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One of the most tedious parts of traveling is dealing with the airport and security, in particular. You just never know how long the line will be, which is nerve-racking. It’s even worse during the holidays since there’s so many infrequent travelers who really slow the lines down. Here are 10 airport security hacks to help make your airport experience smoother.

1. Get TSA PreCheck
If you’ve ever waited in a long security line and, while staring around aimlessly in boredom, you noticed another line where passengers are just zipping through because they don’t need to take their shoes off or laptops or toiletry bag out, then you’ve seen TSA PreCheck. It’s the government’s Trusted Traveler program, which began in 2013 and costs $78 for five years. Usually, you have to apply for it but they’ve been known to give it for free to low risk travelers (senior citizens) and elite frequent flyers. But instead of getting TSA Pre, apply for Global Entry since it’s only $15 more and enables you to zip through immigration when returning to the USA as well as gives you TSA PreCheck for free. TIP: Here’s how to get TSA PreCheck & Global Entry access for free.

2. Sign up to CLEAR
What’s even better than TSA PreCheck is having a CLEAR membership. CLEAR is a private biometrics company with a partnership with the US government that uses scans of your eyes and face and turns it into touchless ID so you can bypass those long, slow lines at over 50 U.S. airports, as well as some sports and entertainment stadiums/arenas and venues (here’s a list; make sure you check not only the airport but terminal, too) by quickly scanning your irises and ticket. TIP: CLEAR is $189 a year but here’s how to get CLEAR for a lot cheaper.

RELATED: 5 Tips for Avoiding Airport Parking Pandemonium

3. Download the TSA app
One resource that even frequent travelers don’t realize is available right at their fingertips is the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). They have a handy free app for both Android and iOS that allows travelers to check how busy the airport is likely to be on your specific day and time of travel, based on historical data. They also provide other important information like how to prepare for and get through the security checkpoint quickly as well as delay information and current weather conditions at your favorite airports nationwide. There’s more too.

4. Ask the TSA on Twitter/FB Messenger
Not sure what you can bring through security like that apple pie for Grandma’s Thanksgiving dinner? Believe it or not, the TSA is very active on Twitter and Facebook Messenger. Using their handle @AskTSA, they respond extremely quickly during work hours (8am to 8pm EST on weekdays and 9am to 7pm EST on weekends). For example, the last question asked at the time of this publication was from a woman named Agnes who tweeted: “@AskTSA my #tsaprecheck is not showing up on my boarding pass. I called @united and verified all my information was correct. I called @TSA directly (had the matter escalated) and it was confirmed that all my information is correct. It’s just finger pointing now. Please help!” Four minutes later, the TSA responded with: “We’d be happy to help, Agnes. Pls click on the link to send us your full name, KTN, airline, confirmation number, flight number, date of travel and departure airport.” Amazing customer service, right?

5. How to bring bottled water through security
No one wants to spend $5 on a bottle of water or drink the nasty tasting water from the dirty airport fountain. I often see people trying to sneak bottles of water through security all the time but they’re easy to spot on the X-ray machine so you’re not going to get away with it. But there is one hack that lets you bring full bottles of water through the security checkpoint. They have to be fully frozen. Here’s more on the subject. You might also want to travel with a collapsible water bottle like this one that’s easy to pack and can be filled up on the other side of security.

6. Pack smart
Even if you have TSA PreCheck and CLEAR, you still need to pack smart so you don’t hold up the line. I put all of my loose belongings in my carry-on bag, including my belt, even though I don’t have to take it off because I know that more often than not, it sets the metal detectors off and it’s a pain to go back. When I’m traveling internationally, especially through London’s Heathrow, I make sure all of my electronics and liquids (even a little tube of lip balm) are placed in a bin so they don’t take what seems like hours to go through your bag. People miss flights because they’re so meticulous and slow. I highly recommend traveling with a tech organizer like this one to keep all your tech chargers, cables and cords organized.

7. Secret third carry-on
Full disclosure: Scottevest used to be one of my sponsors and they still pay me a small referral fee but I recommend their products because I truly believe in them. My favorite thing about Scottevest is that a jacket or vest acts like a third carry-on, which is key when you have too much stuff or if your airline weighs your carry-on bags and you’re over the limit by a few pounds. Most Scottevest jackets have 20+ pockets so you can put everything from your laptop to your phone inside. See this promotional video I made for them to give you an idea of what you can carry. I also love it because you can secure your money and passport so it acts like a money belt when traveling in dicey areas. Scottevest.com or buy from Amazon.com

8. Store your ID on your Apple device
If you live in Arizona and have an Apple phone or watch, then you will be happy to know that last winter (March 2022), the “TSA in collaboration with the State of Arizona and Apple, deployed a new technology that allows airline passengers to use their state-issued mobile driver’s license or mobile identification card in Apple Wallet on iPhone or Apple Watch to verify their identity for airport security screening purposes.” That means you can add a digital version of your license or ID to Apple device for TSA identity verification purposes. No more fumbling trying to find it or being hosed if you lose it. Even better news: This will soon be rolling out to Connecticut, Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Oklahoma and Utah as well.

