TSA Lines-How Soon Should You Arrive Before Flying?


You’ve probably already heard stories about unusually long TSA security lines at airports, particularly around this time of year. Even after the first of the year, there’s no reason to get cocky. Waltz into JFK or Chicago O’Hare an hour before departure and you’re likely to miss your flight.

While we wait for the TSA to fix this (mainly by adding more employees and keeping the ones they have from quitting) here are some strategies to make sure you don’t miss your flight —

  1. Obviously get to the airport super early. If you hate waiting at airports this might be a good time to splurge or an airline lounge day pass. American charges $59 for a one-day pass. Plan to arrive at the very least 2 hours before boarding for domestic, 3-4 hours international. More time is even better in case unforeseen traffic or weather is an issue. But for some airports, such as Miami or Ft. Lauderdale when the cruise ships come in, even 2 hours for domestic flights might not be enough.
  2. Perhaps the best advice is to sign up (NOW!) for TSA Precheck or Global Entry. I prefer Global Entry because it includes Precheck and it’s good for 5 years for a $100 fee. Some premium credit cards, such as the Amex Platinum Card, reimburse the fee. A problem with Precheck is that at some airports, the special lines are only open for a few hours a day, again because of staffing shortages. But not only are the lines much shorter than regular TSA lines, but you don’t have to take out your laptop and liquids, and you can leave your shoes and light jacket on.
  3. Another hack — buy priority access to TSA lines such as JetBlue’s “even more speed” — which gives you expedited lines through TSA.  United has a similar program called Premier Access, which starts at $15. Delta calls it “Sky Priority” and it’s available at select airports (Pittsburgh is one).
  4. Fly from less busy airports. If you live on Long Island, fly from Islip rather than from JFK, for example. Long Beach usually has shorter lines than LAX, and so on.
  5. Try to fly on a Tuesday or Wednesday when airports are less busy. Some times of the day (such as midday) are slower than during the morning and evening rush, so lines should be shorter. Weekend waits are often just as bad. Instead, try to book flights departing in the middle of a weekday when lines are at a minimum.
  6. Your liquids and gels are packed in a quart-sized bag, but do you know about recent TSA regulations on powders? Powdered makeup and food substances (spices) are now subject to additional screenings, so pack accordingly to avoid any issues at security.
  7. Then there’s CLEAR, which allows you to skip the ID check before the TSA’s main event. This isn’t an option everywhere, but it is available at larger U.S. airports including New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Atlanta, Chicago, and others. At $179 a year, CLEAR isn’t as cheap as PreCheck, but if you’re chronically late or just really hate lines, it could certainly speed things up.
  8. If you do find yourself stuck in long security lines and genuinely fear you won’t make your flight, as a result, don’t be shy about approaching a TSA officer to request skipping ahead.


Some people (okay, most people) find airports to be dull and joyless voids. Plan to read, use cell phone, eat, or shop. However you choose to while away the hours before your flight, the important thing is that you’re early.

Before leaving for the airport, strategize as you pack your carry on. Consider what items you’ll need to retrieve quickly in order to pass through security and place those items up top or in easily accessible pouches. You don’t want to have to dig through a tangled wad of electrical cords to get to your laptop. By the same logic, you’ll also want to avoid wearing shoes that require excessive fumbling with buckles, straps, and laces. Can you get by without wearing a belt? One less thing to take off and on. By now, you know the drill, so remove keys and any loose change and place everything in your carry on or the provided bin before you get to the line.

We at Getaway Dreams Come True Travel are happy to assist you with tips and answer questions regarding security and all other phases of your planned travel. After checking out ideas and destinations on our website, please call 724.752.2655 to schedule your vacation planning session where we will work together to find the best luxury experience for your lifetime memories.


You may wish to view our blog posts for additional tips:

Scheduling Connecting Air Flights

Tips for Hassle-free International Travel

Essentials for Your Flight

Creating Family Vacation Memories in Photos

Basic Packing Hacks

Luggage Tips and Efficient Packing Tips

What Sets Getaway Dreams Come True Apart from Other Travel Agencies?

Is Travel Insurance Worth The Cost?










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