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Even if you’re one of those cautious types who always arrives early enough to explore every shop, bar and restaurant in your assigned terminal, you still might find yourself racing against the clock to catch your flight. Not to worry, there are lots of ways to trim time spent waiting in check-in and security lines. Here are a few of our favorite ways to save time at the airport.

Check in online

The first step is to eliminate all those unnecessary extra steps that take up time at the airport. That starts with checking in online before your flight. “The best way to breeze through the airport is to pack carry-on only and download or print your boarding pass so you can avoid any lines at check-in,” says travel expert Johnny Jet.

Weigh your luggage

Airlines have strict rules for luggage weight and it’ll be a major hassle to get to the airport and discover you are over the weight limits and have to open your luggage and redistribute items. Invest in an inexpensive luggage scale (you can get them online for under $10) and weigh your luggage to make sure it stays within limits before you leave for the airport.

Remember your ID (and have it out and ready)

If you are traveling internationally, make sure you have your passport and any necessary visas and travel documents. If you are traveling domestically, be sure you have your driver’s license or other valid government-issued photo ID. There are some instances (domestically) at least where you might be able to board that flight if you forget your ID, but security will take a lot longer. While you’re at it, make sure your boarding pass and ID are easily accessible so you don’t have to rummage through your bag as you approach the security counter. This will slow you (and everybody else) down.

Know the airport layout

Most airports have maps of their terminals available online. This can be very useful when trying to make quick connections, but also using your time wisely when checking in at the airport. A quick Google search can show you the layout of JFK or LAX. These maps can also help with locating currency exchanges, bathrooms and restaurants so you don’t spend your limited time wandering around.

Dress properly

Sure, those leather boots are perfect for your Nashville getaway, but wearing slip-on and slip-off shoes will make things go a lot faster in that security line! For the same reason, consider avoiding complicated belts. Anything that has to be removed will increase your time in the screening area—and increase the chance of items being lost.

Make use of skycaps and curbside options

There are times (such as the start of really busy holidays) that the Departures level at the airport will be packed; save time by having your ride share/taxi driver or significant other drop you at the Arrivals deck instead. Getting to Departures is still only a quick escalator ride away and it may save A LOT of traffic getting to that gate. Once you are at the deck, consider Sky Cap service—a uniformed airline employee stationed at curbside to check baggage and check passengers in—if you are checking baggage and haven’t checked in online in advance. This will help you avoid those lines waiting inside.


“Since the secret is out about TSA Pre-Check, to cut to the front of the security line, get CLEAR; you can try it for free for a month or sometimes three depending on the promotion,” says Jet. While it’s not available at as many airports as TSA Pre-Check, it does have its advantages: “If you have TSA Pre-Check, you don’t have to take shoes off, laptop or liquids out,” he says. Remember, check your credit card benefits or airline elite status perks before forking over cash for these expedited security programs. Many cards, including the United Explorer Card and the Orbitz Rewards Visa Card offer reimbursements for signing up for TSA Pre-Check and Global Entry (see below) while CLEAR memberships are comped for Delta Diamond Medallions.

Download Mobile Passport

An option travelers may be less familiar with is the Mobile Passport app, which you can get for free through the Apple App Store or Google Play. Mobile Passport allows you to digitally fill out a form similar to the blue paper customs forms we all receive when we enter the US, but with Mobile Passport, all that info can be stored in your app. With this option, you just stand in the much shorter Mobile Passport line and the agent at the desk will scan a code on your app and you proceed to pick up your baggage. It’s not a replacement for Global Entry, but it’s a great step up from the general option. “Global Entry comes with TSA Pre and costs $100 for 5 years, which allows you to cruise through immigration and security lines,” says Jet. However, it’s great to have options. “You want to download Mobile Passport because it’s free and just in case the Global Entry line is long,” he says. Since Mobile Passport is free, what do you have to lose by covering all your bases?

Get lounge access

Save time at the airport by grabbing a bite or coffee in airline lounges (access comes with many credit cards or airline elite status benefits). “Many have beefed up their food and beverage offerings,” says travel writer Ramsey Qubein. “United serves Illy coffee in United Clubs and Delta offers Starbucks.”

Travelocity compensates authors for their writings appearing on this site; such compensation may include travel and other costs.

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