Airport Security Tip: Put Your Small Items in a Container

eyeglass caseIt’s not always easy figuring out the best ways to go through airport security. Between changing TSA rules, long lines, and tons of gear, it can feel like a hopeless maze for infrequent fliers. After a decade of business travel I sometimes think I have seen all the possible ways to slow down the security line, but last week I saw something new.

The TSA Pre-check lane tends to be business travelers and other frequent fliers who know the rules and can get through quickly. Occasionally, however, TSA sends random people to Pre-check who have no idea what to do. They take off their shoes, pull out their laptops, and generally slow everything down. Oh well, I’ve accepted that it’s just part of going through Pre-check. Last week, one such traveler was in front of me. She started to pull off her shoes, then was told by the TSO that she didn’t have to. She then proceeded to take off her hat and then lay it, her glasses case, and her boarding pass directly on the belt, and she walked off to the metal detector. By the time I realized what she had done, her loose items were headed into the x-ray machine and my suitcase was not far behind.

When I reached the other side of the x-ray machine she was still standing there, patiently waiting for her items. Which didn’t come. The belt stopped, as the screening agent looked carefully at my suitcase, then continued on. Out came my suitcase, which was–you may have guessed it–on top of her hat and glasses case. The boarding pass came out behind it. Due to the way the belts are put together, her items got stuck and my suitcase was the only thing that pushed them out. I felt terrible! Luckily her hat was easily reshaped. But what if her glasses had been lost or broken?

If you have loose items that need to be x-rayed I highly recommend that you put them inside your bag before getting to the front of the line. If that’s not feasible then make sure you put them in one of the bins or smaller containers designed to pass through the machine. Otherwise your smaller items could get stuck or fall in the cracks and be lost.

Readers, have you seen any recent actions that slow down the security line?


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  1. My all time pet peeve in the security line is when a person grabs items right as they come out and stands there to put them on – instead of pushing them to the end, taking them, and getting organized away from the line.

  2. Lately in the O’Hare Pre-check the little containers haven’t been available – it’s a pain! The man in front of me sent his phone through solo and he almost forgot it when it didn’t come out. Fortunately he noticed – the screening agent had to open a little trap door under the conveyor and out fell the phone! I can only imagine how many things get trapped and left behind there.

  3. Also remember to take everything out of the container. Las Vegas now has graphics on the bottom of theirs and it’s much easier to leave things in it. I leaned over to grab my stuff out of one and didn’t notice that my driver’s license was still on the bottom. Placed a claim with Lost and Found same day, but still haven’t heard back a couple of weeks later. And they only keep your claim info for 30 days. 🙁

    If you use more than one container, as many ppl do, look carefully inside each one before walking away. I got everything out of the one in front of me, but only leaned over to grab my stuff out of the second one. Really, really bad idea. Sigh.

    Feels worse bc I travel way more than enough to know better.

  4. Several years ago I received a luggage tag as a gift. Not only was it a tag but it unfolded into a little zippered pouch that could hold small items like keys, change, watch, ID, etc. while remaining attached to my bag. I’ve looked around for something similar since mine wore out but haven’t been able to find anything similar. It was very handy to empty my pockets and have everything stowed together in one place. Now I put the little things into a ziplock bag and stuff it into my carryon.

  5. I usually stop before I get to security and put everything into my luggage (minus ID and boarding pass). Then I lock my bags.
    After going through the Boarding pass checkpoint I put my pass and ID into the outer pocket. Then I go through the final screening.
    After security I grab my bags and walk away from the checkpoint. I reassemble myself I peace.
    It takes a few seconds more at either end but there is less chaos at the screening site. I’m much less likely to lose anything.
    The biggest thing that slows down security is that people don’t plan things ahead of time. They wait until they are actually at the screening station before they empty their pockets, take off their coat, take off their sweater, etc.

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