The more you fly, the more the novelty of the whole process wears off. And those movie scenes where people sprint for flights and actually catch them just in time? Not so fun in reality. Airport security is the literal roadblock between you and your destination, and whether you're late for your flight or you just don't want to stand in a line full of people who can't seem to remember that, yes, you do still have to remove your full water bottle from your carry on and, no, you can't walk through the metal detector with metal on — you want to get through security fast. And ideally with the least amount of stress. Here's how to make it through security quickly and efficiently.
1. Have your ticket and photo ID out before you approach the security agent.
From check-in through security, you should keep your ID and ticket somewhere easy to reach. You'll have to pull both out several times, so don't put everything away in some deep, dark place in your bag — have both in your hands and ready to present so people behind you don't have to wait for you to dig around trying to find them. If you're using a mobile boarding pass, make sure to lock the direction of your phone screen so you can scan it without issue.
2. Wear shoes that are easy to take on and off.
Most (not all) airports still require travelers to remove their shoes before going through the body scanners or metal detectors. You can save a lot of time and hassle if you wear shoes that are easy to take off, like slip-ons or anything without laces. Have your shoes already in hand before it's your turn to send your things through security. Don't wait until the very last minute to remove them.
3. Examine the lines before you choose yours.
Avoid lines with large groups who are together, extra supplies (instruments, child carriers, sports equipment), and travelers with large carry-on bags and loads of extra items like jackets, toiletry bags, laptops, etc. People with extra items or those who aren't very savvy about the security process will slow you down. Try getting in a line with a solo traveler or someone who seems to know the process pretty well already.
4. Pack like a minimalist.
The less you carry on, the better. Each time I travel, I restrict myself to one single bag that has everything I need, and I leave what's not necessary at home. If I'm going on a longer trip and really need to check a bag, I try to put most of my extra items in that one so that I don't have to go through security with them.
5. Empty your pockets.
Check your pockets, then check them again. Don't be the person that has to go back through the scanner three times just because you forgot that random quarter in your back pocket or because you accidentally tucked your phone somewhere. Dump the contents of your pockets in a bag beforehand to save yourself the struggle and awkwardness of doing several runs through the checkpoint.
6. Get rid of your drink.
I refuse to buy a million different water bottles when I fly, because it can seriously add up. So chug your water or whatever you're drinking while you're in line waiting to go through security, and finish it up before it's your turn to send your things through. That way you can refill it when you get to your gate. Just don't forget you've got a drink on you, otherwise you'll have to toss a full bottle if it ends up going through the scanner.
7. Get your laptop out before it's your turn to load the conveyor belt.
Don't wait until the last minute to start digging through your carry-on bags to get out your laptop while everyone behind you has to wait. While you're in line, start prepping your belongings to go through the security check. I always organize everything in groups, keeping my laptop separate from everything else, because large electronic devices must be placed in a different container than miscellaneous items like shoes, belts, wallets, etc.
8. Don't carry on items you don't absolutely need for the flight.
If you're already checking a bag anyway, then try to pack your toiletries, liquids, electronics, and any other cumbersome items in your checked bag instead. If you don't absolutely need a belt to hold up your pants, skip wearing one so you don't have to deal with taking it on and off. If you don't really need your hand lotion until you get to your destination, skip packing it in your carry-on — and pack only the important travel stuff instead.
9. Be polite to airport employees.
If your bag gets flagged for an extra inspection, or if you get pulled aside for an additional body scan, be polite to the TSA agents. The more cooperative and agreeable you are, the more motivated everyone is to help expedite the process so you can get on your way. More likely than not, you've accidentally left something in your bag that you can't have, and the airport employees are just doing their jobs!
10. Choose your flight times with care.
If your flight departure and arrival is flexible, then research the airport you're departing from and find out what days and times are the busiest for them. You can arrange your flights to avoid these times so that when you arrive at the security line, you can breeze through.
11. Know where the less-crowded security checkpoint is.
Many travelers crowd around the checkpoint closest to where they checked in for their flights, but oftentimes, there are other checkpoints that may be a little bit of a longer walk, but they may have shorter lines, thus saving you time and trouble in the long run.
12. Upgrade your flight.
Sometimes seat upgrades can be pretty reasonable — depending entirely on the airline, where you're going, and how full your flight is — and certain upgrades allow travelers to skip the regular security lines. If you're loyal to certain airlines, frequent flyer benefits can also help you get priority perks like this.
13. Get TSA PreCheck.
If you fly frequently, it really is worth looking into. Travelers must apply, pay a fee, then go through a screening process to determine if they are eligible. If you are, PreCheck allows you to take the faster line at security, and you don't have to remove your shoes, laptops, liquids, etc. when going through. If you travel internationally, you can even get Global Entry, which provides expedited pre-approved security perks that aren't limited to US travel, and it also qualifies you for TSA PreCheck when you are traveling within the US.