Traveling? Avoid these TSA mistakes

Expedite your journey through TSA by prepping ahead and avoiding these common and time-consuming airport security stumbles.

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Let’s face it, we don’t all have the luxury of flying private. And even those who can afford to do so may still occasionally find themselves catching commercial flights—because that’s just how life goes. So why don’t we save everyone—meaning other flyers, as well as TSA employees—from the agony of long lines full of disgruntled travelers, and try to make the process smoother by avoiding TSA mistakes?

While it sounds like a great idea in theory, we understand this may not be an easy feat for all. Amateur flyers have a little bit of an excuse; if they’ve never been to an airport and don’t know how hectic it can be, then hey, we can’t blame them. But all other airline travelers, listen up and listen up good: we have to do better. 

Photo: AdobeStock

Too many of us are still showing up late to flights and then trying to rush to the front of the line, pushing strangers and causing a commotion. Or finally getting to the front of the security line and seemingly not understanding what to put on the belt bins, what to take off, and what to take out of your bag. All in all, there is just too much nonsense nowadays. So we’ve put together a list of common errors and ways to improve them to avoid airport security chaos. Note that some of these steps should be done prior to arrival at the airport, and some you should just stop altogether. Check out our suggestions below. 

Liquids….and more liquids 

A long time ago, someone might have told you the falsehood that we couldn’t bring food in our carry-on bags, but they did not tell a lie about liquids. If you have any sort of drink or anything more than 3.4 ounces of liquid in your travel bag, trash them before you even enter the airport, and definitely before entering TSA. You will do yourself and the line behind you a favor. Aside from rare exceptions (medications and baby bottles), it’s simply not allowed and you will never make it through. 

Show your electronics

This step does require a little labor: What we’re asking you to do is to go into your travel bag either before you enter the TSA line or while in the back of it, and take out your laptop, phone, cameras, iPads, tablets—all of those electrical gadgets—and prepare them for a TSA bin. Electronics are not allowed to be scanned in your carry-on bag at the security check. They require their own bin. So if you do arrive at the airport with them in your bag, just make sure they are at the top of the bag so they are easy to access when pulling them out and putting them back in. 

Take off your outerwear (and shoes)

Whether it is a heavy jacket when traveling in the winter or a light fleece when traveling in the spring, you must take off jackets for airport security. If you’re under the age of 75, the same typically goes for shoes, as well. A good habit to form is leaving space in your carry-on bag to fully fit your jacket; that way, before you even enter the airport, you can have your jacket tucked away. And please, don’t think about pulling it out until you have passed TSA and you are in a comfortable waiting zone, awaiting your flight. 

Arriving late

When traveling to international destinations, the rule is to arrive at the airport at least two hours ahead of your boarding time. When traveling domestically, it is suggested to arrive between one hour and an hour and a half ahead of your boarding time. If you are smart and observant of the time, we would suggest arriving a little earlier than both suggested times, to make time for any unexpected travel snafus. 

Packing firearms

Yeah, no. Don’t do this. While the laws to carry firearms are constantly changing from state to state, there is one rule to abide by in airport security: don’t bring them in your carry-on. Prior to your arrival at the airport, check all of your bags for firearms and make sure to avoid this no-no by all means necessary. You will not end up only holding the TSA line up, but you will be embarrassed and even arrested if you go up to the airport with firearms. If you must bring them, check them. 

Locking your carry-on bag

Locking your carry-on bag may be your preference, but it can hold up lines at TSA. Ideally, since this is the type of bag that is always in your presence, you would choose not to lock them, as opposed to checked baggage that gets whisked away. If you do decide to lock your carry-on, make sure it is unlocked before you get to the front of the line—or invest in a TSA-approved lock that makes it easy for security agents to unlock your bag using their universal key. 


Noel Cymone Walker theGrio.com

Noel Cymone Walker is an NYC-based writer specializing in beauty, fashion, music, travel, and cultural anthropology. She has written and produced visuals for several notable publications such as The Recording Academy/The Grammys, The Fader, Billboard, OkayPlayer, Marie Claire, Glamour, Allure, Essence, Ebony, and more.


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