Sunday, January 24, 2010

How to get through TSA checkpoints quickly

Airport security. The Transportation Security Administration. There are a ton of jokes I could spout off about the TSA. But I will refrain. Instead I will tell you how I breeze thru security at airports around the country. From the time I first grab a bin to the time I am walking to the gate is normally under 45 seconds if no one is in front of me.

I start thinking about security before I even walk into the terminal. Before I even head for the airport.

Unless I am in Uniform, I typically dress in business casual clothing. The belt I wear is nice, while having a minimal amount of metal. By having so little metal, my belts (all two of them) never cause the metal detector to go off. Keeping my belt on saves me a good 18 seconds. I prefer to wear slip on shoes. Easy on....easy off. Again business causal. Wearing loose clothing also helps on board comfort.

Once I walk into the airport I step to the side and give myself a once over.

I examine myself for any metal on my body I don't need. Sunglasses get stashed in my jacket or carry on. Wallet goes in my carry on bag or jacket. I have an advantage over most being I wear an airline ID that trumps any state issued ID. For those without an airline ID, take out your ID and place it and your boarding pass in a pocket. Ladies place them in the outermost pocket of your purse if you have no pockets. This is the only thing that should be in your pockets.

Those who know me know I like gadgets. I travel with a T-Mobile G1, Zune HD, some form of laptop (HP Netbook or Apple Macbook Pro), headphones, associated charging cables and always a digital camera.

Cell phone, camera, Zune HD are all in my carry on along with ANY other metal objects. By placing them in a carry on it eliminates the risk of leaving them behind at security OR worse (and more common than you think) someone walking off with them.

I make sure the laptop is easily accessible. I don't carry a TSA approved laptop bag that allows me to leave the computer in the bag while being Xrayed mostly because I don't want to spend the cash. Instead I have neopreene sleeves for my bags. My liquids are in a quart size bag in the outermost pocket of my carry on bag.

Since I don't carry a true laptop bag I stash all the computer cables in my carry on bag/suitcase.

Once I am sure I am free of metal, time to clear the TSA.

After the TSA examines your ID, slip it into your jacket or into your carry on. People leave behind/drop ID's everyday. Now the only thing you have to hold onto is your boarding pass.

I grab two bins. One for the laptop, one for my jacket and shoes and liquids. I am very picky about the order of things going through the Xray.

First goes my carry on bag. Next up is the bin with my jacket and shoes. Jacket on bottom, shoes with the soles facing up (as to keep my jacket clean) next and liquids on the side. Last is the bin with my laptop. This way I can keep an eye on my laptop. If you have anything of value I advise you do the same and send it through last. If you send valuables thru first and the line gets held up, your valuables are now sitting 20+ feet away and could easily walk off. Again it happens everyday.

Once I walk thru the scanner I grab my carry on bag and set it up right. Next up is my jacket which I put on and then slip on my shoes. I slip the liquids back into the front pocket of my carry on. By the time I am done the laptop should be arriving. Since I carry it in a neoprene bag it stayed inside the entire time. I grab the laptop bag and away I go.

Once I am clear of the area I pull over and dig out my cell phone, wallet and Zune. Good to go.

Below are some of the common mistakes I see:

1.Parents. Get rid of stuff in your kids hands and pockets. I have seen one set of amazing parents go through with kids who couldn't have been more than 4 years old.  Each had on a small backpack. The kids were each playing with a Nintendo DS while waiting in line. Once it was almost their turn the parents warned the kids to pause the games. They did and put the games in their backpacks. Their shoes then came off. The whole family breezed thru. Once clear the kids were back playing games. Quick and easy.

2.Go through your bag while packing and make SURE there are no liquids. Seriously...go through your bag. Even that little lotion bottle. Tip for avoiding paying $4 for a bottle of water, buy a nice reusable bottle...fill it once you go through security.

3.Finish texting/talking on the cell phone/whatever before you enter line. Your life can wait for a few minutes

4. If your laptop isn't in an approved TSA bag OR in a neoprene bag all by must be taken out and put in a bin by itself. Same goes for portable DVD players. Kindle owners I would send it through like a laptop. My wife has had her backpack rescreened each time her Kindle is packed inside.

5. If you are on any liquid medication it is EXEMPT from the 3 ounce rule as long as it's in it original container with the pharmacy label on it. If you have something else....make sure you have documentation.

Getting thru the TSA checkpoints isn't rocket science. It's all about planning. The trickiest part is picking which lane to go through if there are multiple lanes. In general I profile. I avoid old people, kids and young adults. So basically I follow guys in business suits. They are likely frequent travellers and can zip through. I am also not shy about walking around slow folks who clog up the area around the bins.

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