“I flew this past weekend. I went through airport security and said to the guy, ‘Is everything okay?’ He said, ‘You might want to have that mole on your ass checked out.’ That seems a little personal to me.”
Jay Leno

Introductory Airport Security Tips

This blog was written before the COVID Pandemic. The COVID epidemics played havoc on the travel business. In 2022, Fifty Plus Nomad decided to focus on traveling and living in Mexico and language learning posts. We will only update these long-term travel-related posts on a time-permitting basis. We would appreciate your comments and updates on these posts.

I dreaded airport security during my five years of traveling full-time as a Fifty Plus Nomad.

Unfortunately, there is no consistency on what you are required to take off to pass through security. Over time, I have found that it is easier to take off everything that could cause a problem before I go through security, including taking out: (1) everything from my pockets; (2) my belt; and (3) my cell phone and computer for separate inspection. 

I also: 

  • Take off my shoes for all flights within or to the USA. (Usually, you are only required to take off your shoes on flights within, to, or from the US). 
  • Put all my toiletries in my checked luggage. 
  • As often as possible, try to put change and keys in my checked luggage. 

While this is beyond what is necessary (you can, for example, take liquids as long as they are less than 3 ounces in size), I wouldn’t say I like going through secondary inspection and, thus, try to avoid it as often as possible. As a result, I only go through a secondary inspection every 20th time or so. Usually, I go through secondary inspection because I selected to go through the inspection randomly. 

Here are some other hassle-free airport security tips that I’ve followed to ensure that I get through security quickly and efficiently:

Little-Known Hassle-Free Airport Security Tips 

  • Expect to go through airport security at a connection point when you travel in the US, Mexico, Canada, and most of Europe, even if you are just transiting to another country. For example, expect to go through security in both Cancun and Atlanta if you are flying from Cancun to Charlotte, NC and have a connection in Atlanta (note: if you take a flight directly from Cancun to Charlotte, you will only go through security in Cancun).  You usually go through security when you fly from Canada and connect through another US airport. In other words, you will not have to go through security in Chicago if you are flying from Toronto to Los Angeles via Chicago. 
  • If you buy anything that might cause a problem going through security (i.e., something metallic or liquid) in the airport before a flight with a connection, repack the item into your checked baggage after clearing customs. (Usually, you must pass through customs before security. You are required to pick up your checked bag before passing through customs. Before I recheck my bag right after customs, I will pack the liquid into the checked bag).  

Simple Airport Security Tips

  • Do not bring big bottles (more than 3.4 ounces) of shampoo, water, and other liquids in your carry-on bags. (Exceptions to this rule include medications, breast milk, and baby formula. and hand sanitizer, at least during the pandemic.) 
  • Put travel-sized liquids into a clear, see-through bag. Store the bag in a handy part of your baggage so that it can be quickly placed into the tray for security personnel to check. 
  • Ensure your boarding pass and ID are handy for agent review (usually right before the security lines). 
  • Please take off your belt, watch, jacket, and shoes and put them in the tray for quick security personnel review. 
  • Remove laptops and tablets before passing through security. You do not usually need to take out phones, electric toothbrushes, hairdryers, or lightweight jewelry (like wedding rings and earrings) 
  • Do not overlook less busy checkpoints. Most large airports have multiple checkpoint entries for any given terminal, and some may be busier than others at certain times. (The TSA offers the  MyTSA app to use to check historical security wait times 
  • Remember, security personnel decisions are usually final. The security personnel has all the power, and arguing wastes time. Likewise, security personnel has no sense of humor, and joking about bombs will cause problems for you and everyone else in line. 
  • Consider signing up for TSA’s PreCheck and Global Entry programs. Once approved, you will go through a dedicated security line where you do not have to remove your belts, shoes, lightweight jackets, or laptops. (When I was constantly traveling, I was seldom in one place long enough to go to the interview for the background check necessary to get a pre-check or Global Entry clearance. 

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Want More Airport Security Tips?

Check out these tips from the Travel Team, Planet D (Canadian),

Paul Heller has been a lifelong avid traveler and language learner and teacher, Even as a child, he told Santa Claus that he wanted to visit all the children worldwide. At seven years old, Paul wanted to retire to Mexico. At eight, he memorized the name, capital, location, and some facts about every country worldwide. At twelve, he found a book "Lonely Planet: Southeast Asia on a Shoestring" and started developing his own itinerary for a future round-the-world trip. He remained obsessed with travel; after getting a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from the University of Southern California and working as an administrator, He spent his vacations going to different countries around the globe studying language, touring, and volunteering. In 1994, he quit his job and lived in Russia as a volunteer English instructor. He discovered that he loved teaching languages. In 2004, he decided to make a living out of his travels and founded a community of people who love to travel just like him. He developed 5 three-hour classes about living and traveling long-term worldwide which he taught in over 50 adult education programs throughout the US. After his parents passed, he realized his dream of traveling around the world; cruising and touring some of the most remote places like the North Atlantic, Patagonia, and Oceania; and learning new languages (he knows Spanish, Italian, French, and Russian). Paul encourages everyone to learn foreign languages. He knows that it can be frustrating and slow but that anyone can learn a language if they put in the work and, most importantly, learning a language is well worth the time and effort because it opens up a whole new set of people, ideas, and cultures. He is currently spending the next chapter of his life in Mérida, México. He is excited about using this blog and his classes and workshops to inspire and equip fellow Fifty Plus Nomads with the language, cultural, and psychological skills necessary to be successful and happy long-term travelers and expats over 50.

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