even off-season. “Everyone knows that flying on peak dates can make security a nightmare, so try to avoid traveling on the days immediately before and after major holidays,” McNutt says. If you can’t travel off-peak, leave yourself extra time to travel, especially during the peak summer travel season. You should also avoid these other airport mistakes before your next flight.

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security checkpointKathleen Foody/AP/Shutterstock

Monitor wait times at the airport

Technology has come a long way in the world of travel, so use your smartphone to your advantage and download apps like MiFlight, which help you determine just how early you need to leave for the airport and the ideal time to arrive.

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TSA agent searches bagCarolina K. Smith MD/shutterstock

Avoid making yourself a target

Certain things drastically increase your chances of getting TSA’s attention—and not in a good way. That includes mentioning weapons in any capacity, even as a joke; carrying wads of cash; traveling with coffee, which is a classic way to mask the smell of illegal substances; not checking your kids’ baggage (what might you be trying to hide in this seemingly innocent package?); or carrying unusual items that could look suspicious during your luggage scan, like a long-armed stapler or a large candlesticks.

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security employeeMichael Reynolds/Epa/Shutterstock

Be kind

It goes without saying that questioning the TSA’s practices and being generally grouchy or belligerent will not get you through any security faster. But being nice actually might. “Making the experience more pleasant for those around you—even the TSA agents—can really help to improve the overall security experience,” McNutt says. Speaking of TSA agents, don’t miss the 12 things they’re not telling you.

Alexa Erickson
Alexa is an experienced lifestyle and news writer currently working with Reader's Digest, Shape Magazine, and various other publications. She loves writing about her travels, health, wellness, home decor, food and drink, fashion, beauty, and scientific news. Follow her travel adventures on Instagram: @living_by_lex, send her a message: [email protected], and check out her website: