Assuming you get the nod, you’ll breeze through a special lane in a few minutes. That means shoes, jacket and belt stay on, and there is no need to drag out your laptop or 3-1-1 baggie. Just walk through a metal detector while your baggage is X-rayed.
One caveat: If you are using TSA PreCheck, then you must use the designated checkpoint for your airline (currently only D2 for American in Miami and D for Delta at Fort Lauderdale).
TSA PreCheck is also available to select frequent flyers of participating airlines.
The program has become so popular that starting later this year, U.S. citizens will be able to enroll directly in TSA PreCheck by applying online, then visiting an enrollment site to provide ID and fingerprints. Cost is $85 for five years. The two initial enrollment sites are Washington (Dulles) and Indianapolis, with plans to expand. But if you don’t want to wait for Miami to get an enrollment site or you travel internationally, for $15 more Global Entry is the way to go right now.
• Say ex-queues me. In a conventional line, choose whom you stand behind wisely. Give families with young children and strollers a wide berth, as the latter will need to be dismantled for the metal detector. Look for lines of passengers who appear to be business travelers. Odds are they know the drill and will move quickly.
• Corral the kids. If you have young children in tow, try to pack everything in one easy-to-access bag that you can put through the machine. Strollers and car seats must be folded and placed on the belt, too. You’ll need to do this while holding your baby, so practice at home first.
• Know the poop on pets. If Fido or Fluffy is along for the flight, he has to clear security, too. And no, no, no, you don’t put her through the X-ray machine. “Be prepared to take your pet out of its carrier (which goes through X-ray), remove the leash and/or collar and carry the animal through the metal detector,” says Koshetz. “If you can find a plastic leash without any metal, that’s best, but even I haven’t had much luck getting one.”
• Age has its privileges. Passengers 75 and older can leave on light jackets and shoes during checkpoint screening. If you do set off an alarm, you can take an additional pass through the Advance Imaging Technology to clear any anomalies detected during screening — like a do-over. Procedures are similar for travelers 12 and younger, who do not need to remove their shoes. In addition, kids 12 and younger are allowed through TSA PreCheck lanes with eligible adult passengers.
• Don’t follow the crowd. Just because everyone is using a security checkpoint doesn’t mean you have to join the throngs. Look for alternatives. For example, if you are flying American out of Miami International Airport, which uses checkpoint E, and it is swamped, you can use any of the D checkpoints and still end up in the North Terminal. The same holds true for the South Terminal. You can use Checkpoint H, J Central or J South.
• And, hang a left. Faced with a choice between right and left line, most people (for no good reason) tend to go right, even if the line appears slightly longer. Take advantage of this behavior by ignoring your impulses and going left.