There is no doubt that the security screening process can be one of the most frustrating parts of air travel. There's a lot that can go wrong at this point in your journey, but there are a few steps you can take to ensure that you’re an ideal security screenee.
Dress for success
Don’t wear too many layers or metallic items. Heavy jackets should be packed in your checked bags (or if you're doing carry-on only, they should be taken off before you even think about getting in the security line!). Shoes should be easy to remove and always wear socks (you don’t want to be stuck walking barefoot around the security area). If ever there was an ideal time for leggings, this is it—minimal pockets, both warm and breathable, and tight enough that it makes any potential pat-downs a little less invasive.
My favorite outfit
- Leggings with a top pocket. Oversized, short-sleeved t-shirt.
- Either my Northface jacket or Nike windbreaker—both have loads of pockets. I fill the pockets with my phone, chapstick, IDs, etc…. and its super easy to just take it off and throw it in a bin—and nothing will be left in pants pockets.
- Comfy sneakers or flats
- Weather depending, I may be wearing a fitted hoodie – an item that I’ll stow in my bag before I get in the security line.
Carefully and thoughtfully pack your “security risk” items. If you’re new to the air traveler scene: Google this topic. I call them The 3 Ls: laptop, lithium batteries, and liquids. Make sure you can easily remove them from your bag… OR remove them before you even get in line. There is no better way to piss off your fellow passengers than being the jerk that holds up the security line because you didn’t pre-plan. You’ll also minimize the time it takes for you to gather your things after they’re x-rayed. And speaking of x-rays….
Wait for your bags to pass
I never, ever go through the screening machine until I have watched my bags enter the x-ray machine. Coming from Boston, that is now a “you can never be too careful” kinda place (after 9/11 things really tightened up here), I don’t let my bags out of my sight for more than the time it takes for them to go through that security machine. You might not win any popularity prizes with security, but they can’t fault your for your decision to keep an eye on your stuff!
Its early, you’re tired, it took too long to check in. I get it; you’re not in the mood for some snarky, pimply twentysomething bossing you around. Well, guess what… suck it up, bub. That person has the right to make your life hell for the next two hours. There is no better way to be “randomly” selected for an intense security screening than mouthing off to airport security.
Keep the line moving, look ahead to see if they may be opening another line, help out the single parent with two kids just ahead of you in line. Don’t be nose-to-phone, and for that matter, don’t be on the phone at all. Listen to any announcements the security staff may be making. Each airport is different and has different screening requirements.
When you’re done...
… grab your stuff and move along. Do not be the dumdum that is causing a belt backup. They set up seats past the security area specifically for regrouping/redressing/repacking-- spot ‘em, use ‘em.
To sum it up:
Be ready to remove your jacket, shoes, jewelry, belt, and bags. Have your passport /ID and boarding pass in-hand. Listen for announcements. Answer questions politely. Watch your bag(s) go through the machine. Pick up all your belongings from the belt and move somewhere, anywhere else to regroup.
When I was moving over to Korea in 2010, I hadn't given much thought to what I was packing where. I was so excited to bring over a Funfetti cake mix and frosting, but mindlessly put it in my carry-on bag because I ran out of weight in my check-ed bag. Well, this caused a little stir in the security area, and I had my bag searched. Ultimately, the frosting was confiscated because it counts as a liquid.
A little further back: I was 14 and gong through the screening with my parents and 3 younger siblings. Security spent an extra long amount of time checking the x-ray of my bag. Well, I was super into rolling coins and had brought some to the bank the day prior to our departure to have some spending money. Apparently having a whole roll of nickles in the bottom of you bag does a bang-up job of freaking out TSA.
Last one: I was being re-screened in LAX in between domestic connectors. I was 3 flights and something like 29 hours into a 5-flight/39-hour journey between Yeosu and my parent's house in RI. I was looking like a..... well, let's just leave it at "not good." I passed through the metal detector and they swiped my hands with a wipe they use to detect explosive residue. When the machine started beeping, the woman holding it looked at me and then looked at her coworker- absolutely stunned. The other lady looked concerned for a minute, and then was like "uhh... OH! Try the other one. That machines has been weird all day." I passed the second time.
- What was the worst security experience you've ever had?
- Have you ever done anything to hold up the screening line?
- In which airports have you had a great security experience?