More and more people are flying and the lines at the TSA checkpoint are not getting any shorter. In fact, at some busier airports, a wait of 30 to 45 minutes is more usual than not, and wait times over 60+ minutes during holidays is not unheard of. But there are some ways that may help you avoid those long waits.
Travel during off-peak times
If you have to travel by plane, look for the flights that are very early or very late in the day. People don’t want to fly then so those flights tend to be cheaper (bonus!), less full (empty seat next to you? Double bonus!) and the queue at the TSA checkpoint should be a lot shorter. The busiest times? Days before and after a holiday, Fridays between 4pm and 8pm, and weekends. I don’t recommend flying during those times if you’re looking for shorter TSA lines.
Get the MyTSA app
Over time, the MyTSA app has become more and more useful. One of its more helpful functions is its ability to give realistic wait times. You can plan ahead and see if there’s a pattern, or you can use it to help you plan what time you should leave where you are to go to the airport.
Be ready when it’s finally your turn
Half the reason the TSA line is slow and long is because there are so many people at the checkpoint who have no idea of what to do when they get there. Don’t be that person. Get to the airport knowing what’s going to happen and what will be expected of you – everything from how to pack (and what not to pack in) your carry on, to what clothing you’re going to have to take off to what you have to remove from your pockets (Spoilers: Everything. Just from your pockets. Not all your clothes. WHEW!). This article might help.
Consider getting TSA Pre-Check
Joe and I have shouted about TSA Pre-Check from the rooftop ever since we got it six years ago. For $85 (or $100 if you also get Global Entry. Either way, they both last 5 years before you have to renew), you can usually wait on the TSA Checkpoint line for about 5 minutes. 10, tops. And you don’t have to worry about removing your shoes, jacket, belt, laptop or liquids. It’s awesome. Here’s a little more info about TSA Pre-check:
- Why you should apply for Global Entry or TSA Pre-Check
- TSA Pre-Check is great, but don’t use your points to pay for it
- TSA PreCheck lines may soon be getting shorter. Here’s why.
- The credit cards that will pay for your Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee
- Global Entry & Pre-Check: It’s not just for Americans anymore
Consider getting CLEAR
You may have heard me mention that TSA Pre-Check is awesome ;-). However there is the occasional busy time when even the line before you get up to the guy who checks your ID might be long. Maybe there’s a bunch of people in the wrong lane (it happens a lot). Maybe it’s so crowded that there’s just a bottleneck. Maybe (and I hate to say it, but) things are slow because there’s a Federal Government shutdown and a bunch of TSA workers have called out sick. CLEAR is privately owned and is authorized to get your boarding pass checked by an iris and/or fingerprint scan.
Clear isn’t everywhere yet – just 40+ airports as of this writing – but it’s yet another way to help you not have to stand on a long line at the airport. Read more about CLEAR:
- TSA checkpoints are getting even longer so I’m looking at CLEAR
- Our first experience using the CLEAR checkpoint
Head to the left
For whatever reason, if given a choice of two lines, humans tend to go to the right. If you’re at a TSA checkpoint, head to the leftmost line – it might be shorter ;-).
Get there late
Some people are gamblers and some people are just habitually late. Either way, if you get to the TSA checkpoint just minutes before your plane is supposed to leave, the agent MAY take pity on you and let you skip the line. Personally, I would never, ever do this for a variety of reasons (I’m habitually early, I don’t want to be labeled a jerk by my fellow passengers, etc.) but, as always, Your Mileage May Vary.
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary