It’s never fun to go through airport security. But with understaffed TSA security checkpoints and more Americans opting to travel via air because of relatively cheap airfare, making it through airport security can really be a nightmare. With the busy summer travel season just around the corner, it’s only expected to get worse.
Following these tips may help you avoid ridiculously long airport security lines, keep your cool and make your flight on time:
- Be selective with your travel dates and times. You probably already know that airport security lines are worse on busy travel days like the day before Thanksgiving. But there are other travel times you may want to avoid. According to MarketWatch, security lines are typically the longest on Friday afternoons between 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. “That’s the tail-end of business travel for the week and the start of a lot of personal travel,” says Jordan Thaeler, the president and co-founder of WhatsBusy, and this confluence of factors creates longer lines. According to AirfareWatchdog.com founder George Hobica, who penned this story for USA Today, Tuesdays and Wednesdays are less busy travel days. Hobica said security lines are also a little shorter at midday, rather than morning or evening.
- Get to the airport (really) early. Chicago’s O’Hare Airport is urging flyers to get to the airport a minimum of three hours before their scheduled flight time. That’s a full hour more than the TSA recommends for domestic flights, but it does give travelers an extra cushion if security lines are moving at a snail’s pace.
- Fly out of less busy airports. Some airports — including O’Hare, JFK International and LaGuardia, as well as airports in Atlanta, Miami, Chicago, Denver and Seattle — are already experiencing excruciatingly long wait times at TSA security checkpoints.
- Sign up for TSA Precheck or Global Entry. Precheck ($85 for five years) and Global Entry ($100), which provides expedited security clearance, can help shorten your security wait time. Henry Harteveldt, a travel industry analyst for Atmosphere Research Group in San Francisco, told the Chicago Tribune that TSA Precheck can process 300 travelers through security in an hour, double that of a non-Precheck security lane during the same time frame. But if you plan to travel abroad, you may want to look into Global Entry, rather than TSA Precheck. Global Entry is “the best way” to beat lengthy security lines, Hobica told MarketWatch.
- Speed through security with “Clear.” If you fly out of one of these 13 airports, then you may want to consider forking over $179 for Clear, a program that promises to hurry you through airport security. “Clear can save you time,” ThePointsGuy.com founder Brian Kelly tells MarketWatch. “It’s in a limited number of airports, but if you’re based out of one of those airports, [consider it],” he says. Click here for more info about Clear.
Do you have any flying travel tips to share with fellow readers? Share in comments below or on our Facebook page.