As the holiday season approaches, so does the inevitable surge of travelers flooding airports, ready to spend time with loved ones. However, the thought of navigating through long TSA lines can be a daunting or dreaded prospect for many. This guide is here to help you be prepared, ensuring a stress-free and cheerful journey through airport security.

Why Do We Have TSA Today?

While navigating TSA lines might not always feel breezy, it’s important to remember why these measures exist. Following the tragic events of September 11th, 2001, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) was established to significantly strengthen security checks across all forms of travel. Before TSA, aviation security was handled by individual airlines, leading to inconsistencies and vulnerabilities. The creation of TSA centralized and standardized security procedures, aiming to prevent acts of terrorism and protect the millions of people who travel every year.

If you or someone you know was directly affected by the events of 9/11, the Zadroga Act established a Victim Compensation Fund to provide financial support and assistance. An experienced 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund attorney can help you explore the possibilities of a claim.

While the holiday rush can test our patience, acknowledging the crucial role TSA plays in keeping us safe can help us approach security checks with a greater sense of understanding and cooperation.

Pre-flight Prep: Pack Like a Pro

Before you even step foot in the airport, laying the groundwork for a smooth security experience is crucial.


  • Know the rules: Familiarize yourself with the TSA’s prohibited items list and guidelines for allowable liquids and gels. A quick check on the TSA website can save you from the hassle of having to surrender items at the checkpoint.
  • Pack smart: Optimize your packing strategy by utilizing clear zip-lock bags for liquids and gels. Wear slip-on shoes to breeze through the shoe removal process, and consider placing bulky items in checked luggage to simplify the screening of your carry-on. A well-organized bag not only speeds up the process but also reduces stress.
  • ID and boarding pass: Keep your acceptable ID and boarding pass within easy reach. Having these ready will prevent fumbling at the checkpoint and earn you the admiration of those stuck behind you in line. Starting May 7, 2025, U.S. travelers must have a REAL ID to board domestic flights and access certain federal facilities. In many states, this can be completed when renewing your driver’s license.

Conquering the TSA Queue

Once you’ve conquered the packing stage, it’s time to tackle the challenges of the airport terminal and TSA queue.

  • TSA PreCheck/Global Entry: Consider investing in expedited screening programs like TSA PreCheck or Global Entry. These programs can significantly reduce the time spent in line and spare you the inconvenience of removing shoes, laptops, and liquids during the screening process. Global Entry has all of the same benefits as TSA PreCheck, with one major difference. When you travel abroad and enter the U.S. again, you will have an expedited customs process. If you have credit cards, check if they reimburse for TSA PreCheck or Global Entry – some do! Both are valid for five years once granted.
  • Early arrival: Factor in the holiday crowds and aim to arrive at the airport at least two hours before your flight or three hours for an international flight. An early arrival provides a buffer for unexpected delays and allows you to navigate security with a more relaxed pace.
  • Patience is a virtue: Keep in mind that everyone around you is trying to get home for the holidays. Exercise patience, take a deep breath, and be courteous to fellow travelers and TSA agents. A positive attitude can make the entire experience more pleasant for everyone.

How To Be Prepared for the Checkpoint

As you approach the security checkpoint, these tips will help you breeze through with ease.


  • Hydration hero: If you have an opened water bottle or other flavored drink, now is the time to gulp it down or empty the contents in a liquid container if available. Staying hydrated is essential, but open drink containers are not allowed to pass through. An empty container is allowed to pass through. There will be water fountains you can use to refill your bottle once through security.
  • Empty your pockets: Streamline the process by removing loose change, keys, and other items that might trigger alarms. Place these items in a tray or in your bag if you have one for efficient scanning.
  • Laptop love: Take your laptop or other large electronics, such as a camera, out of its case before reaching the conveyor belt. This simple step can save time during the screening process.

Other Travel Hacks to Ease Your Journey

For those looking to elevate their TSA mastery, these bonus tips will add an extra layer of convenience.

  • Download the MyTSA app: You can stay informed with real-time wait times, the latest prohibited items lists, and valuable travel tips by downloading the MyTSA app. Having this information at your fingertips ensures you’re always one step ahead.
  • Snacks and tunes: Pack light snacks to keep hunger at bay, and download entertaining content to your device. This way, you can stay occupied during potential wait times and make the overall experience more enjoyable. Airport food and drinks tend to be expensive, so this is a great way to save some money.
  • Holiday cheer: Spread some festive joy! A friendly smile and a holiday greeting can go a long way with TSA agents and fellow travelers.

Navigating TSA checkpoints can be considered an art form by some, and mastering it during the holiday season requires a combination of preparation, patience, and a positive mindset. From understanding the rules and packing efficiently to utilizing expedited screening programs and maintaining a friendly demeanor, these tips will empower you to breeze through security like a seasoned traveler.

As you embark on your holiday adventures, may these strategies grant you a stress-free and joyful experience. Here’s to a smooth journey, happy reunions, and a holiday season filled with cheer!