9. Don’t panic if you lose your ID
If you lose your wallet or it gets stolen and you have a flight to catch, don’t sweat. There are still ways the TSA and airlines can verify who you are. According to the TSA’s website: “In the event you arrive at the airport without valid identification, because it is lost or at home, you may still be allowed to fly. The TSA officer may ask you to complete an identity verification process which includes collecting information such as your name, current address, and other personal information to confirm your identity. If your identity is confirmed, you will be allowed to enter the screening checkpoint. You will be subject to additional screening, to include a patdown and screening of carry-on property.” Now if you’re flying internationally and you lost your passport – that’s a very different story! If you don’t have a REAL ID you better get crackin’ as the TSA is going to be cracking down. Here’s what you need to know.

10. Choose the right line
If there are multiple security lines, I always scope out the crowd for length but also for who’s in it. In the movie Up In The Air, George Clooney’s character Ryan Bingham hilariously says, “Never get behind people travelling with infants. I’ve never seen a stroller collapse in less than 20 minutes. Old people are worse. Their bodies are littered with hidden metal.” 

I hope these 10 airport security hacks help make your travels much smoother and cheaper. Let me know in the comments below if I missed anything.

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32 Comments On "10 Airport Security Hacks Every Traveler Needs to Know"
  1. Fx|

    Hi,

    Can you do a similar post for Canadians?

    Thank you.

  2. Scott Jordan|

    Thanks for the plug!

  3. Rusty Meska|

    Hi Johnny,

    Just an fyi from Tripit: “On June 29, 2022, we retired the TripIt Pro feature, Security Wait Times.”

    1. Johnny Jet|

      Thanks! Will update it

  4. Jim Schumacher|

    So, regarding IDs, we both have photos of DL, Passport & Covid Vax Card on our phones.

  5. Barbara|

    When my wallet was stolen at the ABQ airport, I was still able to board my flight to Las Vegas with my boarding pass. But had no ID for my return flight. I had my daughter overnight my passport BUT due to bad weather it did not get there on time for my flight home. This is what I learned!
    TSA will not accept digital ID’s (I had my passport and covid card on my phone)
    They required two hard copy pieces with my name on it. They accepted my ABQ to LV boarding pass and a receipt from the hotel with my name on it.
    I will now carry my old university ID wherever I go with a credit card however not in my wallet!

  6. Bonita|

    I have found that wearing two blouses or sweaters, two pairs of pants or both a jacked and a coat can be a great way to take clothing that does not fit in your suitcase.
    Once, just before boarding, I was told my suitcase was too heavy…so I went around the corner and layered on as much as I could without looking funny. It worked?

  7. Lori|

    Really, Johnny??? “Old people are worse. Their bodies are littered with hidden metal and they never seem to appreciate how little time they have left on earth.” I hope you live a long life and can still enjoy traveling in those years even if you also are slower than in your youth. Old Person, by the grace of God

    1. Johnny Jet|

      Believe me, I don’t feel that way. It’s a quote from a movie.

  8. Niki Meyer|

    I have metal in both my ankle and elbow. They NEVER set off the scanners. With me it’s usually something like a 5p coin – very small or a window lock key. Never been stopped for drugs search even when traveling from high risk destinations, Turkey, Mexico, DR etc. But once had conditioner swabbed for explosives (LGW) and all my clothes swabbed for same thing at Dalaman. I am a disabled woman in her 50s. As the last was an evening flight they must have been able to smell cigies and a couple of drinks on me. My arms were bare and my headwrap was in my bag. Isis? I don’t think so.

  9. p. roswell|

    What does “time left on earth. have to do with getting on a plane? I plan on being around 10-15 more years Plus the only metals I have are internal and my hearing aids. I find that remark insulting.

    1. Johnny Jet|

      Not my line. You need to ask George Clooney since it was a direct quote from one of his movies.

  10. C. Larson|

    Own your stuff! Why are you deflecting responsibility for the Geoge Cloonie “old people” movie lines that YOU posted. George didn’t…You did.

