Tips for Faster Air Travel and Getting Through TSA Delays
Recent decisions by the Transportation Security Administration are expected to lead to longer security lines and greater wait times at airports. If you dream of whisking through the airport, make sure you're up to date with current rules, regulations and tips.
Sign up for expedited screening.
Whether it's TSA Precheck or Global Entry, there's no better time to make sure you are enrolled in a known traveler program. If you're unsure if it's worth the money, consider the 6,800 Americans who missed flights over Easter Break 2017 due to long security lines. It's not a fun fact, but it is the reality we live in. Check to see if your credit card or airline loyalty program includes perks that rebate or cover application fees (more on that here).
Don't count on luck.
TSA will be reducing, and eventually ending, PreCheck perks for non-enrolled travelers. This means you're less likely to be randomly selected for expedited screening even if you've opted in via your airline loyalty program.
Plan ahead with available info.
TSA rules haven't changed much over the years, yet there is always something that unexpectedly gets travelers pulled to the side. Headed to Napa Valley? Unfortunately you will be stopped because of the wine key in your carry-on, and the time it takes to argue with the TSA agent it isn't helping the line behind you. If you have any doubts, TSA has implemented a live chat on Facebook messenger with a very impressive response time. Visit Facebook.com/AskTSA/ to check it out.
Pop quiz: what kind of bag do your toiletries need to be in? Answer: A quart-sized Ziploc (or clear) bag. Unfortunately, hearing these warnings and rules repeated a hundred times at the airport still won't stop them from slipping our minds before our next trip. We've all been there- but imagine if everyone forgot these rules on the same day? Oy. Be a good citizen and check out TSA's Security Screening page for a refresher.
Have the right ID.
Beginning January 22, 2018, the final phase of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's "REAL ID Act" will require all state-issued drivers' licenses to include "machine-readable technology" or chips to mitigate the number of air and cruise passengers using counterfeit forms of ID to pass through security. The following states are not in compliance yet, meaning you will need to be sure you have a valid passport to fly: Maine, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana and Washington.
Even if you feel like you've arrived early enough, the airline may not agree. American Airlines, Delta and United Airlines all require travelers to be physically checked in 60 minutes before departure for international trips. Add security wait times to other unforeseen delays (hello, city traffic!) and your travel experience is basically up to fate. Err on the side of caution and get to the airport early. If you need a helpful guesstimate, TSA.com has real time security times at every U.S. airport terminal. Keep in mind that these are user-updated, so less frequented airports may have less data.
If you plan on traveling in the next few months, we wish you safe travels and short security lines. If you have any extra tips, we'd love to hear them in the comments section below!