Europe, Travel Tips

Getting Through Security in a Snap


I don’t normally admit this to other people, but I’m very proud of how quickly I can get through security at the airport. I should get an extra pat on the back because I often travel without any checked luggage. (It’s cheaper!)

On a good day, I can get all my belongings in the bin (laptop and 100 ml bottle-filled plastic bag separated from the rest) and go through the metal detector in about 30 seconds.

In case getting through security freaks the hell out of you, or you just want to limit the amount of time you spend there, here is my Quick and Dirty Guide to Get Through Security in a Snap:

(Using these techniques I have managed to start arriving at the airport an hour before the flight leaves (rather than three hours). It works as long as you already have your boarding pass and have no luggage to check in. Though, for legal reasons, I’m not recommending you follow my example.)

Step 1 – Sort – Remove all sharp objects (nail files), liquids, pastes, and gels (chap-stick counts) from your carry-on(s). Things like nail files, nail clippers, tweezers and razors actually are allowed in your carry-on, but you run the risk of getting pulled aside while they are pulled out of your bag and investigated. The goal is to get through security quickly, so just leave it out! As for the liquids, make sure they are in containers of 100 ml or less (remember things like eye-liner and deodorant count), then put them in your zip-lock bag and put it somewhere accessible, like the front pocket of your backpack.

Step 2 – Pick your outfit – Plan your outfit ahead of time. I like to choose something form-fitting so that the security people know there is no chance I’m hiding any weapons. I normally go for leggings and a cotton t-shirt, because they are comfortable if I’m on a long flight. I recommend skipping belts or boots; they take time to put back on

Step 3 – Organize your bag – If you are travelling with only a carry-on, you don’t want to accidentally pull out a pair of underwear while you’re trying to remove your laptop for inspection. Put all of your clothes at the bottom and any items that are likely to lead to questions easily accessible at the top or in outside pockets. Rummaging wastes time!

Step 4 – Use your wait time – When you are standing in the security line, take a look at the signs to see what needs to be separated from your carry-on, pull out your liquids bag and laptop, take off your coat and sweater, remove your belt if you have one or untie your boots. This way when it’s your turn, you can just dump and go.

Step 5 – Talk to the security officers – I think every airport has its own rules. Some require electronics in a separate bin from the rest. Some will let you leave your laptop in its case. When I was at the airport in Cork, I had to remove my umbrella and open it. You really don’t want to get all the way through the metal detector, think you’re home free, and then get sent back to the end of the line because your items were not arranged correctly in the bins. (It happened to me in Madrid.) There is always an officer near the bins, ask them the airport’s preference.

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