In the past 12 months, my event planning schedule landed me on 38 TSA lines at some of the busiest airports in the world. Unlike most of my flustered fellow travelers, I've rather enjoyed watching the chaos that goes on as people flap their way through the screening process. If there's one thing all those hours in the TSA line have taught me, it is that there is a way to breeze through it. Just try these tips and I’ll see you in the VIP lounge:
by April 30, 2012
Lose your liquids.
Gotta lotta liquids? Leave 'em home. A radical notion, but if you're carrying-on and your trips are short, leave it to the hotel to supply you with soap, shampoo, conditioner, lotions and even toothpaste upon request. To reduce hassle and spillage, I now travel with dry shampoo and powdered toothpaste, which are lighter and more convenient than leaky bottles.
Dress like Deiter.
Every flight I take, no matter where I’m going, my outfit is the same: black turtleneck, black slim cut yoga pants (more presentable than sweatpants, more comfortable than jeans), a large cotton scarf (that doubles as a blanket on cold planes) and a sweater. No jewelry, no pockets – and no stopping at the metal detector, either.
Mind your manners.
Start with a pleasant attitude. Can’t muster that? Then at least be neutral. Be polite, even if the TSA agent isn’t. Put yourself in their shoes. Day in, day out, they have to watch thousands of people fly off to glamorous jobs or vacations in exotic locales. They don’t get to go anywhere and under constant pressure to not let the bad guys slip through. That would put me in a foul mood, too.
Size up the competition.
If you don’t have frequent flier status and have to go on the “normal people” line, then pick your lane by who's already in it. Look for lanes with other pro and semi-pro travelers who are more likely to know the drill. No disrespect, but unless you’ve got a lot of time to spare, avoid lanes populated by families with small children, tour groups of retirees, high school marching bands, glee clubs, cheer leading squads, etc., heavily bejeweled couples or anyone who looks like they haven’t been on a plane since the Clinton Administration.
Now, strip strategically.
Once you’ve found your lane, strip from the ground up, starting with your shoes, then to pockets, shoulder bag, jacket and so on. After you’ve had your X-ray taken, re-dress methodically, again from the ground up, in the same order you disrobed to reduce the chances that you’ll leave something behind – or will recognize it sooner if you do.
Put your bins in order.
By stripping from the ground up, you lay the groundwork for orderly bin distribution, easy re-dressing and a quick getaway. Here’s my strategy: Bin #1 gets shoes and laptop case. Bin #2 gets the shoulder-bag/purse and liquids baggie. Bin #3 gets the laptop. Bin #4 gets the carry-on bag. If I’ve checked luggage, then the laptop goes into Bin #2 of 3 so it emerges right after my shoes and it’s not the last item on the conveyor belt.
Get the TSA's stamp of approval.
Much as I enjoyed my time on line last year, this year I'm signing up for the TSA's recently launched Pre-Check program, which enables frequent travelers to breeze though a special security line in select airports. The process includes a background check, an interview Homeland Security, finger-prints, a form or two plus a $100 fee -- all of which seems a small price to pay for more spent in the Admiral's Club and less on line. For details, visit the TSA website: http://www.tsa.gov/what_we_do/participation.shtm
For more on the security lines, read Survey Shows Top Frustrations of Travelers and New TSA Programs Offer Less Intrusive Airport Screening.