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Navigating Airport Security

baggage inspection system, security and safety concept

Navigating Airport Security

If you’re a regular traveler, you probably already know these, but if you’re only in an airport once a year (or less) they can be easy to forget. Refresh your memory with this list before you head for the airport to make your walk through the gauntlet of security a little less stressful.

Know the Rules

Different countries and airports may have slightly varying security regulations, but some common rules apply almost everywhere. Familiarize yourself with the basics like the 3-1-1 liquids rule: 3.4 oz (100 ml) bottles, in 1 quart-sized clear, resealable bag, per 1 passenger. Knowing these basics can save you time and embarrassment at the checkpoint.

Cropped photo of legs standing on a rock, wearing black Skecher tennis shoes.

Dress for Success

While we all want to look our best when we travel, airport security is not the place for intricate wardrobe pieces. Slip-on shoes, belts with minimal metal, and clothing without excessive zippers or buttons can help you zip through the screening process. My slip-off Skechers are perfect for traveling through security.

Prepare Your Documents

Before approaching the security line, have your identification and boarding pass ready. There’s nothing like fumbling through bags at the last moment to add stress and eyerolls from the people in line behind you. 

Use the Right Lanes

Some airports have designated lanes for families, casual travelers or experienced travelers. When you can, choose the one that best fits you. You might even find expedited lanes if you’re part of programs like TSA PreCheck or Global Entry, which we highly recommend for frequent fliers.

Organize Your Carry-Ons

When packing your carry-on, think ahead about what will need to be removed at security. Place your liquids bag, laptop or other electronics where they can be easily reached. Since we always travel with our laptops, we keep them easily accessible with our iPads. 

Empty Your Pockets

Before getting to the x-ray machine, empty your pockets of everything, including change, keys, and even chapstick. Place them in your carry-on or the provided trays. 

Pay Attention to Instructions

Security personnel are there to guide you, so listen to their instructions and ask questions if you’re unsure. Cooperation can make the process smoother for everyone involved. As tempting as it is, don’t make jokes. I can promise you they will not land well. 

Be Courteous

A smile and polite manners go a long way, especially in a high-stress environment like airport security. Treating the security staff and fellow travelers with respect can make the experience more pleasant for everyone.

Consider Your Health and Privacy

If you have medical conditions or wear items that may set off the metal detector, inform the security officer in advance, as they are trained to handle such situations with discretion. I have two titanium hips so I set off the metal detector every single time. I let them know, they do a manual pat-down (if there’s no x-ray scanner available) and we’re on our way. 

While airport security might seem like a pain in the backside, understanding the process and preparing accordingly can transform it into a smooth and manageable part of your journey. After all, the quicker you clear security, the sooner you can settle into the departure lounge and begin your adventure, whether it’s discovering a new destination or returning to the comforting embrace of home.

Safe travels and happy flying!

Jackie Shelton, APR, is a strategic communications veteran who, after 30 years still has a hard time focusing on one particular aspect, so she has stopped trying.

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