Airport Hacks to Get Your Family Through TSA Faster
While we all wish traveling to a family vacation could be a breeze, the journey to the destination can be the real adventure!
Unless every member traveling with you is authorized for TSA Pre-Check or Clear, you will have to go through the complete screening process. Here are some helpful airport hacks that can reduce stress and get you to the gate with your sanity intact.
- Your travel attire – Dress with screening in mind! Clothing with bling, like sequins and rhinestones, can be cause for extra screening. Wear shoes that are easy to remove and put back on. If you are wearing a belt, that will need to come off, so be prepared. Jackets and sweaters, hats, sunglasses,… You can begin to remove these items while you wait in line.
- Arrive early. Traveling can be stressful enough without the need to run to your gate. Arrive early, allowing ample time to get through busy Security. (Even if you have TSA Pre-Check, delays can still occur). If you are leaving your car at the airport, know where the parking lot is ahead of time.
- Identification – Have your boarding pass (paper or digital) and driver’s license or passport ready in a secure but easy access pocket and have it in your hand before you enter the screening line. If you are traveling with your family, you must all be holding your own boarding pass and identification.
- Real ID – Beginning October 1, 2020, all travelers over the age of 18 will be required to have a Real ID-compliant driver’s license or other acceptable form of ID for domestic travel. Other forms of acceptable identification include a passport book or card, U.S. Department of Defense ID, DHS Trusted Traveler card (Global Entry, Sentri, NEXUS, and FAST). https://www.tsa.gov/travel/security-screening/identification
- Children under the age of 18 are not required to have identification for domestic flights, but the agent will ask each individual child their name and will ask them who they are traveling with. The children, unless too young or unable, will need to be able to answer the TSA agent directly.
- Have your bags ready for security before you arrive at the airport.
- That means making sure your liquids, gels, creams, pastes and aerosols are packed following the 3-1-1 rule (one quart size bag with containers no larger than 3.4 oz or 100ml each) and are in an easy-to-access spot near the outside of your carry-on. You can always readjust your luggage at the gate if you prefer to pack your toiletries bag further into your bag.
- You may also be requested to remove any personal electronic items larger than a cell phone. Tablets, laptops, and handheld gaming devices may need to be placed in a bin by themselves. Cell phones can be stowed in your bag.
- Make sure you have no other liquids on you or in your bags. If you can turn something over and the contents drip down, that is considered a liquid. No drinks, including an unopened bottle of water, can be taken through Security. Certain snacks, like apple sauce or salad dressing, would count, as well. Perhaps you are traveling with gifts or souvenirs from your trip. Even things like snow globes are off-limits in carry-on luggage because of the liquid inside. (There are exceptions when traveling with infants)
- Strollers – Prep the stroller as soon as you get out of the car (if not sooner). Strollers and car seats too large to go through the x-rays will be physically checked. Any items stowed in the stroller will need to be removed and placed in bins to be x-rayed. You’ll also need to keep the pockets empty to hand over for gate-check as you board the plane.
- Clear / TSA Pre-Check / Premium Class – Clear uses biometrics to identify you. You can avoid having your identification out, but you should still expect to carry it with you in case of emergency or if the system goes down. TSA Pre-Check will allow you to leave your shoes and a light coat on, and you can leave your liquids in your bag. Premium Class may have a faster/shorter line, but you will still proceed through the full screening process. If anyone in your travel party does not have any of these distinctions on their boarding pass, they will need to pass through the standard security line.
- Expect to have to remove your food items – Many airports are now requiring additional screening of foods in your carry-on bag, so have them in a spot easy to pull from, if required. Remember that any items containing any liquid have to abide by the 100mm or less rule! Fill up your water bottle or purchase drinks once you have passed through TSA and are in the terminal. (Check here for a list of TSA-approved snacks!)
Above all else, if you leave yourself extra time and anticipate a few delays in the process, you should still be able to stroll up to the gate without the panic and exhaustion of someone who has just run through the airport, bags in tow. Melt into your airplane seat and enjoy the anticipation of arriving at your destination ready to have fun!
* These airport hacks are for DOMESTIC travel within the United States. While other countries may use some U.S. guidelines for security, all countries have control over their own procedures.
TSA Pre-Check and Clear are valid only at U.S. airports. Global Entry pertains only to arrival back into the United States from a foreign destination.
TSA utilizes random screening protocols. Even the best prepared traveler may find themselves subjected to additional screening.
TSA procedures are subject to change without notice, and procedures can be different at different airports and even within different terminals at the same airport. Familiarize yourself with the current guidelines before your trip by visiting https://www.tsa.gov/