    1. Johnny Jet|

      If I said it I would own it. But I didn’t. It was a funny (or not so funny) line from a movie. Here it is again in case you missed it.
      “In the movie Up In The Air, George Clooney’s character Ryan Bingham hilariously says, “Never get behind people travelling with infants. I’ve never seen a stroller collapse in less than 20 minutes. Old people are worse. Their bodies are littered with hidden metal and they never seem to appreciate how little time they have left on earth.”

  11. FussyMom|

    People are entirely too sensitive these days!! I got cramps from laughing at that George Clooney line while watching the movie and again while reading this post and once more while reading the comments on this post!

  12. Pamela Bond|

    Yes, people need to chill pout. I’m 64 and the line about old people in line didn’t bother me. Only thing that would have made it funnier is if they said the old person was wearing SAS shoes and compression socks, with Bermuda shorts.

  13. frank|

    tip number 10 shows your a insensitive prick

  14. David|

    I didn’t appreciate your comment about old people either! I happen to have an implant for my back, and didn’t jump up and down with excitement when they told me I would be stopped at the airport security. Whether you said it or George Clooney said it, you REPEATED it, and therefore, I think you owe the elderly, including me at 69+, an apology. You are very insensitive. You have offended MANY!

    1. Johnny Jet|

      Hi David,

      I’m sorry you were offended. I didn’t mean to offend anyone, and I have the utmost respect for elders. It was supposed to be funny and also the mentality some frequent travelers have. I apologize

  15. Michael R.|

    My 80 year body has a glob of metal in both shoulder and knee. You don’t want me in your line. No matter how stripped down I get TSA will 100% of the time find a way to stop the line for their enhanced grouping which includes feeling me up. That’s when I hold my breath and count to four. Johnny you owe none of us an apology for publishing facts. The people that should apologize are TSA agents for picking on old people, especially the very elderly in wheelchairs.

  16. Matthew|

    @johnnyjet Good heavens! Some people need to buy a sense of humor. Please don’t let cranky old people dampen your levity. I am old and I thought it was hilarious. For Frank, the grouch calling you insensitive,—Here’s a line from another movie, (Stripes w/Bill Murray), “Lighten up Frances!”

    1. Johnny Jet|

      I love that line and use it often since my dad’s name is Francis!

  17. Linda|

    Please do not encourage people who only fly 1-2 times a year to get Precheck! They end up clogging the line because they are clueless travelers! I finally got CLEAR this past year because of slow Precheck lines! I do love/appreciate CLEAR; however, they are not in all cities, and they have scheduled hours of when they are open and closed. I recently had a red eye out of SLC and found out they close at 10pm.
    Thank you for all the other suggestions!

  18. Thomas Stewart Haas|

    Old people (including myself) are “Metal People”. We have silver in our hair, gold in our teeth and lead in our pants. (From the movie, “See Here, Private Hargrove” (approximately 1942-1943). He was, of course, referring to sergeants and officers in this man’s army.

  19. Victoria Arakawa|

    I’m going on 78 and I’m not offended. I appreciate all the travel tips you and your wife share with us. God bless you.

    1. Johnny Jet|

      Thanks!

  20. Karen Jones-Hetland|

    You did your best to explain and apologize. Offending anyone was obviously not your motive. They need to get over it. Rock on Johnny! Travel far and wide!

  21. Flower|

    Go through the whole-body scanners if you have metal in your body. You will pass right through.

  22. Jeff|

    I was a medic for 30 years when I fractured my back on a call. 5 surgeries later I have enough metal in me to build a 747 and require a mobility-service-dog to walk around. It takes me 10 minutes to go through the TSA scanner and another 5-10 minutes for the agents to frisk my dog and check his harness to make sure he isn’t smuggling dog treats onto the plane.

    Also, you’d be amazed the number of below-the-neck body piercings I’ve seen during my career (providing care to trauma patients or looking at hospital x-rays). I’ll let your mind wander thinking how TSA agents deal with this.

    P.s. I’ve chosen to joke about myself and my dog with the agents instead of getting mad or frustrated and make their job more difficult.

  23. Genie|

    I resemble that remark! I’m old and have a lot of metal in my body. I think the quote is hilarious! Thanks for the laugh!

  24. Ralph M Bohm|

    Just don’t freeze the bottle of water too cold. It’ll not thaw enough to drink on the plane. I made that mistake by not only freezing the bottle of water in my deep freeze but by also wrapping it up in a thick towel on the way to the airport. That bottle of water took half the day to thaw and I was back on the ground before there was much to drink. Kinda funny, actually.

    I’m 65, BTW and was not offended as I knew JJ would not be so callous.

  25. Diane|

    Global Entry, which includes TSA Precheck, has been working well for me as long as it’s noted on my boarding pass. I love not having to remove my shoes and empty my backpack!

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