8 Ways to Avoid Extra Scrutiny by the Transportation Security Administration

Fly through security checkpoints

According to its website, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) was created to strengthen the security of the nation’s transportation systems and ensure the freedom of movement for people and commerce. The agency uses a risk-based strategy with its 50,000 officers to screen four million passengers a day at 450 U.S. airports. And if you’re one of those four million passengers, all you want to do is get through the airport security checkpoint as quickly as possible. So below are eight tips to help you fly through security.

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Sign up for TSA PreCheck

Image courtesy of TSA

PreCheck allows travelers to leave on their shoes, light outerwear and belt, keep their laptop in its case and their 3-1-1 compliant liquids/gels bag in a carry-on, using special screening lanes. After paying $85 for a card that lasts for five years, any traveler can go to an approved interview facility for screening. Holders of a Global Entry card are automatically enrolled in PreCheck. Currently in 130 airports, TSA has opened more than 330 application centers across the country.

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Download the MyTSA App

Image courtesy of TSA

The app, available in iTunes and Google Play, includes features that show what you can -- and can’t -- bring past security, identify PreCheck lanes in airports, post security wait times and offer TSA feedback.

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Dress appropriately

Photo by Benet J. Wilson

Travelers slow themselves down by wearing complicated shoes or boots, belts and lots of metal jewelry, carrying keys and other metal items in their pockets and wearing layers of clothing that take time to remove. Wear slip-on loafers, minimize the jewelry, stick to less layers and empty your pockets before getting into the security line.

04 of 08

Bag your liquids

Photo by Benet J. Wilson

The TSA requires passengers to carry liquids in bottles of three ounces or less. It also wants those bottles in a quart-sized plastic bag. If you carry larger bottles and they’re not in the regulation-sized bag, your items will be confiscated and your bags rescanned, costing you time. 

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05 of 08

Carry the right computer bag

Image courtesy of TSA

The TSA requires laptops to be taken out of their bags -- unless you have one that’s approved by the agency. TSA encouraged manufacturers to design bags that will produce a clear and unobstructed image of the laptop when undergoing X-ray screening. Those designs include butterfly, trifold or sleeve designs.

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Have Proper ID

Passport image from travel.state.gov
Passport image from travel.state.gov

You actually don’t have to have a government-issued ID to board a plane. But if you don’t have one, be prepared for a full search of your person and your carry-on bags, which will be time-consuming. Acceptable IDs include drivers license, passport, a Global Entry card and a U.S. military ID.

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Use TSA Cares For Extra Help

Photo courtesy of TSA

TSA Cares is a helpline to assist travelers with disabilities and medical conditions. The agency recommends that passengers call 1-855-787-2227 72 hours ahead of travel with questions about screening policies, procedures and what to expect at the security checkpoint for those with disabilities, medical conditions or other circumstances or their loved ones who want to prepare for the screening process prior to flying. Travelers may also request a Passenger Support Specialist ahead of time by calling the TSA Cares hotline. Passengers eligible for this service are travelers with disabilities or medical conditions, Wounded Warriors, passengers who wear specific religious clothing or head coverings and passengers struggling with understanding checkpoint procedures.

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Pack Food and Gifts Properly


When traveling, you may be bringing gifts or foods to present when reaching your final destination. But in order to avoid having to throw away these items, check on the TSA website or the MyTSA app to see if the items are approved. Pies and cakes can be taken through the security checkpoint, but they are subject to additional screening. And while you can bring wrapped gifts through the checkpoint, TSA officers may unwrap a gift to take a closer look inside, so wrap gifts after your flight or ship them ahead of time.

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