6 Tips to Avoid Airport Lines

Let’s face it, the air travel experience is not what it used to be.  Remember the days when you could arrive at the airport 10 minutes before your flight left, cruise through security in ten seconds by just putting your baggage on the security belt, and walk right on to the airplane? Yah, those days are long gone.  With all of the security measures and other lines we face, now is the ideal time to learn the timesaving tips and hacks to save time in airport lines!

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Fortunately, there are ways you can still enjoy air travel to decrease the pain of that dreaded business trip or not let it stop you from taking that much needed vacation. Let’s be clear: you cannot bypass airport security. What you can do is save time airport lines reducing your overall time in the airport.  Here are six travel tips and hacks to help you save that time in airport lines to improve your air travel experience.

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Tips & Hacks to Save Time in Airport Lines

1 - TSA PreCheck

TSA PreCheck can definitely save time and stress. I joined this program years ago and love it! It has saved me from missing flights on more than one occasion.  Membership only costs $85 for five years.  To get information on qualifying and applying for TSA, visit the TSA PreCheck site.  Once approved, you can zip through airport security lines due to not having to:

  • take out laptops or electronic devices from baggage
  • remove your shoes
  • removing clothing like jackets or belts
  • remove liquids
Empty TSA Precheck line in Airport
TSA Precheck

It’s airport security just like the old days!  Bonus if you don’t have to pay for TSA PreCheck membership.  Check out Condé Nast’s article to see if your credit card covers TSA PreCheck costs. Items to consider:

  • TSA PreCheck requires a background check so I recommend applying at least one month in advance of your upcoming air travel.
  • TSA PreCheck is available in most, but not all, airports. If the airport is too small to allow for a separate TSA PreCheck security line, then you will have to go through security like everyone else.  But how often does that happen?
  • I still recommend taking off any jewelry or metal accessories, just in case, to avoid having to go back through that pesky security check again.

2 - Global Entry

If you are a “low risk” traveler entering the U.S., then Global Entry is for you!  Global Entry is a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) program that offers expedited clearance for members.  Membership costs $100 for five years. Only members can access the Global Entry kiosks at participating airports, which makes you cruise past those who aren’t members.  For more information, and to apply for membership, visit the Global Entry website.

Here’s another bonus: you may not have to pay for Global Entry membership either.  Check out Condé Nast’s article to see if your credit card covers Global Entry costs.

To qualify for membership, you have to go through a background check, more rigorous than TSA PreCheck, so applying for membership is advised at least 11 weeks in advance of your upcoming international travel.

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3 - Airline Rewards Programs

This option is not just for consistent travelers.  Do a little research to see which airline would offer the best rewards options for you. For example, I fly United Airlines more than any other airline, so I like to take advantage of their rewards as often as possible, including the fact their airline miles now no longer expire.  I love that.

Popular airline rewards that expedite your travel time can be any one of the following, to name just a few.  Who wouldn’t want these?

  • Rewards member lounge access
  • Get priority boarding and/or seating
  • Complementary upgrades
  • Expedited security
  • Free checked bags

Also tired of trying to find an available charging station outlet?  Access to member lounges decreases that frustration ten-fold.

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4 – Pack Light!

Only you know how to pack for your trip.  Still, if you need a little help, do some research in advance on what you truly need for your destination.  This extra step can not only ensure you’re not dragging around those extra, unneeded clothes but also save you time by avoiding have to stand in baggage check-in and baggage claim lines.  It also gets international travelers to a connecting U.S. flights, after going through U.S. Customs, much quicker.

Airport line with ticket kiosk
Ticket kiosk

For those that don’t know, when you enter the U.S. you must claim your checked-in baggage to go through U.S. Customs and then recheck it into your connecting flight to your final U.S. destination.  Not only this a pain, but if you don’t allow enough time in your layover, you could miss your connecting flight. 

Last, if U.S. Customs cannot get into your bag easily (i.e., if you have luggage locks), they will cut them open and rummage through your items possibly ruining your carefully packed breakables, if you have any.  I’m lucky my bottles of wine didn’t break one time I re-entered the U.S.!  Avoid these potential problems and bring carry-on luggage only at all possible times. Here is a good Travel+Leisure article on the latest carry-on luggage size restrictions.

People waiting in Baggage carosel baggage claim
Carry-on only avoids baggage claim

5 - Book Your Flights Wisely

Sometimes we may not have the luxury of getting a non-stop flight, getting that perfect layover timeframe, or getting departure or arrival times we want every time we book our flights. However, if you have flexibility in your travel days and times, take advantage of layovers.

  Try the following tips to tick off unwanted time in the airport.

  • Avoid the peak times and days of travel. For example, take a red-eye flight or travel in the middle of the week to avoid weekend lines and possible flight delays.  Not to mention possibly save you money on your booking!
  • Check into your flight online the day before your departure to avoid ticket check in lines.
  • Download your boarding passes to your mobile device in advance. Do not rely on pulling it up at the last minute via the web or app.  Take a screenshot of it, if you feel you’re having problems with your app or device.
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Direct flights save fuel and reduce carbon emissions that contribute to global warming and its climate change effects.

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6 – Travel and Airport Apps

Save time by downloading and using the following apps to cruise through lines:

  • MyTSA – yep, the U.S. government is getting “with it” to provide you TSA security and airport information.
  • Mobile Passport – for entry into the U.S., U.S. citizens and Canadian visitors can get away from the traditional paper form and use the app to submit passport information and declarations information.You can enter this information in advance to reduce time in U.S. Customs.
  • Airline apps – download the airline apps of your choice to stay on top of flight updates or delays, gate changes, etc. so you know you don’t miss a beat. These apps are really good at pushing this information to you timely.
  • Airport Apps – get updates on airport gate, airport amenities, security line delays, or flight information that could improve your airport experience. Check out these TripSavvy and Travelocity articles on some of the top airport apps available.  Download and take them for a spin!
CORR Eco Travel Tip

The more apps you use, the less paper you use for printing. Save a tree and time by integrating apps more into your travel.

TSA Precheck & Clear sign in airport
TSA Precheck & CLEAR entry

There is a program called CLEAR that, supposedly, gets you through the airport faster.  However, if you’re already following the tips I’ve provided above, then there is no doubt you are cruising through the airport at the fastest rate possible so why would you need to pay for an additional service?  Traveling is already expensive, right?  What services can CLEAR really provide that gets you to the security line quicker than what’s been outlined above?  Besides, I don’t know how you feel but anything that uses your fingerprint or optical print to scan your identity freaks me out.    I welcome all comments on this program.

Let Me Hear From You

I would love to hear if this was helpful to you. Post me your thoughts or questions in the Comments section below!

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Gwen is the Founder of CORR Travel and a global traveler and photographer with over 25 years of solo travel experience. She is also the Founder of the www.CORRConcepts.com sustainability blog. Travel is her passion and environmental sustainability and biodiversity protection is her "religion".

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