Flying the friendly skies can be an awe-inspiring experience. However, having to navigate airport security can prove to be an exercise in mental and physical agility! With just a little bit of forethought, the trip through the TSA line can be a relatively smooth and painless experience.
Prepare for TSA, Both Practically and Mentally
I have had the opportunity to travel a bit more than I usually do during these past couple of months. As much as I look forward to arriving at my destination when flying, I have to admit that going through airport security is not one of my favorite things to think about. Yes, I am absolutely grateful for the security measures that are in place to make our skies safer. However, between the long lines and going through the body scanner, as well as having to keep up with my luggage as it goes down the belt, I can end up feel a bit frazzled!
Nevertheless, I’ve found that an extra bit of preparation can make all the difference. Here are a few tips that have helped me to make the security line journey a little less hectic:
A good TSA experience starts at home
I thrive on using time that I have before my trip to make my traveling simple. It’s so very helpful to me to be mindful while actually packing carry-on luggage at home. I begin with a mental (and sometimes written) checklist of things that I have restrictions on in my suitcase. For example, I only lay out travel-sized bottles of shampoo, shower gel, and lotion that are three ounces or less. (This guideline also includes aerosol deodorant, which I discovered the hard way on the flight back home from Seattle. Unfortunately, my new spray was 3.6 ounces and had to go in the trash.)
In addition, having an inexpensive box of sandwich baggies on hand will go a long way in keeping travel toiletries together and easily accessible. They hold two to three of my items, and I can pull them out from my carry-on with ease, should I be required to do so while in the TSA line.
It is also helpful to go to your airline’s website for more information. I last flew United, and there on the site is where I was able to see the accepted sizes for all my liquids, gels, and aerosols, as well as the acceptable dimensions for my carry-on bag.
Organization is everything.
I always like to have a good idea of where all of my things are in my suitcase, and I really dislike having to root around in my bag to find things. In order for me to keep a cool head (and to at least look like I know what I am doing in the security line), I have found it vital for me to keep my essentials handy and separated from everything else. For instance, I make it a point to carry a personal bag, be it a purse or backpack, for items such as my passport/ID. I can then access what I need with ease when approaching the security officer in the line. Less fumbling around keeps me calm and my heart rate down.
Also, I tend to pack my carry-on for when it is standing up on its wheels. I place my heavier items such as my shoes and heavy clothing closest to the wheels, so that they end up at the bottom of my suitcase when it is standing and I’m wheeling it in line. Should I have to pull something out to put on the belt before it goes through the scanner, there is less of a chance of items falling out and making a mess.
Stay in the moment and listen.
In order to lessen the stress of having to move through a security line and get to your gate, being “in the game” mentally is 90% of the formula for success. It helps me to look around and pay attention to the flow of the line and how close I am getting to the scanner. I also read the signs while in line, just to make sure that I’m doing things in order.
While TSA requirements seem to be pretty uniform from airport to airport, it’s best to prepare for when there are minor differences. For example, Dulles requires that backpacks and shoes go through the security scanner in bins, while Orlando International does not. Small changes like that can affect my “rhythm” for getting through the line, so I make it a point to pay special attention to those kind of details.
Also, while going through Orlando International, the security officer gave verbal instructions and reminders. I made special effort to listen to him more intently. Take all the cues that you can to stay prepared.
When traveling with a friend or family member, work as a team.
It has been said that “teamwork makes the dream work,” and so it is true with regards to getting through airport security. My teenage daughter and I looked out for one another as we were in line. I chatted with her and made sure she was aware of the same information that I had just read or heard. We helped each other get ready to put our luggage and electronic items on the conveyor belt to the scanner, and we both kept an eye on our belongings. Incidentally, I like to let my child go ahead of me through security. That way, if there are any problems as she goes through, I can see and help to address any concerns as her parent. It is easier to work together to get through it all.
Going through security at any airport can be a bit flustering, without question. Nevertheless, there are simple things we can do to remain composed. Hopefully, some of these tips will help us all make it through with ease and a bit of panache!