top of page

Travel Pros Never Wait in Lines at Airports...Their Strategies Revealed!

Travelers across the country are facing massive security lines and wait times at many US airports. The media is promoting Armageddon for summer travel and Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson’s tepid response isn’t easing anyone’s concerns. There are ways to navigate the complexity to get to your gate on time and either start/end your trip stress-free.

I almost don’t want to share my tips earned after many years of frequent travel, as my personal travel ease may become compromised, but I started TravelManDan to be a resource so this message will not destruct in 3-2-1…

Fly Off-Peak

Passenger volume is at its peak between 5:00am – 10:00am because many passengers have to make connections to get to their destination. The same phenomenon occurs between 3:00pm – 7:00pm for evening flights. Most airports are at their quietest between 10:00am – 2:00pm and after 7:00pm especially in smaller cities. I had a 7:50pm flight in Providence, RI recently and it only took a total of 10 minutes to check my bag and get through security.

Know Your Home Airport

You don’t have to know about every airport in the country, but you should know the ins and outs of your home airport. What time does the security line open? What time do the check-in desks open? Can you check bags outside? Are there priority/TSA Pre-Check lanes and where are they located?

For example, I remember when I lived in Philadelphia the security lines for terminals B&C were notoriously long. Even though my flight might have been in terminal C, I’d walk down and go through security for D&E or even F if I wasn’t checking a bag and take the shuttle bus or walk to any of the other terminals. Check into the viability of options you have at your home airport.

Enroll in Global Entry and/or TSA Pre-Check

If you plan on doing any international travel over the next five years, I recommend enrolling in Global Entry as TSA Pre-Check is included. With Global Entry you can avoid the customs line when returning to the US and use a special kiosk to make your declarations, scan your passport, and scan your fingerprints. There is a $100 fee for five years and you will be subject to a background check and interview with a customs official. If you just wanted TSA Pre-Check, its $85 for five years and only available for expedited security at most US airports.

While the number of people enrolling in TSA Pre-Check is likely to grow, the line moves quicker than your other options. Think about it this way, if you take 4 flights per year and Global Entry costs $100 for five years, $100 divided by 20 flights, is $5 per flight to get through security faster. At 10 flights per year using the same formula, its only $2 per flight to zip through. That’s worth it.

For more information or to apply for Global Entry and/or TSA Pre-Check, visit the Travel Resources page at TravelManDan.

Keep an Eye Out for CLEAR

Currently at 13 airports nationwide, CLEAR is looking to partner with Delta and grow its airport presence. A privately run security line option, CLEAR may become a popular alternative when TSA Pre-Check becomes saturated. Billed at $179 annually, its geared to the most frequent travelers and probably not a great value unless its at your home airport or until they expand to at least 30 major airports nationwide. For more information, visit the CLEAR website.

Pay For Expedited Check-In, Boarding, and Security

Most US Airlines offer expedited check-in, boarding, and security for a fee. Prices vary by airline but you will be able to purchase the option during the booking process. These options are usually free though if you gain status with the airline. It will not give you access to TSA Pre-Check, only an expedited lane.

Don’t Check a Bag for Short Trips

Checking a bag can take 15-30 minutes during peak hours and adds to the process of getting to your gate. Check-in at home, print or download your boarding pass to your phone and get right to the security line.

Avoid Large Airports if You Can

For Dallas, use DAL over DFW. For Ft. Lauderdale or even Miami, use PBI over FLL or MIA. For Los Angeles, use SNA or LGB. While they may be slightly inconvenient to your destination, the smaller airports may be cheaper and provide less hassle checking bags and waiting in security lines.

Give Yourself Extra Time at Hub Airports

The longest lines have been reported at the nations largest airports; ATL, LAX, ORD, DFW, JFK, DEN, etc. Give yourself at least two hours (not including travel time to the airport) to check your bag and get through security during peak travel times. That's two hours prior to the boarding time, not the departure time to be on the safe side.

If You Have to Wait, Use the Wait Time Wisely

Don’t just stand there watching the line. Use the free wifi if available, research your destination, make some phone calls, read a book, listen to music, etc…and make sure to remember to go to the bathroom before you get in line!

Remember, annoyance is better than anxiety. Don’t risk the stress of missing your flight and starting a vacation off on the wrong foot. Have a better action plan to deal with the check-in and security lines and when they tell you to get there early…get there early.

Featured Posts
Recent Posts
Travel Agent Blog
bottom of page