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Zip through the airport with eight time-saving strategies

Unless you’re flying from an airport that has recently added extra security checkpoints, or is experimenting with eye scans, expect to contend with delays and hassles this summer.

These tips—some old, some new—will help you save time and lessen frustration at the airport.

Know how to pack

A general rule for air travel is that the lighter you pack, the easier it will be.

  • Lose the luggage. By traveling with a carry-on bag and one “personal item,” such as a laptop computer, briefcase, or purse, you can head directly to your destination upon arrival instead of waiting at baggage claim.
  • Be aware. It’s very important to keep updated with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA)’s list of prohibited items. If you’re not a frequent flyer, you might not be aware of newly-prohibited items on the list, including household items such as lighters.
  • Stow the golf clubs. If you’re flying with golf clubs, camping equipment, sporting equipment, scuba gear, or other essentials for summertime leisure, be sure you know the proper way to transport your equipment. For example, golf clubs must be checked, but soccer balls, baseballs, and some scuba and camping equipment can be carried onboard. See the TSA’s website for specific details.

Avoid the check-in counter

Checking in has become significantly less time-consuming over the past several years. Many of the major legacy carriers and low-fare airlines offer some form of expedited check-in—online, curbside, or kiosk.

  • Use online check-in. If you’re traveling on an electronic ticket within the U.S., Canada, Mexico, or the Caribbean (and internationally on US Airways), consider using online check-in. Travelers can check in, select seat assignments, and print boarding passes up to 24 hours in advance, depending on the airline. To use online check-in, go to your airline’s website, find the link for online check-in, and enter your confirmation number. At the airport, you can bypass the check-in counter altogether. If you followed our packing advice, you won’t have bags to check.
  • Consider other options. If you forget to check in online or if you’re in a rush to leave for the airport, consider using a self-service kiosk. Similar to online check-in, self-service kiosks allow you to print your boarding pass, select seat assignments, and check baggage without waiting in line at the check-in counter. Or, check your bags and get your boarding pass from a curbside check-in station.

Be prepared at security

What do you do when you arrive at the security checkpoint only to face long lines snaking around the barriers? Being prepared when it’s your turn at the metal detector will make it less of a hassle.

  • Take off your outer jacket and your shoes. According to the TSA, shoe removal is not mandatory; however, it is strongly encouraged at many security checkpoints. Unlacing your shoes and removing your jacket before it’s your turn may allow you to slip by the family of four struggling to untangle junior’s shoelaces.
  • Make sure you have the proper identification. A new government proposal could make passports mandatory for many new destinations, including Bermuda, the Caribbean, and Mexico, so stay informed about new regulations.
  • Remember that laptops and video cameras must be removed from carrying cases. Keep an eye on your belongings, particularly computers, cameras, and cell phones, as you go through security, as thieves could relieve you of these pricey electronics while you’re distracted.

So, if you pack lightly, avoid the check-in counter, and stay prepared, you should be able to shave a few minutes, if not a few hours, off your time at the airport this summer. However, not all delays and hassles are within your control. That’s where a deep breath and a sense of humor come in. With our tips and a little patience, your time at the airport will be quicker and less painful than it could be.

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