Security Refresh

Periodically, I like to check out the TSA blog to see if there are any updated guidelines, and find out what crazy things people have tried to bring through security. This time did not disappoint! While there aren’t any new guidelines, there is a list of the top ten crazy things found at security checkpoints in 2011. Snakes! Science projects! Tactical spikes! Landmines! And the list goes on. Wow.

In honor of the insane stuff found last year, I wanted to give a quick refresh on going through security efficiently. These are the tips and tricks I’ve learned over the years to get through the lines without slowing things down.

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.

The day of:

  • Wear slip on shoes that are easy to put on and take off.
  • Avoid large jewelry (or metal shirts. Sigh) or anything else that will set off the metal detector.

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 liquids (one quart size Ziploc bag, nothing over 3.4 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 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.

Going through the Body Scanner:

  • Make sure you take everything out of your pockets—pieces of paper, hair bands, gum, everything.
  • If you have on a long necklace, either remove it or move it to your back.

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 keep my liquids bag at the very top of my carry on so I can unzip, and quickly pull it out when I have the bin. No digging around for it. Love the new change that 12 and under do not have to remove shoes. I wear socks under my slipon shoes-walking around that area barefoot-ewww! Be patient with elderly, thise with disabilities and families with many small children.

  2. The TSA officer told me my iPad could stay in my purse when I was traveling over Christmas. Here I was giving it its own bin. 🙂

  3. I just purchased Tom shoes which was recommended by another frequent flyer for ease of travel. They are great at security, easy to cram into purse or suitcase and I generally used them like slippers for my trip but also casual shoes when needed. Plus, a donation of new shoes was made to a child somewhere who needed them.

  4. I agree with Danielle and would add that you should ALWAYS wear socks through security (I don’t even want to know what’s on that floor…).

    Also, being based in Chicago, I don’t recommend the second way of doing things. They never seem to have enough bins.

  5. I finally broke down and bought a Tumi security-friendly laptop bag, so I don’t have to take my laptop out anymore. SO much better, SO worth it if you travel a lot with a laptop.

    Another vote for socks! I know most “younger” women don’t wear socks/hose with business clothes, but I always do when traveling through airports – year-round. Too gross otherwise. Casual/personal summer travel is its own other problem.

  6. All excellent advice. But this morning, while going through the American Airlines security check at LAX, I was asked to remove my scarf that was knotted over my turtleneck sweater. A purely decorative non-metal item. Something new to think about.

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