How to Get through Airport Security Faster this Winter Holiday

Posted December 9, 2015 by Nellie Huang in Travel Tips

airport security

With the holiday season coming up, airports will be getting busier than ever, and flying is about to get more annoying than it already is. Holiday travel this year will probably be even more challenging with extra airport security worldwide after the recent Paris terrorist attacks and the Russian plane crash in Egypt.

As full-time travelers, we know that making it through airport security fast and easy requires some tactics, preparations, and possibly even some luck. And if you have kids in tow (like us!), it’s even more important than ever to master the art of tackling airport security.

As we get ready to catch our flight to Cyprus, I’ll leave with you some travel tips from the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) to help you speed through airport security faster and easier the next time you fly.

Check in online a few days prior to departure

Always, I repeat, always check in online at least two days before your flight departure date. This is essential on some airlines — Ryanair even charges you a fee if you check in at the airport. It’s the best way to secure the seat you want onboard the plane. It can also save you a heap of time, especially if you are not checking bags. I know it’s obvious but I noticed that a lot of people still don’t do it and end up waiting in long lines at the airport.

Check the flight status before leaving your home

Before leaving for the airport, check the flight status to make sure that your flight hasn’t been cancelled or delayed. I recommend doing it again just before you head into the terminal; flight status updates change by the minute, so a last-second check is always a good idea. Most airlines will text you flight status updates if you sign up on their websites. You can also use sites like or apps like TripIt.

Pack like a pro

Regardless of your departure airport, only liquids, aerosols and gels that are 100ml (or 3 oz) or less are permitted in your carry-on. Place these items in a single 1L clear, resealable plastic bag so the screening officer can easily see the contents. Any containers over 100ml should be placed in your checked baggage.

If you’re only traveling with carry-on, you can whisk through security easily by organizing your items and compartmentalizing them. We recommend using the Eagle Creek cube to help you keep your items organized and compact, so you can save the embarrassment when unpacking.

Do not wrap gifts in your carry-on baggage. Security agents may open wrapped gifts for closer inspection. Consider shipping gifts ahead of time, packing them in your checked luggage or wrapping them at your destination.

Prescription and essential non-prescription medications (e.g. cough syrup, decongestant spray, contact lens solution) are allowed. You can bring them in quantities greater than 100 ml in your carry-on but must show these items to the screening officer for inspection.

Keep small electronics in your carry-on but check in extra ones

To keep your electronics safe, it’s best to bring them in your carry on. Small electronic items like iPhone, MP3 players (e.g. iPod) and tablets, are lightweight and easy to carry.

Airport security requires travelers to remove laptops from their cases and you’ll have to place them on a tray for the X-ray machine. Electronic cases will need to go through the machine as well, so it’s wise to check in anything you won’t need during the flight that isn’t too fragile such as battery packs and USB cables.

Carry baby food in plastic bags

For those traveling with babies, beverages and food (e.g. breast milk, formula, juice, purées) for children under the age of two are exempted from the liquid, aerosol and gel restrictions. Pack these items in clear plastic bags as well,  so that they can easily be removed from your carry-on baggage for inspection. Solid snacks are also allowed — sandwiches, granola bars and fruit are fine for traveling.

Remember not to overpack when traveling with children. We know that the little ones require a surprising amount of things, but you can usually buy most of their necessities on the road and you can often repurpose the things you already have (eg. muslin cloth can double as a nursing cloth). Just make sure you bring what the baby needs on the plane and you should be all set. Here’s our packing list for traveling with baby.

Dress comfortably and wear items that can be easily removed

Make sure you and the little ones can easily remove any bulky outwear including winter jackets and boots with large buckles. These items must be placed in bins provided at the checkpoint for screening.

To speed through airport security as quickly as possible, avoid wearing jewelry or belt. Remember to remove your smartphone and coins from your pocket and put them in your carry-on bag or jacket pockets.

You are required to put your jacket on the plastic tray in order to pass through the metal detectors, so try to wear winter jackets that can be easily removable.

If you’re flying to the U.S., you’ll also have to take off your shoes. If you’re flying within Canada or to other destinations, you’ll have to remove your shoes only if they contain metal and set off the metal detector. Don’t waste time fiddling with a pair of laces, complicated straps and buckles. A simple pair of comfy canvas slip-ons or loafers is the perfect travel shoe for men, women and kids alike.

Families should use the family/special needs lane

If you’re traveling with children, check if there is a family/special needs lane at your airport. It’s designed to accommodate larger items (e.g. strollers, car seats) and is best for passengers needing more time or help at the checkpoint. You’ll be thankful for this as it usually cuts down the time required to pass through airport security. Many airports now provide play facilities for young children as well as nursing rooms. Here are more tips for flying with babies.

Have your boarding passes and documents ready

Always print out your boarding pass beforehand or download it on your mobile app (most airlines let you save your boarding pass on their app).

Contact CATSA if you have questions

If you need more information, CATSA can be contacted directly at 1-888-294-2202 or via:

[box] Disclaimer: Many thanks to CATSA for providing these travel tips! [/box]

About the Author

Nellie Huang

Nellie Huang is the co-founder and editor-in-chief of WildJunket. As a professional travel writer with a special interest in offbeat destinations, she has written for numerous publications including CNN, International Business Times, BBC, Wend, and Lonely Planet. In her quest for adventure, she’s climbed an active volcano in Guatemala, swam with sea lions in the Galapagos, played with lemurs in Madagascar and cruised alongside penguins in Antarctica.

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