Even if you don’t have a secret wad of cash hidden under your shirt, going through airport security can be a little nerve-wracking.
For one thing, everyone is trying to rush you along and you constantly feel like you’re in somebody’s way. Workers are bored and not always kind, and if you’re not a frequent flyer the rules and procedures can be a bit confusing.
So whether you’re taking your first airplane ride ever or just preparing for the next one, take a look at our best tips for a painless trip through airport security.
Dress the part
This one’s important. Clothes that are comfortable and not overly bulky are a good idea for flying in general, but there are some other clothing-criteria to keep in mind before you board the plane.
Airport security will usually ask that you remove your belt, so if you can go without wearing one it will save you time. You will also have to remove shoes and any jackets or sweaters. This means you should wear shoes that are easy to slip on and off – not the thigh-high lace-up boots – and if you bring a sweater, take it off as soon as you get in line.
All of this will serve to save you time and effort. No one wants to be that guy struggling to take their hoodie off in front of everyone.
Don’t hold up the line
The reason you want to save time is because airport security guards (and your fellow travelers) dislike no one more than a flyer who is removing shoes like they’ve got all day. A lot of people are probably already running late for their flight, so don’t wait until you’re at the front of the line to do the typical procedures.
This normally consists of: removing shoes, belt, and jacket, taking out liquids from your carry-on, separating any electronic devices larger than a cell phone, and removing all items from your pockets.
You can do some of these things in advance, and have them out and ready to place in a bin. It’s not like you’re doing anything else in line.
If you’re quick and orderly, you’ll be on the other side of security before you know it.
Respect the rules
This may seem like a no-brainer, but there are plenty of people who think the rules just don’t apply to them. If a security guard tells you that you need to toss out your water bottle, just toss it. Don’t ask them why or argue when they say your mouthwash is too many ounces for a carry-on.
Airport security guards deal with a lot of cranky and confused people throughout their day, and they’ve likely had the same conversations about why you can’t bring your nail polish millions of times. If you respectfully do what they say, you’re more likely to get the same level of respect in return.
And how important is your mouthwash or nail polish anyway?
This tip also applies to avoiding inappropriate jokes. It’s fine to engage in some casual conversation, but by all means, do not make that tasteless joke about having a bomb in your bag. Don’t make references to terrorism, to drug trafficking, or any other illegal activity, either. They may seem like far-away topics to you, but they are real threats that airport security is seeking to guard against.
Maybe your friends found it amusing on the car-ride over, but airport security most definitely won’t.
Do your research
If you have questions about what you can bring, don’t wait until you get to security to ask them. The Transportation Security Administration has plenty of tips for travel, along with answers to your questions.
You can inform yourself on concerns such as: Can I bring my medication in my carry-on? What is their policy regarding religious wear? Can I bring my pet with me? And many more. Brushing up on the rules will make you better prepared come travel day, and should calm your nerves regarding any uncertain items you wish to bring.
You’ll get through security that much faster, and look like you board planes for a living!
Don’t walk away so fast!
Once you’ve passed security, it’s tempting to grab your things and get the heck out of there. It can be a chaotic and stressful environment. So yes, take that sigh of relief, but make sure you are gathering all of your belongings.
Many people are so eager to head to their gate, that they leave behind important items like glasses, cell phones, identification, or even their plane ticket. Since you’re no longer holding up a line, double-check that you’ve got all those necessary objects that you wouldn’t want to be caught without.
It’s an extra couple of minutes that could save you a huge inconvenience in the future.
The most important tip, however, is to take a deep breath and smile. Maybe you forget to take your shoes off and the line is held up behind you, or perhaps a security guard is having a bad day and gives you an especially hard time about your bottle of contact solution.
No matter what, if you smile at people and react with kindness, things are much more likely to be smooth and over quickly. And you’ll feel good knowing you behaved the best you possibly could have.
So pack that carry-on, and tackle airport security with confidence!