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Airport Security

Tips for getting through the long lines of airport security as fast as possible. How to pack, what not to wear, and when to arrive.


When packing your carry-on luggage, don’t pack anything that might raise suspicion. If an item makes you think twice, don’t pack it! Even if the item is not currently on the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Prohibited Items List, having the item in your carry-on luggage could lead to your bag being searched. Some examples, of hobbies should be left at home or packed in your checked luggage are knitting, needle point or crocheting projects. Instead, bring an interesting book to read, download your MP3 player with your favorite tunes for the trip or bring a word search/crossword puzzle magazine to work on. These are all great ways to pass the time before and during your flight that won’t get you singled out for an additional bag search at the airport security gate. 

Other items to either pack in your checked luggage or buy once you’ve arrived at your destination include:

  • Shaving kit
  • Manicure set
  • Travel sewing kit
  • Cigarettes and lighter
  • Cloth diapers that need diaper pins

Visit the TSA web-site for a complete and current list of items that are prohibited in both carry-on and checked luggage.

Another thing to consider packing is your x-rays. If you have had joint replacement surgery, or have had reconstructive surgery that included metal screws or pins, you might set off the metal detector. If you have your x-rays to show the security officer, you will get through the additional screening much faster.

What NOT to wear

“Will this draw the attention of the security officer,” is something to consider when selecting your travel outfit. Baggy clothes, bulky or long coats and t-shirts with threatening logos or pictures will probably get you stopped for additional screening at the security gate. Large jewelry, belts with metal spikes and belly rings should be packed in your checked luggage or left at home.

Your best bet of a smooth trip through screening is to wear business casual attire and very little jewelry. 

Choosing your shoes

Choosing the right shoes for the security screener may seem odd, however, most people are stopped for additional screening due to their shoe selection. Shoes that will get you stopped at the security gate include:

  • Boots
  • Platform shoes, including flip-flops
  • Thick soled shoes, including athletic shoes
  • High heals
  • Steel toed boots/shoes
  • Shoes with metal decoration, including sandals

The best types of shoes to wear, if possible, would be either beach style flip-flops or thin soled sandals. If it is to cold for summer shoes, consider investing in a pair of thin soled Keds or a pair of boat shoes for the trip.

How early should you arrive?

Two-hours prior to your flight time, is the standard answer given to the question of how early you should arrive at the airport. However, there are many horror stories of people who have missed flights due to the long line at the security gate or getting singled out for additional screening. To better prepare for a relatively short trip through security the TSA has developed a program to keep people informed of current wait times at major airports throughout the US and Canada. Plan to check this web-page several hours prior to your flight to get a better idea how early you will need to get to the airport.

Always remember, no matter how late your are running, if you are singled out for an additional screening, be calm, polite and do everything they ask you to; nervous, angry and rude people are more likely to be detained longer and undergo a more extensive search. 

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