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Traveling this summer? TSA’s screening tips can help you zip through packed airports

Wearing a mask and applying for PreCheck can save travelers a lot of time.
TSA tips
Passengers head for the TSA security checkpoint in Terminal 2 at Raleigh-Durham International Airport on Monday (May 24, 2021).

More people are starting to travel again — and airports are packed because of that.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) expects to see a massive surge in the number of people traveling this summer as coronavirus pandemic restrictions ease and cases continue to go down.

At the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in April, security lines stretched all the way into the garage. The scene at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport was similar with long lines stretching through hallways, and people waiting at security for more than 40 minutes, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

To help keep travelers from getting stuck in those long lines, TSA has changed a bit since 2019. At some airports, you can scan your own ID card and don’t need to take electronics out of your bag.

Those changes help make going through airport security during a pandemic easier, TSA said.

Here are some other tips from TSA to help you zip through the packed airports this summer:

Wear a face mask or risk being grounded

Even if you’re vaccinated, you’ll still need to wear a mask in airports and on planes, TSA said. All passengers older than of 2 are required to wear a face mask during the security screening process.

The only time you can take your mask off is if an officer requests that you temporarily lower the mask to confirm your identify.

If you don’t wear a mask, you could get fined, according to the TSA. Officials will recommend a fine of $250 for a first offense and up to $1,500 for repeat offenders.

“Passengers without a mask may be denied entry, boarding or continued transport,” TSA said in a Jan. 31 news release. “Failure to comply with the mask requirement can result in civil penalties.”

Fully empty bags before starting to pack

If you start packing your bags when they are completely empty, you have less of a chance of bringing something through security that you didn’t mean to have.

If there’s an item that TSA has to inspect inside your bag, it’s going to keep you waiting longer.

TSA officials keep finding prohibited items in passengers’ luggage. At the Dallas Love Field and Dallas Fort Worth International airports, TSA officials have seen an increase in the number of items that aren’t allowed.

Officers found more than 100 stun guns at both airports combined from January to April of this year. TSA officials also have found firearms and flammables in luggage at airports across the country.

If you’re wondering what you can and can’t bring in a carry-on or checked bag, you can check TSA’s “What Can I Bring?” site before packing.

Avoid physical contact at security checkpoints

Before you get into the TSA checkpoint line, think about how you could avoid touching additional items.

TSA said that putting any jewelry, keys or other items in your carry-on bag could help save you from dumping items into a bin at the conveyor belt. You should also know which items will need removal and what can stay in a bag.

Having an ID card ready and following the rules for transporting liquids also help make the process more speedy.

You can take up to 3.4 ounces of liquids on board a plane unless it’s hand sanitizer. You’re allowed up to 12 ounces of hand sanitizer in a carry-on bag.

Questions? Contact TSA

People who are prepared and get their questions answered before they get to the airport will have an easier time making their way through security.

“Those who are preparing to travel and may have special circumstances, considerations or general questions about airport screening can get live assistance by tweeting questions and comments to @AskTSA or via Facebook Messenger,” TSA said. “You can also call the TSA Contact Center at 866-289-9673.”

Enroll in TSA Precheck

If you don’t want the hassle of going through a typical TSA checkpoint at all, you could always enroll in TSA PreCheck.

In April 2021, most passengers with PreCheck only waited five minutes.

With PreCheck, you don’t have to take off your shoes or belts, and you don’t need to remove liquids, food or laptops from your bag. You can apply online for PreCheck and enroll in person.

“Most new enrollees receive their known traveler number within five days, and membership lasts for five years,” TSA said.

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