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7 Airport Security Mistakes You're Making That Add More Time, Experts Say

You could save some precious pre-flight time by following these simple tips.

No matter where you're traveling or which class of ticket you hold, anyone boarding a commercial flight has to pass through the same security checkpoint when they get to the airport. And while scanning bags is a necessary step in keeping everyone safe, the entire process can be cumbersome—even for those willing to pay a little extra for expedited service. But if you show up prepared to deal with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), you may not even get slowed down on the way to your gate. Read on for the mistakes that make airport security take longer, according to travel experts.

RELATED: 7 Clothing Items to Never Wear Through Airport Security, Experts Say.

You're not using a smaller essentials bag

Gloved hands of an airport security person examining the contents of a bin with a traveler's belongings.
leezsnow / iStock

While you may not always have the luxury of traveling light, how you choose to pack your bags can still affect how you get through security. And according to Caroline Ray, editor and CEO at JourneyWoman, this is where a small waist bag can come in very handy.

"I wear it across my chest when I travel, and I only put what I need in it for the airport. Other than the security line, I never take it off—even on the plane," she tells Best Life.

Ray says it's perfect for carrying all of the important documents and items you might need close at hand, including a wallet, passport, phone, charger, printed ticket, and proof of vaccination.

"This is part of the three bags in my packing system, which also includes a carry-on bag and a backpack," she adds.

You're not paying attention to the people in front of you.

waiting in airport security line
Pressmaster / Shutterstock

It can be hard to do anything but become impatient while waiting to pass through security at the airport. But instead of allowing your emotions to get the best of you, keeping an eye on your fellow travelers can actually help you prepare yourself to move through the checkpoint quickly.

"While in line, take a moment to observe at least two people ahead of you," suggests Mary DeSpain, a travel agent and president of Destination CLEs. "Use this time to mentally assess what needs to be swiftly removed when it's your turn. With this proactive approach, you'll be ready to zip through the security process without missing a beat."

RELATED: The 7 Worst Things to Buy at the Airport, According to Experts.

You're not replacing your bottles with bars.

Liquids Being Checked at Airport Security
Jaromir Chalabala/Shutterstock

Although everyone knows the "no large liquids" rule that applies to flying, it doesn't make it any easier to pack your favorite products for a long trip. And even if you manage to transfer them into appropriately sized small containers, there's still the chance you'll get flagged—or worse, have them leak inside your luggage mid-flight. That's where solid versions of your everyday items can be a huge help.

"Look for products available in bars or sticks, like shampoo or toothpaste tabs," advises Ray. She adds that some of her favorite companies produce hair products that smell great and that chewable toothpaste can make it shockingly easy to get in your daily brushing while on the go.

You're burying your electronics in your bag.

TSA agent scanning luggage through X-ray security checkpoint machine.

Even if you've signed up for programs like TSA PreCheck that preclude you from having to remove most electronics out of your bag, some security agents will still pull your luggage if you've packed a couple of gadgets. That's why experts say it's helpful to be strategic about where you place these items in your suitcase or carry-on.

"There's always someone fumbling to get their laptop out," says James Kinsella, a travel expert from Turtle Trip. "Don't be that person: Keep electronics easily accessible."

RELATED: TSA Announces It Will Flag Certain Passengers for Extra Screening.

You're wearing the wrong accessories to the airport.

Close up of a woman in a bright orange coat being scanned with the metal detector at airport security.
baona / iStock

There's nothing wrong with wanting to look your best for your flight. But if you want to make getting through security much easier, it's best to consider what you're wearing when you leave for the airport.

"Stay away from anything metal in your outfit to save time at airport security," says Mercedes Zach, a travel expert at ASAP Tickets. "If you don't want to take off several pieces of clothing and accessories because you forgot your boots, belt, and jacket have metal zippers, think about your travel gear beforehand and try to keep any metal to a minimal level so you can get through the checkpoint quickly."

You're packing your medication incorrectly.

A family going through security at an airport

Medications are usually on the top of any prepared traveler's packing list. But even if you remember to put them in your suitcase, it's essential to remember to do it correctly.

"It's a common misconception that medication doesn't need special consideration," warns Kinsella. "Keep it in its original packaging and make the officer aware so you'll save time."

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You're not using your full name when you book your flights.

TSA Security Line at Airport
David Tran Photo/Shutterstock

The first step of booking any flight requires filling in your name in the information boxes when buying your ticket. However, experts warn you can create a serious backup at airport security if you enter anything other than what's on your identification.

"Always remember to use your middle name and any other names that appear on your passport, as they appear on your passport," says Anton Radchenko, CEO of flight compensation website AirAdvisor.

If you're concerned you've made a mistake, try to get a hold of the airline to ensure everything looks how it should before your flight date—especially if you're traveling internationally.

Zachary Mack
Zach is a freelance writer specializing in beer, wine, food, spirits, and travel. He is based in Manhattan. Read more
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