A few days ago a coworker and I went through Security Checkpoint 2 at O’Hare.  Dave was immediately behind me as we approached the conveyer belt for the magnetometer, but after I exited the checkpoint, he took about 2-3 minutes to catch up with me as I waited on the concourse. I’ve written about this in the past, but here are the keys to getting through the TSA checkpoint quickly:

  • Wear slip on shoes
  • Have your boarding pass handy (see below)
  • Put your cell phone, wristwatch, and other similar (metallic) items in a zippered compartment in your bag well before getting to the checkpoint (for me, at the hotel)
  • Men: no belt. Leave it in your bag and put it on after the checkpoint
  • Car keys need to be inside a zippered compartment in your bag
  • 3-1-1 liquids bag in an easily accessible pocket in your bag
  • When you pack, do so in an orderly fashion; make it easier on the guy scanning your bag
  • Nothing in your pockets except skinny wallet, cash, and boarding pass
  • Know upfront how many plastic totes you need. For me, it’s usually one, for my jacket and 3-1-1 bag.  If I’m going to opt to take my laptop out of my bag (see below), I’ll grab a 2nd tote

If the airport is small, or the checkpoint not busy, I take my MacBook Air out of my bag and put it in a plastic tote in the middle of my stuff as it enters the conveyor.  If the checkpoint is busy, I leave it in my bag and let them re-run the bag (and MB Air separately) through if necessary. (Half the time they don’t bother, as it resembles an iPad.)  The LAST thing I want to have happen is to somehow get stuck in the theatrical production while my $1500 laptop is sitting in a plastic tote with a bunch of people milling about.

To this last point:  Be organized and disciplined, and above all else, do NOT let yourself get snagged by the metal detector or backscatter x-ray machine. If you do, your stuff has a much greater chance of walking away with someone else.

Other thoughts:  if the line splits at some point and you have an option of going left or right, go left; more people will opt for going right.  As you approach the magnetometers, look for business travelers and get in that line; avoid (sorry) families, old people, or anyone who looks clueless. They will slow you down.

Finally, I don’t bother retrieving my watch, cell phone, or belt until I’m at my gate.  Travel safe!

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10 Comments on Skating through the TSA checkpoint – quickly

  1. Lani Teshima says:

    Nice little checklist! We use this method and it works really well. We wind up dawdling, but only AFTER we’re done with security, since we take our time getting our shoes back on and whatnot.

    I just wanted to add to your emphasized point about avoiding getting snagged at the metal detector or “rape-ee-scan” (as I always call it); If you buzz, you are NOT allowed to go through the metal detector a second time. TSA automatically requires you to get a pat dow… er… grope-ee-scanned by an agent.


    Kevin Reply:


    Great point – which I forgot to mention. Thanks!


  2. David G says:

    All good tips and a useful reminder.

    I’ve gotten to the point where everything goes in my carry on (wallet, keys, watch). I don’t travel with change either.

    I too wear slip on shoes and never a belt, and have gotten my 3-1-1 bag down to contact lens solution, tooth paste and deodorant.

    Since I’m mostly able to use an mobile boarding pass I throw my phone in the same tub with my laptop and put that through between my shoes and carry on.


    Kevin Reply:

    Thanks David – sounds like you’ve got a great system. Funny – I put deodorant (stick kind) in my “dry toiletries” bag, and have never been questioned. The 3-1-1 bag (to my knowledge) is for liquids and gels only.


    David G Reply:


    True on the deodorant, except I favor the gel type, so in the 3-1-1 it goes.


    Kevin Reply:

    Got it; thx for clarifying.

  3. Gary Williams says:

    Good suggestions; some of them are of the “duh” variety, but nevertheless they had not occurred to me. One other thought: since I have a replacement knee, at airports where the x-ray systems are only partially implemented, it pays for me to ask which are the x-ray lines. I’m going to get zinged by the metal detector no matter what. If I’m not in a line with an x-ray device, I’m going to be hand-searched no matter what. And while I’ve never had a hand search that was not conducted in a highly professional manner, it still takes time.


  4. gloria says:

    Exactly- my rules are simple. Slip on shoes, no belt, all jewelry in purse, nothing in pockets- no jacket, no toiletries except for toothbrush and toothpaste and deodorant–get shampoos at hotel, and that’s it. I like the go left idea too!


  5. I’ve discovered my Timex watches don’t set off the metal detector and I never remove my watch, ring, or bracelet.

    I always wear a metal-less belt from Eagle Creek so I don’t have to bother removing that either.

    I also never bother to pull out my zip baggy with my liquids/gels/etc. If they were to ask me, I could since it’s all in one bag but they’ve never asked.


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