Summer vacations are right around the corner. It’s time for final exams, as well as the annual cleaning of desks and lockers in preparation for the end of another school year.
If you’re like my wife, you may spend months researching and planning a vacation. Being an insurance person, I think about risks and delays.
Recently, news stations have been reporting long lines and delays at the security checkpoints. While I have no plans to travel this summer, I was curious about what’s changed. I didn’t encounter long lines while travelling last summer, nor this year on spring break.
Here’s why security lines are longer.
1. Increased passengers. An estimated 231.1 million people will fly between June 1 and August 31. This is a four percent increase over last summer. To put the increase into perspective, that means an additional 95,000 passengers per day.
2. Federal budget cuts. Due to budget cuts, the TSA has reduced staffing. If Congress addresses the issue, more staff may be hired.
3. Tightened security. Last year, the TSA was criticized for poor screening techniques. Undercover operators went through security lines with guns or phony bombs and made it through 95% of the time. As a result, TSA agents were retrained on screening.
4. Luggage fees. Due to airlines charging luggage fees, more travelers are taking carry-on bags. This creates the need for more screening at the security checkpoint, slowing down the line.
5. Increased seating on airplanes.
Here are tips for getting to your gate on time.
1. Allow plenty of time. For me, there’s nothing worse than rushing to catch your plane. Arrive at the airport with plenty of time to spare for parking, checking luggage, going through security, and using the restroom. For domestic flights, plan to be at the airport at least two hours ahead of time. For international flights, plan on three hours. Bigger airports equal longer lines.
2. Avoid peak travel. If you can, avoid traveling on Mondays, Fridays, and Sundays. When my wife does research, our travel time is based on airline fares which usually helps us avoid these peak travel days.
3. Enroll in the TSA PreCheck program. Taking off shoes and belts and throwing items in a plastic bin is stressful. While the process is necessary, at the end you’re left tripping over your pants and carrying your belongings in your arms. This is even more complicated if you’re travelling with small children or medical devices.
The TSA’s PreCheck program eliminates this hassle by running a criminal background check and collecting additional information about you. To apply you need to:
- Pay an $85 program fee;
- Complete an online application; and
- Visit an application center.
Once you’re approved for the program, it’s good for five years.
4. Pack strategically. Think about where you’re going keep your driver’s license or I.D., boarding pass, credit card, etc. This will the reduce stress of fumbling around to find these items.
5. Weigh your luggage ahead of time. The best money we spent was on a luggage scale. By weighing our luggage ahead of time, you know if you have room to spare. There’s nothing more embarrassing or annoying than pulling out your clothes at the check-in counter.
6. Check airline websites or apps. Flight times can change, resulting in additional planning. Depending on your new flight time, you may need more time to make your journey through the airport easier.
Do you have any tips you’d like to share? I’d love to hear them; please share them in the box below.