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Nine Tips to Move as Quickly as Possible
Through Airport Security


It takes just over four minutes to get through airport security at the average U.S. airport, and if you go during peak travel times, the wait can stretch upwards of 16 minutes.

Though typical guidelines recommend having two hours to get through the airport on time for your flight, experts say you shouldn't need more than one hour for most domestic flights.

If you travel frequently or are pressed for time trying to make a connecting flight, those extra minutes can add unnecessary stress to your trip. But is there anything you can do other than simply grin and bear it?

Actually, yes there is. Quite a lot.

To start, if you travel frequently, you may be interested in becoming a "registered traveler" with a company called Clear. For a fee of just over $100 a year you'll gain access to a special security lane, present your boarding pass and registered traveler ID card, have your fingerprints or irises scanned, and move on to a kiosk to have your baggage X-rayed. All of this happens in as little as 30 seconds.

While not having to take off your shoes and belt at the security checkpoint -- and zooming through sans lines -- may sound appealing, there are some downsides to the Clear program.

Currently, it's only available at a handful of U.S. airports (under 20 of them), and some of those operate under limited hours or only at select terminals. You also have to be comfortable with handing over scans of your irises and fingerprints, and allowing them to be stored in a database. Meanwhile, Clear's Web site boasts that you'll get through security in under four minutes … which is not that much faster than the national average.

Another timesaver? If you're carrying on a coat, make sure all the pockets are empty before you leave home.

Assuming you want to give it a go the old-fashioned way, with everybody else, there are still many ways to slice some precious minutes off of your security check time.

  1. Purchase your tickets in advance. There is less of a risk that you'll be subjected to a random search if you purchased your ticket 60 days or more in advance.

  2. Have your photo identification and boarding pass ready. You may need it at several points.

  3. Wear shoes that are easy to remove, as you WILL be required to remove them. You may also want to wear socks if walking barefoot on the airport floor does not appeal to you (some airports do provide booties).

  4. Minimize your stuff. The fewer carry-on items you have, and the less crammed with "stuff" they are, the faster you'll sail through security. This includes heavy jewelry, coats, belts, you name it.

  5. Take the early flight. Typically, if you take the first flight out of the day, you'll hit the airport at a time when there are fewer people.

  6. Choose your line wisely. There are usually several lines moving though security. Avoid those that contain families with small children, the elderly, or anyone who is obviously not prepared to go through the checkpoint.

  7. Have your laptop ready. You'll need to put it in a separate bin to get x-rayed, so don't wait until the last minute to get it out.

  8. Leave your bags unlocked and don't wrap any gifts. The locks will be broken, the gifts unwrapped.

  9. Look for "Diamond Lanes." Certain airports are experimenting with allowing travelers to choose one of three security lines: expert traveler, casual traveler and families and special assistance. If you're a season business traveler, the expert line may save you some time.

Recommended Reading

How to Travel Abroad Safely: Six Important Tips You Need to Know in an Emergency

The Hotel Insider: 15 Tips to Save Money, Stress & Your Health at Hotels

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