Airport security used to be simple—pack your own bags, keep them in your possession, board your flight. Easy, right? However, since 9/11, Americans have been treated to a complicated and confusing rendition of public security absurdity.
It's going to be a zoo at the airport this holiday season—and you don't want to be the one holding up the line. With a bit of planning and forethought, here's how you can blow through any TSA checkpoint.
First and foremost, the key to getting through security in record time is to travel light and loose. Since all of your carry-ons will need to be inspected once you reach the checkpoint, leave as much as you can in your checked bags. This includes heavy jackets (which have to be scanned), bottles of liquid over 3.4 ounces or 100ml, weapons (duh), inexpensive electronic accessories like spare chargers or headphones you won't need on the flight, and any item you aren't certain will be allowed in your carry-on. Taking the conservative approach to what you bring through is much faster than having to sort out what you can and can't bring on-board with the Transportation Security Officer (TSO).
Dress in clothes you can slip out of at a moments notice. Wear loose garments with wide pockets, a belt that can be quickly removed, and low-top shoes—preferably slip-ons. You'll be taking all of this stuff off and emptying your pockets to step through the metal detector while it's scanned, and the faster you can put it all back on, the faster you get through the checkpoint.
Depending on how many people are queued in front of you and how fast the line is moving, you'll want to start disrobing roughly 5-8 positions from the front of the line. This should give you ample time to fiddle with your shoelaces and put everything in the bin before you start holding up the line behind you. You'll also want to remove all of your jewelry, a watches, and keys. Stick your valuables in a bag or jacket pocket. Remove piercings to avoid any chance of setting off the metal detector and being sent through to secondary inspection. Scarves and religious headdress can be kept on, but may require additional inspection if they are baggy enough to potentially conceal contraband (I'm looking at you, Rastafarian guy with the meter-tall dread beanie).
There are two things that you will not take out of your pocket at any time from curb to runway—your boarding pass and government-issued ID. These will be the first two things the TSO asks you for, so keep both of them in hand from the time you get your boarding pass until you reach the checkpoint, then stuff them in a back pocket while you're getting scanned. The TSA will accept a wide variety of identification so long as it is government issued and has your name and face on it. If you have somehow lost your ID before getting to the checkpoint, you can still make your trip, but you're in for a wait, and no less than three rounds of screening.