Business Travel 101: Getting Through Security

Business Travel 101 is a weekly series about making that first business trip as easy and successful as possible. Packing, security, comfort, and etiquette are all factors that, with a little planning, can contribute to a smooth and efficient trip. If you think of a topic I should include, email me at

One of the hardest things to get used to as a frequent traveler is going through security. There are so many things to remember, and the rules are always changing. But if you can master this, your trips will be so much easier. The following tips are a kind of cheat sheet to getting through security smoothly, quickly, and with a minimum of fuss. I know it looks like a lot to remember, but if you take it one step at a time, you will be fine. The most important thing to remember is to be prepared for the next step before it happens.

Before your trip:

  • If you haven’t traveled in a while, even just a few months, go online to the TSA website to catch up with the latest guidelines.
  • Pack neatly! If for some reason they have to search your bag, it will be much easier if the suitcase is not a chaotic mess.
  • When you are packing, make sure your toiletry bag and laptop are easily accessible.

Before entering the line:

  • Get rid of all bottles of water or any other large amounts of liquid in your bag.
  • Get out your travel documents and identification before you get to the TSA agent.

Going through the X-ray machine and metal detector:

  • Once you get to the X-ray line, get your stuff out, even if you don’t have bins yet. The usual things that need to go through the X-ray machine separately are:
  1. Plastic bag of toiletries (one quart size Ziploc bag, nothing over three ounces)
  2. Shoes
  3. Laptop and anything else that is a large electronic item, such as DVD player or gaming console
  • Ideally when you get to the x-ray machine line you will have everything ready, or at least easy to get to. Know how many bins you will need (I need two: one for my laptop, one for my purse, toiletries, and coat; shoes go on the conveyor belt) and get them out, stacked. I put all the things in one bin, with my shoes and laptop on top. This conserves room on the tables and allows other people to get their stuff together. Once you are close to the x-ray machine, separate the bins and put your laptop in the empty one.
  • Once you get to the actual x-ray machine, put your shoes through first (which are slip on and don’t require tying, right?). Then your laptop bin, then your purse bin, and finally your suitcase. Put your suitcase on the belt handle first for easy pick up on the other side.
  • Make sure you don’t have anything in your pockets. If you do, put it all into your bag, not loose in a bin. This will speed up things on the other side.
  • Keep your boarding pass in your hand when going through the metal detector. Some airports need to see them, some don’t.

After going through the machines:

  • When you get to the other side of the x-ray machine, pick up your shoes and drop them on the floor. While you are slipping your feet into them grab your laptop and toiletry bag in one hand, put your purse over your shoulder, and pick up your suitcase and put it on the ground. Walk everything over to the convenient bench just a few feet away so that you don’t hold up the line putting all your things in their right places.
  • If the above scenario doesn’t work for you, grab your bins and your suitcase and move over to the bench.

Readers, what are your tips for getting through security quickly and easily?



  1. I like these.

    I would add to it to try to avoid wearing big jewelry that might set off the metal detector, or at least being aware of it and taking it off in advance and sending through in a bin.

  2. Not quite sure why some of them want to see your boarding pass again….after all didn’t you just check it at the podium 8 ft away. Do they think I’m David Copperfield or something???

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