How to breeze through check-in and security

Queuing at Sydney airport

No-one but the most severe masochist enjoys queueing, and for some reason it’s even worse while travelling.

A frequently flying friend used to turn up to the airport in the barest whisker of time, wait until her flight was called and then rock up to the head of the line to check in. It was brazen and bold, but it worked. She never missed a flight.

However, that was years ago, pre-COVID and all those pesky lines we have to deal with these days.

So what are some tactics if you want to breeze through the inevitable airport lines?

Check-in online

James Smith from Travel Lingual says kickstart your swift journey by checking in online. Airlines’ websites and mobile apps are your fast pass to avoiding long lines, enabling you to head straight to security.

Check out well ahead of time what exactly is the online check-in time. Some airlines are only 24 hours before the flight, while others let you check in well in advance, which is ideal if you prefer a particular position in the cabin.

Timing is everything

Early mornings or late nights are the sweet spots for avoiding crowds. Flying during off-peak hours means less hassle, shorter lines, and an overall quicker airport experience.

However, early morning is best for flights. With today’s airline environment, later flights are often running late.

All it takes is one late flight and there can be a cascade of late or cancelled flights to follow, so book an early flight if you can.

Skip check-in luggage

Limit your luggage to carry-on, if possible. It not only saves check-in and baggage claim time but also eliminates the risk of lost luggage.

Check out the weight limit and stick to it. Many airlines will weigh your carry-on before you get on and force you to check it in if it’s overweight, especially on booked-out flights.

Some tips to ensure no weight issues at check-in are:

  • Buy a lightweight suitcase. Consider buying a backpack as suitcase wheels are just extra weight.
  • Decant toiletries into smaller containers.
  • Wear as much as you can on the plane, and try and cram a few items (socks fit anywhere) into the coat pockets.
  • Your heaviest item will probably be your shoes so choose carefully.
  • Cull your clothes and only pack clothes that can be worn for two different uses, such as a beach cover-up that can be worn as a shirt or men’s bathers that can also be worn as everyday shorts.
  • Buy stuff at your destination. Do you need a coat? Well, instead of schlepping it across the world, simply buy it at your destination. Also a good plan for toiletries.
  • If you think it’s going to tip over your weight limit on the way home, post it back before you leave.

You can also just leave it at your destination. I’ve occasionally left books or cheap shoes such as thongs in my hotel room. Easier than carrying them back, even if weight limits are not an issue.

Take advantage of the fact that your laptop or handbag will be considered separate to sneak a few items in there.

Fast-track security

Mr Smith says many airports offer fast-track security whereby passengers can pay a fee to use a priority lane at airport security to skip the standard queues.

“You can also consider applying for TSA PreCheck or Global Entry. These programs pre-approve low-risk travellers, allowing them to speed through dedicated security lanes without removing shoes, laptops, or liquids,” he says.

Pack smart

Have your liquids and electronics easily accessible. By organising your carry-on efficiently, you’ll breeze through the security screening process.

Dress for success

Wear easily removable shoes and minimal jewellery. The less you have to remove at security, the quicker you’ll pass through.

And be smart about what you wear. If you have had to take certain shoes or a belt off to pass through security in the past, rethink wearing them next time.

My tip? Elastic-waisted pants. Not the most glamorous item, but they don’t require a belt and are super comfy during a flight.

Do you have tips for getting through the airport quickly? Why not share them in the comments section below?

Also read: What your plane seat says about your personality

Written by Jan Fisher

Accomplished journalist, feature writer and sub-editor with impressive knowledge of the retirement landscape, including retirement income, issues that affect Australians planning and living in retirement, and answering YLC members' Age Pension and Centrelink questions. She has also developed a passion for travel and lifestyle writing and is fast becoming a supermarket savings 'guru'.

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