How to Beat Airport Security

…and by “beat,” I mean survive.

I think it’s safe to say that TSA airport security checkpoints are the most stressful part of air travel. However, a lot can be done to streamline the process if you know what you’re doing. This is my routine, which almost never causes me to slow the line. If you’re not slowing the line, then you’re not stressing out.

Liquids in the outer pocket and computer bag unlatched.


  1. Plan your packing
  2. Check-in online
  3. Dress for success
  4. Stash your personal items early
  5. Unlatch/unzip bags
  6. Know how to make the most of the TSA bins
  7. Order your bags and bins for easy reconstruction

Plan your packing
A good security experience starts at home. Pick an exterior pocket that’s easy to access for your bag of liquids. If you have a CPAP, put it at the outer-top of your packed items so it’s quick to grab. No computer bag? Put your laptop in a quick access area so it’s easy to get out.

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My First and Last Cruise

The Usual Suspects

I’m completely at home in the air.  On the road, Siri and my TomTom app can conquer most challenges. The high seas, however, are a mystery to me. So when my good friend Christina, an 8-cruise veteran, invited Amy and I to join she and TK on a cruise to Mexico, I thought I’d give it a shot.

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Airport Security Checkpoints – Special Lines

I’ll write a post about surviving TSA Security Checkpoints soon (you can now find it here), but first I wanted to point out something that every airport should offer: the “Expert Traveler Lane.”

As Murphy correctly pointed out, there’s a 100% chance that the one time you’re late for a flight, the person in front of you in the screening line will be the 30-something mother with several wild children, another in an ERGObaby, more jewelry than Mr. T, 5 carry-ons, 4 full-sized shampoo bottles, 3 computers, 2 knee-high lace-up boots and 1 mother in tow in a wheelchair…partridge in a pear tree optional.

Expert Travelers to the Right

SDF (Louisville, KY) TSA Screening Line

At most airports, you’re just crap out of luck. However, when I traveled to Louisville for Pace last year, I was thrilled to see the sign in the photo to the right: a separate TSA screening line for frequent travelers. This year, when traveling back from San Francisco, I noticed that they offer the same convenience at SFO.

The most surprising thing? People actually seem to respect and follow the rules.  The main line had about 15 people in it and I walked clear to the front of the expert line.

Hopefully this trend will continue to spread and more airports will take their own steps to streamline security screenings. Until then, the best we can do is manage our own routine and take Xanax to keep from flipping out.


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Beer: the Mobile Revolution

Unlike DFW, DTW, XNA and most other airports, ORD (Chicago) allows you to take drinks, including Beer, to-go. This photo is my to-go beer in a coffee cup from Chili’s. I didn’t say it was pretty, but it was effective.

In this instance, the Chili’s employees put up a fight about it. A TSA Agent happened to be walking by as we “negotiated” the issue and was kind enough to set the Chili’s lady straight. I think that had something to do with the reason I got a coffee cup instead of a real to-go cup.

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Hidden Passengers

I’ve noticed a new trend in air travel lately: “hidden passengers.” I haven’t tried it yet, but I’m not beyond it.

New addition on 2/10/12:

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Temporary Offer to Double Elite Qualifying Miles on AA

I just came across a great temporary offer from American called: “Qualify For AAdvantage Elite Status Faster Than Ever”.

The offer doubles your Elite-Status Qualifying Miles for travel in the month of January, 2012. This counts even for travel already booked, so long as you haven’t departed yet.

Details at:

AAdvantage Cards

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Make The Most Of Your Frequent Flyer Program

Aadvantage SummaryMy friends joke that I’m George Clooney. I probably make waaaay too big of a deal out of loyalty programs, namely my AAdvantage account. However, they can impact the quality of your travel in a major way. Instead of comparing different programs, I’m going to help those who travel mostly with the brands I frequent, such as American Airlines.

Elite status comes with many benefits. I’m currently Platinum, but expect to reach Executive Platinum this year because the levels tend to compound as you get more bonuses at higher levels. My favorite benefits are:

  • Early boarding – avoid the cattle lines and always find space for your carry-on
  • Earning First Class upgrades
  • With higher elite levels, you increase your chance of receiving the upgrade
  • Premium seats for free (including exit rows)
  • Separate security lines at many airports
  • Mileage bonuses and a guarantee that you earn at least 500 miles for all flights
  • Priority baggage handling
  • Free checked bags (which I seldom use, but it’s great for golf trips)

Here are my top 5 recommendations for making the most of the AAdvantage Program.

  1. Take The American Challenge Shortcut To Gold Or Platinum
    What’s strange about this is that American created this “cheat,” but takes great effort to hide it. They don’t even publish it in writing on their website.
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Where not to drink the water…

June 2011 was my first ever trip to Asia. I flew from Chicago (ORD) to Shanghai (PVG). Once I landed in Shanghai, we headed straight to the hotel where my associates went right to bed. It was about 4pm, so I decided to get some dinner and stay awake a couple more hours. I sat down at the hotel restaurant and they handed me this local paper. The cover was a great reminder not to drink the water.

20 Tons of acid spill into drinking water source

Shanghai Daily

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