I’ll be the first person to admit that flying can be a hassle — and that’s coming from someone who travels for a living. Packing is stressful, airports are always crowded, going through security is the worst, and checked baggage fees can be a nightmare. I have Global Entry and TSA Pre-Check now, but before I did, I constantly got frustrated waiting in the long lines, and dreaded pulling out my electronics and taking my shoes off. But after putting my patience to the ultimate test time and time again, I have come up with some tried and true things that’ll get you through TSA quickly and efficiently.
Let me start off by saying that I know there are rules for a reason, and I’m so grateful that we have an efficient security system in place so that we can all fly safely. However, with those rules come a lot of restrictions that can often make travel time a lot longer. Luckily, I think that my tips and tricks have made it easy for me to get through security in no time at all — even without Pre-Check.
If you’re a frequent traveler and need some help on getting through TSA in a breeze, consider trying out a few of my suggestions.
1The Away Bigger Carry-On With Pocket
Anytime anyone asks for my tricks for getting through airport security in a timely manner, my first answer is always this bag. Away’s Bigger Carry-On with Pocket has become my ultimate travel companion. It’s roomy inside, so you can fit everything you need in it (I’ve packed for an entire month on the road in this bag), and it has an ejectable battery for when your devices are running low.
My favorite feature, though, is the pocket in front. It’s the perfect size for your laptop and iPad, so if you have to remove them, they’re easily accessible when going through security. There are even smaller pockets along the sides for your cables.
It’s also padded to keep devices protected. (I once gate-checked my bag, forgetting that I left my laptop in the pocket, and it arrived with my laptop completely intact. I don’t recommend doing that, but at least you know it works!)
2A Roomy, Versatile Backpack, Like This One From Caraa Sport
I’m a major advocate for traveling with a duffel or backpack as your "personal item" to carry on, because it gives you more space to pack things in. It’s also functional and will fit under the seat in front of you.
I love traveling with Caraa Sport’s Medium Studio Bag, because it has a ton of pockets, and is really roomy inside with tons of compartments so your things stay organized. The best part about it is that it can be worn three ways — as a backpack, satchel over your shoulder, or cross-body bag — so you can hold it comfortably while you’re traveling.
3Shoes That Are Easy To Get On And Off — That Are Still Fashionable
I love a good travel #OOTD pic, so even though I need to be comfortable on the plane, I still want my shoes to look fire. If you’re traveling in sneakers, look for ones that slip on and off easily. Not only are these Adidas x Pharrell Williams tennis shoes ridiculously comfortable, they’re also so easy to travel in.
If you’re going for something a little more glam, I always recommend traveling in booties, particularly sock booties or a pair that zips up on the side. I love these sock booties from Steve Madden, because they have a chunky heel and are easy to slip on and off in the security line.
4A Reusable Cup Or Bottle That’s Clear
True story: I once flew back to the U.S. after a trip abroad, with a layover on the West Coast. I had to exit through customs and go through security again to get on my next flight to return to NYC. I forgot that I filled up my water bottle on the plane, so I had to go through security all over again. I could have cried.
From then on, I promised myself that I would never again use a reusable water bottle that wasn’t completely clear, because I want to be able to quickly check if I need to dump my bottle in the security line. I’m partial to straws, so this fun venti-sized reusable cup from Starbucks has been my recent go-to when I travel.
The fact that it’s clear seems like the simplest factor, but it actually saves me a ton of time. Plus, the straw helps make it faster if you decide to chug the water instead of dumping it.
5Comfy Joggers Or Leggings
Everyone likes being comfy when they travel, but there’s actually a functionality to what you wear. Sweatpants like this super soft pair from Joah Brown or leggings like this fun moto pair from Alo don’t require you to use a belt, so that’s one less thing to worry about when you’re going through security. In addition, sweats and leggings often don’t have pockets built into them, so you won’t forget your phone or ID left in your pocket (which may require you to go through the scanner again).
6Travel-Sized Beauty Products
I know you’ve probably heard this a million times before, but travel-sized beauty products are worth investing in. I absolutely cannot live without my R+Co Death Valley dry shampoo or my Tatcha Luminous Dewy Skin Mist, so I don’t mind buying them when I need to.
The nice thing about some travel-sized products is that they can be refilled. I’ve only bought one travel size of the Tatcha mist, and just refill it with my big one whenever I’m hitting the road.
7Pouches To Separate My Toiletries
Some beauty companies offer free makeup pouches with purchases. Hang onto those, because they make for fantastic packing organizers. They’re especially handy when you’re going through security.
I like to divide my toiletries and products by type and size to make it easier for me to pack and unpack. This also helps if my bag gets flagged in the security line.
I put all of my "definitely too small to get flagged" items in one pouch, and then my "possibly too big, but probably fine" items in another, and my "these will probably get pulled" items in another. That way, if TSA has to go through my bag, they only likely have to open one pouch instead of all of them.
8Take Your Jacket Off Before You Get To Security
TSA is always going to make you remove your jacket before you go through the body scanner, so you might as well take it off before you get to the line. If you don’t have the hands to hold onto it, drape it onto the handle of your roller bag.
9Download Your Boarding Pass Onto Your Phone
Mobile boarding passes are pretty common practice now, but they really do make a difference in how much time it takes to get you through security. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve dropped my boarding pass or had to dig it out of my purse.
Most people keep their phones in their hands or pockets when they’re walking through the airport anyway, so it makes sense to put your boarding pass in a spot that’s easily accessible. Checking in online and getting your boarding pass ahead of time means that you can eliminate the extra stop at the check-in desk and just walk straight through to security.
10Get TSA Pre-Check Or Global Entry
If you have the means and are a frequent flyer, I cannot recommend Global Entry and/or Pre-Check enough. If most of your traveling is just domestic, Pre-Check is probably enough for you. But if you travel abroad frequently, Global Entry is a lifesaver.
TSA Pre-Check allows you to walk through security without taking your laptop out of your bag and without taking your shoes off. It is the hugest time-saver, and you’ll be amazed that you didn’t apply for it sooner.
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