In early 2016, the TSA airport security was spotlighted in select cities as having exceptionally long wait times. Passengers were citing times upwards of 3-4 hours to get through security and to their terminal. What does this mean for the common traveler? Aggravation, tired feet and, possibly, a missed flight.
While we can’t do anything to speed up the wait, we can suggest a few techniques to prepare yourself for possibly long lines. As we always say, being prepared is your first step toward stress-less travel.
4 Airport Security Wait Time Hacks
1. My TSA smartphone app
If you have a smartphone, we strongly recommend downloading the My TSA travel app. In the palm of your hand, you can access current wait times at the airport your flight is leaving from. This knowledge can help you in a myriad of ways; most importantly, it can help you to arrive at the airport with enough time to get through security and board your flight.
The app (which by the way launched in 2010) also has sections to check the weather at your departure and arrival airports, travel guides for permitted items and tips on how to prepare for your trip.
2. TSA Pre-Check
While guaranteeing access through the TSA Pre-Check security line does take a bit of planning, it can really help to speed up your airport security wait times. If you are a frequent traveler, you should strongly consider going through the interview process. You’ll be able to pass through security without removing your shoes, your laptop or tablet from its bag or removing your jacket. Less time organizing your belongings into those gray x-ray bins means less time and less stress in the security process.
Sometimes the TSA will randomly choose passengers to travel through the Pre-Check line, however you can’t bank on this. Without going through the interview process, you have no guarantee that you will travel through the line.
3. Know Prohibited Items for Carry-On and Checked Baggage
It’s no secret that there is a list of prohibited items for carry on and checked baggage. Some items are a no-no for carry-on bags, but OK for checked bags, or vice versa. Other items are only OK for checked baggage if you alert the airline to them. And did you know that some items, like breast milk and liquid medication, are allowed for carry on if you are traveling with an infant or have a physician’s note? It’s important to be informed.
Can you bring on nail clippers or a metal nail file? Do you need to check the Native American arrow head souvenir, or should you mail it home? Can you carry on liquid medication and the equipment needed for administration? All those questions are frequently asked by travelers and answered by the TSA. You can find those answers and more on the TSA website.
4. Arrive early enough to give you time and coverage
Knowing when to leave for and how early to arrive at the airport is crucial if you are trying to make your flight. It’s also important when we consider travel delay coverage included in your travel insurance plan.
Every comprehensive travel insurance plan includes some level of travel delay for covered reasons. Travel delay coverage typically offers benefits for covered delays of common carriers (airlines, bus companies or train lines), but does not include coverage for delays or missed flights due to long waits in the TSA security check line, which is why it is important to familiarize yourself with items 1-3 in this list. Each plan is different, but most are clear about one thing: give yourself enough time to make your flight.