Theres no denying that one the parts of passing through airports that people dread the most, regardless of how much of a seasoned traveller you are is security. No matter how big of an airport they all have a security facility and who would blame you for dreading it, firstly you are herded around by often pressured and rushed staff, you have to get all of your stuff out of your once organised hand luggage, you have to do stupid poses in front of scanners, get patted down by complete strangers and then provided you get through that, have to quickly cram all of your stuff back into your bag before the next wave of people coming through the same process get in your way!
It can be a daunting experience having to go through it, which if you want to fly anywhere you have to do, but you can make it easier for yourself and be ready for it.
Here are my tips, from the many occurrences I have had with airport security that can allow you to worry less about it and hopefully breeze through, as long as you have nothing to hide of course!
Before you arrive at the airport and before you go through security
Before you even arrive at the airport pack your bag carefully, aim to be carrying only the essentials, if you have checked luggage then it is a lot easier to bail some of your stuff into that, which isn’t subject to as stringent security restrictions as your in cabin luggage, this is more straight forward on short haul flights where you will only be without your checked baggage for a couple of hours, it requires a bit more thought on long haul where you may not see your checked bag until the next day.
If you are travelling with only an in cabin case/bag then pack it so things that could be scrutinised by security (electrics, liquids, cosmetics) in easy reach.
If you have liquids over 100ml you will not be able to take them through the security checkpoint at all, so firstly ensure you have the right sized containers, secondly if you already have an airport security plastic bag from a previous trip then reuse it! otherwise put your liquid containers into a normal bag instead of just loose in your carry on. So you can quickly swap them into a security approved bag when at the airport, but remember no to over do it with a bigger bag at home as it all has to go into one of them airport sized bags, sealed to get through security!
Depending on what you are wearing can also speed you up or slow you down at security, in the past I have found that I have often had a full pat down if I am wearing clothes like jeans, pants, shirts as well as big shoes as opposed to wearing shorts (my trip to Iceland in full winter gear was a nightmare at security) but I have worn t-shirts and thin shoes like espadrilles and I have passed through with no further checks. The main thing from this is to dress as light as you can before leaving home!
Some airports and countries (like the US and Vietnam) have their own rules on your shoes, some you have to take your shoes off regardless, some you can pass through the scanners with them, but if you are wearing thin and easy to take off shoes just in case then you are ready either way!
At the airport
So you’ve checked in either on your phone and got your boarding pass, you’ve dropped your bag at the bag drop if you have one and your ready to go through.
Its important to initially keep your boarding card to hand, be it on your phone or printed as you will need it to open the barrier to the check point area. But once you have done that you will not need it again until you board or buy something within the airport so put it away safe!
Its also important that you have some things to hand ready for the checkpoint and quite often when I get a tray out on the X-ray belt I get these out of my bag and into the tray itself. These include:
- My phone and battery pack
- Any large headphones, I usually leave earphones in my bag
- My bag with all my liquids in
- Any ‘organic’ material, such as wet wipes or even a sarnie
One trick if you have a jacket is to leave stuff you would have on your person in the pockets and put that in a tray with everything still in as it can all be clearly seen still on the X-ray image
If you are travelling at a busy time, sometimes its best to go straight through the security gates and start getting yourself ready for the checkpoint whilst you are in line. You will be stood in the line for a couple of minutes no doubt so you have an opportunity to get these things out in your hand ready whilst being in the queue so when you get to the tray area you can drop them straight into a tray!
As mentioned before ensure that your liquids are in an approved sealed bag and are the right size. If you chose to leave something in your bag, it can also matter what it is next to and how it can be perceived from a 2D X-ray image, for example one time I had an external battery pack and a pack of wet wipes together in my bag, that aroused suspicion that it was a explosive device.. that was thankfully all cleared up when an officer hand inspected my bag, but it did delay me through security for a bit!
Once you have gone through the body scanner and are waiting for your bag to come through the X-ray machine, keep eyes on it! Partly to ensure that no one walks off with your tray and the contents of it, but also incase it is pushed a side for hand inspection, sometimes this can be done because of a suspicious looking object on the X-ray image, sometimes it can be done by the security staff as a random check to swab for things like drugs, if the latter happens there isn’t really anything you can do but wait until they have swabbed it and hopefully return it back to you.
Other things to consider…
If you are someone who is very impatient then some other potentially time saving alternatives that you could explore can include fast track security, most airports do it and it is typically a private paid security area, that isn’t used by the airport general public, many business and first class passengers have the service included as part of their ticket. Although it is a private ‘less stressful’ way of passing through the mandatory security checks, you are still subject to the same restrictions as everyone else – certain items can’t be brought through and liquids have to be under 100ml, the only difference is that it has taken you less time to get through it.
Also be aware that on some flights and in some airports, at the boarding gates you can have additional security checks, pretty much the same kind of experience apart from you don’t have to go through an X-ray scanner again, but your bag is searched, swabbed for drug traces, as are you.
If you are transferring through an airport there is also a chance that you will have to go through transit security, I have never really understood this procedure, because if you have departed an airport having cleared security successfully and landed into another secure airport facility then you should be clear? better safe than sorry though!
The final point is regardless of how busy the security area is and what you are instructed to do, keep your cool and follow the procedures as its keeping you safe when in the air!.