A Former TSA Employee Shares Everything You Need To Conquer Airport Security

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Travel is stressful enough. You don’t need the added pressure of frustrated TSA officers and a line of angry passengers behind you, throwing eye-daggers at your lace-up shoes and the jumbo tube of toothpaste you forgot you packed. To help you make it through the airport quickly and calmly, we spoke to a former TSA agent about the best ways to prep for a plane ride.

According to former transportation security officer Jasmain Washington, a smooth day of travel starts while you’re packing. Ensuring that your carry-on bag is organized, your liquids are all under the 3.4-ounce limit and in a clear one-quart bag and that you’re in a good outfit for getting through the airport will save you (and everyone around you) time and energy.

What’s a good travel outfit, you ask? According to Washington, it’s something moderately fitted, without a ton of flair. “Don’t wear baggy, extremely tight or bedazzled/sparkly clothing,” Washington told HuffPost over Instagram. “[These types of clothes] alert the machine and will get you searched every time, which will cause you and others delay in the line.”

Though you may want to listen to music or podcasts as you get through security, Washington really recommends actively listening to airport staff, explaining that passengers not listening to officers is one of the biggest time sucks in the security line. “Listen to the officer that’s telling you what to take off and what to take out of your bags,” she said. “Don’t interrupt them because you might be asking something they’ve said or were going to say.”

Once you’ve gone through the machine, Washington suggests collecting your belongings from the bins and walking to nearby benches or tables to repack your bag and put your shoes and jackets back on. “Getting re-dressed in front of rollers prevents others from getting their bags,” she said.

Washington’s best tip of all? Keep an eye out for the shortest lines and jump right in them. “Don’t go to the first line you see,” she said. “Look around first, find the shortest one, this way you’re getting through the quickest.”

Ahead, Washington broke down her favorite travel items for getting through security seamlessly.

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Opt for Crocs or some sort of slide

For Jasmain Washington, a former TSA officer, the best shoes to wear to the airport are those you can take off without needing to bend over, untie, unclip or otherwise fuss with.

“Slides/flats/Crocs are my favorite travel shoes because they are easy to slip on and off,” she wrote, “[and allow] me to move through security quicker.”

If you like to wear more supportive shoes as you travel, consider wearing Crocs or slides to the airport and bringing walking shoes or supportive sneakers with you and changing into them after going through security.

These unisex Crocs come in over 40 colors in women’s 4-19 or men’s 2-17. The unisex cloud slides come in 17 colors in women’s 4-16 or men’s 3-14.


But please wear socks

Of course, wearing Crocs, slides or even sandals doesn’t excuse you from wearing socks. In fact, regardless of what shoes you’re wearing, Washington urges you to throw on socks, even if it’s just while you’re going through security. This way, you can preemptively take off your shoes before going through the machine without planting your bare feet all around the airport.

“Wear socks because you’re going to have to take your shoes off,” she said. “Wearing socks allows you to take your shoes off beforehand to create a faster line flow.”

This four-pack of unisex cotton crew socks comes in four color combos in sizes XS-L.


Follow the 3-1-1 liquid rule

According to Washington, one of the biggest hassles in the security line is travelers not complying with TSA’s liquid rules. When a bag needs to be searched and giant bottles of lotions or shampoos have to be confiscated, the entire line is held up and agents are tasked with extra work.

Per the TSA website, each passenger is allowed to bring one clear, quart-sized bag containing liquids, aerosols, gels, creams and pastes that are 3.4 ounces (100 milliliters) or less.

This 16-piece travel set includes a quart-sized clear zipper bag, four leakproof squeezable silicone bottles, four jars and two spray bottles — all under that 3.4 ounce capacity rule.


Use packing cubes even in your carry-on

You may think packing cubes are only for checked luggage, but Washington recommends using them in carry-ons as well.

“Packing cubes keep everything neat and consolidated,” she said. “Therefore if something needs to be checked in my bag, it can be easily located to get through faster.”

There’s no worse feeling than agent searching your bag and pulling out a Mary Poppins-style selection of random doodads, only to leave you with a big disheveled pile that you have to repack. Using cubes in your carry-on lets you separate chargers, snacks, books, toiletry items, toys, baby gear and all other needs, making it quick and easy to reassemble your belongings if your bag gets searched.

This eight-piece packing set comes in seven colors and includes different types of bags for packing items like cosmetics, socks and laundry.


Clearly label your carry-on bags

If your carry-on is your favorite backpack or the purse you use every day, you may think you don’t need to label it. However, in the hustle and bustle of a busy security line, Washington says having a luggage tag on every item that goes through the machine can save you time and energy.

Having a clear, colorful tag on your bag can help ensure you’re grabbing the right pieces when you’re in a hurry and can act as a second layer of security if someone tries to claim your bag as theirs.

A set of tags like these leather ones, which have an easy-access buckle, are super easy to take off once you’ve made it to your destination. The set of four comes in 20 colors.


And throw a label on your electronics and tablets, too

Similar to your carry-on bags, the TSA website suggests putting a small label with your name and information on electronics, tablets, laptops and anything else that comes out of your bag to go through the security machines.

If you forget your laptop or leave your tablet at security, it will help airport staff get it back to you.

This set of 250 personalized white address label stickers should do the trick. They come from a small Black-owned business preprinted with whatever name or address you want, which you’ll have a chance to provide as you put them in your cart.