Airport security can take a long time to move through, especially if your bag is disorganized or improperly packed. To avoid bag searches and maximize efficiency, carefully consider what you do and do not need. When packing, place the objects least likely to be searched on the bottom with laptops and liquids near the top. Investing in a good bag can also help you move quickly through security.
EditBringing What You Need
- Check a bag. A checked bag will allow you to bring more with you, and you will have to carry less in your carry-on. Put as much as you can in the checked bag instead of your carry-on. The less you bring in your carry-on, the less likely you are to be pulled for a bag search.
- Clothing, toiletries, and souvenirs can all be packed in a checked-bag.
- Pack books in a checked bag unless you are planning on reading them on the plane.
- Electronics, like cameras and laptops, and valuable possessions, like jewelry, should always be packed in a carry-on.
- Pack only what you need. You should only put necessities in your carry-on. If you have too much in the bag, the security agents may not be able to use the X-ray properly, and it can increase your chances of being stopped for a bag search. Things you need may include:
- Magazine or book for the plane
- Food or milk for young children
- Extra set of clothing in case your checked bag is lost
- Lay out what you are packing. Before you pack your carry-on, lay out everything that you are planning to bring. You can do this on a bed, desk, or table. This will allow you to see if you are bringing too much, and it will help you organize your belongings in the most efficient fashion. It can also help you notice if you forgot anything.
- When laying things out, keep similar things together. For example, stack all of your clothes together while placing any chargers with their appropriate electronics.
- Make sure that you have your ID, passport (if travelling internationally), and ticket ready to go.
- Double-check for prohibited items. Some objects can only be checked on an airplane while others are prohibited entirely. Always double-check that you are not bringing these items onto the plane. If you are caught with one of them, you may be delayed.
- Bleach, lighter fluid, gasoline, aerosol cans, or any other flammable or explosive material are all forbidden from planes.
- Weapons (like guns, Tasers, and knives), sporting equipment (like baseball bats, golf clubs, or ski poles), and electronic cigarettes must all be placed in a checked bag.
- Avoid large objects. Big, oddly shaped items are not technically prohibited, but they can get your bag pulled from the x-ray for a manual search. If you must bring items like this, pack them in a checked bag, or remove them before going through security. Some things you may want to watch out for include:
- Large electronics, like Xboxes, portable DVD players, or CPAP machines
- Bulky books, manuals, or dictionaries
- Large crystals like geodes
- Dense metallic objects
EditArranging Your Luggage
- Pack clothing on the bottom. If you are packing clothing in your carry-on, you should fold or roll each item. Place clothing on the bottom of your bag. If you have any other items that you will not need until you land, place them with the clothing.
- Put your liquids in a plastic bag. Even if your local airport offers plastic bags, you should pack your own liquids ahead of time. Find a one-quart clear plastic bag. Containers for liquids must be no larger than 3.4 ounces or 100 ml, and they must fit into the plastic bag.
- If the containers are larger than 3.4 ounces, they must be placed in a checked bag, even if the amount of liquid inside is less than that amount.
- Instead of buying travel sized versions of your toiletries, you can purchase reusable travel-sized bottles. Fill these up at home with your favorite shampoo, conditioner, soap, and other toiletries.
- Place electronics and liquids on top. Laptops and liquids must be removed when going through security. To remove these as quickly as possible, place these items at the top of your bag. Make sure that they are easy to access so that you can pull them out quickly.
- Stick documents and money in the outside pockets. You will need to have your documents and wallet handy. They cannot be placed in your pockets as you go through security. Put your wallet and documents in an outer pocket of your luggage. You can pull out your ID and ticket when you need it to go through security.
- If you are bringing a purse or briefcase as an extra personal item, you can put your ID and ticket in there, but make sure that you can pull it out quickly. You do not want to have to rummage through your bag to find your ticket.
- Organize everything neatly. Well-organized bags allow security to look through your bag quickly on the x-ray. When placing items in your bag, make sure that they are neatly stacked and arranged.
- Clothing should be folded. You can buy packing cubes to help keep clothing from crumpling in your bag.
- Wind up chargers, and stick them next to the electronics.
- Books should be stacked together.
- Large electronics such as laptops must be removed before being placed in the x-ray. If you place the electronics near the top of your bag, you can quickly remove them without messing up the rest of your luggage.
EditChoosing the Right Bag
- Measure the bag. Airlines have specific regulations for how large your carry-on bag can be. If your bag is too big, it may be stopped at security or at the gate. Check with your airline to see what their size limit is, and measure your bag to make sure it will fit.
- While each airline may have its own regulations, most limit you to a piece of luggage that is 45 linear inches or about 115 linear centimeters. This means that the total height, width, and length of the bag equals either 45 inches or 115 centimeters.
- You should always measure a bag before buying. Just because the label says that it is carry-on compliant doesn’t mean that it is.
- Look for a TSA-compliant laptop bag. A TSA-compliant laptop bag should have a separate laptop compartment. If you put the laptop in this sleeve, you will not have to remove it when going through the X-ray. Nothing else can be put in this compartment. The computer’s mouse and charger must be kept in a different pocket.
- Bring a small personal item. Most airlines will allow you bring on a small personal item with your carry-on. These can give you extra space to pack. If they are large enough, you can put your liquids, documents, wallet, and laptop in this personal item, and keep items that do not need to be searched in your larger carry-on bag. Common personal items include:
- Laptop bag
- In the US, you can apply for TSA Pre-Check. If approved, you can move through security in a special lane without removing your liquids or electronics.
- Always double-check that you have your ID or passport with you before you leave for the airport.
- Do not wear jewelry or other metal objects through security. Wearing slip-on shoes can also help reduce the amount of time you take when going through.
- There is no guarantee that you will not be pulled for a random bag search while going through airport security. Make sure you arrive with plenty of time before your flight.
- Do not attempt to sneak sharp or flammable items onto the plane.