Be prepared for airport security

Are you ready for the dreaded airport security line? You should be – it could drastically reduce the amount of time spent waiting to get to the airside, and could even help speed up the super-long queues.

The key, as with most travel, is to plan ahead. These are some of the tips we’ve picked up on our travels around the world.

Check carry-on limits

Each airline has its own set of regulations regarding the number, size, and weight of bags allowed as carry-ons so be sure to familiarise yourself with these. By adhering to these limits, you can avoid engaging with security officers who may require you to check or remove items from your bags, or require you to check your cabin baggage into the hold.

Know your restricted items

Be aware of the items that are restricted or prohibited in carry-on bags. Typically, explosives, flammable substances, weapons, and certain sharp objects (like scissors) are not allowed on board. Note that some things must be in cabin baggage as they may not be checked, including lithium batteries, vape pens, e-cigarettes, electronic lighters, and strike-anywhere matches.

The official websites of the airport and airlines involved will usually have comprehensive lists of restricted items.

Remember to check what you’re allowed to take into your destination country too! If you’re taking something like fruit to snack on, be sure to finish it before disembarking.

Remember the 3-1-1 rule

This rule specifies that you may only bring tiny quantities (3.4 ounces aka just under 100ml, or less) of liquid or gel-like substances in a single (6″ x 9″) quart-sized plastic baggie (about the size of a standard sandwich bag), and you are only allowed one bag per passenger. This way, you won’t accidentally have to discard your toiletries or whatever liquid items you may have to carry.

Be aware that this doesn’t just apply to the obvious liquids and gels like deodorant and shower gel; things like mascara, lipstick, hairspray, gel/stick deodorants, and lipbalm also fall into this category. Powders, like face or baby powder, should also be treated as liquids.  

TIP! You can’t take water through security, but you can take an empty water bottle and refill it once you’re airside. Many airports even have water fountains for this very purpose.

Remember your documents

Keep all essential documents, such as passport and boarding pass, in an easily accessible place. Many airports require you to present these documents multiple times, so having them ready will save you precious time and minimise stress.

A little zip-up bag usually works best. We don’t recommend putting these in back pockets or leaving them in open bags to avoid potential pick-pocketing.

Have a checklist

Create a checklist of the things you will be putting in your cabin baggage, and keep this with you. Tick it off as you put things into your bag. This way, you double-check that you have everything, ensure you aren’t putting things into your bag that shouldn’t be there (e.g. scissors or pocket knives), and are aware of exactly what’s in your bag, which can also facilitate your security screening process.

Be punctual

Arriving at the airport with plenty of time to spare is critical, especially during peak travel seasons or busy travel days (weekends, public holidays, etcetera). The general recommendation is to arrive at least two hours prior to domestic flights and three hours before international trips. However, keep in mind that smaller airports or flights to less popular destinations may require less time for security screening, while huge airports may take longer. By taking the initiative to plan properly and synching your travel schedule with the expectation of longer lines, you set yourself up for success in avoiding unnecessary discomfort and anxiety when the clock is ticking.

PS: don’t be there too far in advance either – some airlines won’t let you check in more than the required amount of time prior, which means you may end up cooling your heels landside anyway.

Don’t over pack

It’s tempting to turn your cabin bag into a tin of sardines but this could also lead to you being stopped because the scanners can’t view things properly. Ensure that things are neatly packed, not all jumbled together, easy to remove and repack, and not densely squashed together (if you stick to the cabin baggage weight and size allowance, this shouldn’t be a problem).

Be the best dressed

This doesn’t mean being uber-fashionable; it means dressing to facilitate security screening. Bear in mind that you will need to remove accessories like hats, gloves, belts, scarves, and jackets, and may also need to take off your shoes. You don’t need to wear accessory clothing like this when going through security so put them in your bag before you enter the queue – one less thing to take off.

To print or not to print?

The era of electronic passes on phones and tablets makes things so much easier… until it doesn’t. What if you drop your device and crack the screen so it can’t be scanned? Can’t charge your device? Systems are down at the airport? Many things can go wrong so it is best to have a hard copy with you, just in case. You don’t need to print out reams of paper – just the bit with the code on it.

(Remember to dispose of your paper in an environmentally friendly way but be sure to remove anything showing your personal details before putting it into a recycling bin.)

Have good manners

Last but not least, try to remember that security checkpoint staff members are often targets of hostility. Treating them with patience and respect can greatly improve your own journey. Communicate with them politely, follow any instructions promptly, and pack your bags in a way that makes inspections painless. Being considerate towards fellow travellers is also essential – don’t overcomplicate the process by being disorganized or slowing down the line unnecessarily.

By incorporating these practices, we can transform the airport security line from a dreaded experience into an efficient and bearable part of our travels.

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