Here’s how you can get through TSA faster

As more vaccinations are rolled out and the world continues to reopen, people are thinking about travel again more than ever. For those who have been staying home since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic over a year ago, there’s finally something to look forward to — the chance to make up for lost trips, take previously canceled family vacations, or have long-awaited reunions with loved ones.

This also means you won’t be the only one at the airport.

Before the vacation fun begins, travelers will still have to get through airport security, an undeniably tedious experience that can be especially strenuous for someone flying for the first time in ages, those with medical conditions, larger groups, and families traveling with children or pets.

Luckily, with a little practice and by following a few of our tips to help you ace your next TSA screening, this part of your trip can be easier for everyone, whether you’re traveling solo or bringing along the whole family along for the ride.

Here’s a quick refresher on everything you need to know to successfully get through a TSA airport security checkpoint quickly and efficiently so you can get started on that much-needed vacation.

COVID-19’s impact on the TSA

Due to COVID-19, several air travel security procedures have changed.

Travelers must stay socially distanced and wear face masks, though you’ll need to adjust your mask to verify your identity or if an alarm goes off, while security officers must wear masks and gloves at all times.

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To limit physical contact, you’re allowed to keep phones, belts, wallets, and keys in your carry-on instead of placing them into bins — food must still be screened via bin — and you must scan your boarding pass and show it to the TSA officer rather than handing it over.

Frequently touched surfaces are being sanitized, and for now, you can carry on one large container of hand sanitizer up to 12 ounces. Note that security staff presence has decreased due to fluctuating passenger numbers, so allow extra time for delays.

For a better chance at breezing through airport security, consider signing up for a Trusted Traveler Program like TSA PreCheck or Global Entry (which includes TSA PreCheck).

Due to the pandemic, several U.S. Customs and Border Protection procedures were adjusted to help protect passengers and staff. For instance, mask-wearing and social distancing are mandatory at enrollment center interviews, which must be booked in advance, while conditionally-approved Global Entry applicants can opt for Enrollment on Arrival.

Note that other Trusted Traveler Programs like NEXUS and SENTRI, which are geared toward border crossings with Canada and Mexico, have been put on hold until further notice. 

Want to get through TSA faster? Enroll in a Trusted Traveler Program

While Trusted Traveler Programs allow for expedited security sessions, each has its own perks. For $85, TSA PreCheck is better suited for domestic travel, allowing you to keep your shoes, belts, and light jackets on and any 3-1-1 liquids and laptops in your carry-on at over 200 U.S. airports for five years. Note that children under the age of 12 may accompany parents with TSA PreCheck, while those over age 13 must apply separately.

Global Entry, on the other hand, costs $100 for five years of access to shorter lines at self-service kiosks and E-Gates whenever you fly back into the U.S. from an international destination. Best of all, Global Entry includes TSA PreCheck membership, saving you time whether you’re flying domestically or internationally.

Both Global Entry and TSA PreCheck renewal can be completed online up to six months ahead of expiration, though more interviews or fingerprints may be required in person.

Don’t want to pay extra for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck? Consider signing up for a travel credit card that offers credits to reimburse you for application fees every four to five years, depending on the card.

Cards like The Platinum Card® from American Express, Chase Sapphire Reserve®, Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card and United℠ Explorer Card all offer this special perk, giving you complimentary access to a faster airport security experience.

Tips for getting through TSA