9 ways to avoid airport lines

Learn how to avoid lines at the airport and move through the airport faster.

Getting through an airport doesn’t have to be a headache. These nine tips can help you avoid long lines and move through an airport without all the stress. 

With a little preparation, you might even find yourself enjoying your next airport experience.

1. Check in online

Many airlines typically let you check in online up to 24 hours in advance, if you’re eligible. Checking in online won’t help you avoid security lines, but you may be able to skip the ticket counter.

Print your tickets before leaving for the airport, or bring a digital copy. Some airlines have mobile apps that make it easy to check in, get flight status updates and access your boarding pass right on your phone. 

You might even be able to snag your preferred seat during online check-in—whether you’re a long-legged aisle lover or a cloud-gazing window seat person.

2. Ditch checked baggage for a carry-on

If you’re a chronic overpacker, this tip might send you into a tailspin. But limiting yourself to a carry-on instead of checking a bag can save you time. 

First, you can skip the bag-check line before boarding your flight. Second, you won’t have to wait at the baggage claim area once you land. Plus, you can avoid the risk of checked luggage being delayed or lost in transit. 

If you decide to go carry-on only, consider packing clothing that you can easily mix and match. Save room in your bag by wearing your bulkiest items on the flight, and pack travel-sized toiletries or plan to buy the essentials at your destination. Just double-check that your carry-on bag meets your airline’s weight and size restrictions. 

Need a little more room? Some airlines allow you to bring an additional personal item, like a small purse or computer bag.

3. Skip the longer lines with TSA PreCheck® or Global Entry

TSA PreCheck® or Global Entry can be a great way to save time. In addition to skipping the longer security lines, members aren’t usually required to remove laptops, shoes, belts, light jackets or toiletry liquids at security checkpoints. 

To qualify, you’ll need to submit an online application and schedule an in-person appointment that includes a background check and fingerprinting. TSA PreCheck® costs $78 or $85 depending on where you enroll. Renewals vary, too, and can cost anywhere from $70 to $78. You can visit the TSA website to learn more and enroll.

A five-year Global Entry membership is $100. The extra money for a Global Entry membership might be worth it if you’re planning to travel internationally. Plus, it includes access to TSA PreCheck®.

If you use your eligible Capital One Venture, Venture XSpark Miles or Venture X Business card to pay your TSA PreCheck® or Global Entry application fee and become a member of either program, you can get a statement credit of up to $100.1 Cardholders are eligible for one statement credit per account every four years. You may want to keep that in mind when it’s time to renew your membership.

4. Avoid peak travel days

Summer has plenty of popular travel days—Memorial Day, the Fourth of July and Labor Day. But some of the busiest travel days of the year can be ones that surround the fall and winter holidays. 

As we continue navigating the COVID-19 pandemic, travel volume continues to fluctuate. However, some sources believe that travel spending is starting to level out and that traditionally busy travel times—like holidays—will begin to see a resurgence.

Want to avoid holiday lines at the airport? Consider extending your trip or arriving early to avoid these busy travel days.

5. Consider alternate airports

Some airports—especially big travel hubs—are infamous for longer security lines. 

But if you’re traveling through a major city, you may have options to avoid long lines and crowds. 

Many big cities have multiple airports. And flying in or out of a smaller, less centrally located airport might help you avoid the longest lines. With shorter lines and fewer people moving in and out, alternate airports could provide more efficient travel.

Flying in or out of the nation’s capital? There are three airports in the Washington metro area to consider. Spending a long weekend soaking up the sun in South Florida? You might want to think about traveling through Fort Lauderdale’s airport instead of Miami International. 

6. Get elite status for airlines

Many airlines offer elite status that can help travelers get through airport lines faster by offering benefits like priority boarding, dedicated security lines at some airports and free checked bags. The benefits may also be extended to any companions traveling with an elite member.

In most cases, you can gain elite status through points programs or by using airline credit cards. And in some cases, elite status packages can be purchased directly from the airline. Check with your preferred carrier for more information about the options and any limitations.

If you decide an elite status package isn’t for you, you may be able to pay your airline to get priority status in airport lines, depending on which airport you’re using and where you’re flying. Purchasing a priority status ticket may allow you to get through check-in and security lines faster and to board earlier.

7. Understand TSA rules

Having an understanding of TSA’s rules and regulations might also help you move through the airport lines more smoothly.

Here are some general tips that may ease the screening process:

  • Take your laptop out of its case and place it in an individual bin unless you’re using TSA PreCheck®. 
  • Make sure any liquids you’re carrying are in containers that are 3.4 ounces or less and fit in a quart-size, clear plastic bag. These should be placed in a separate bin.
  • Remember to empty your pockets and place any items in a bin.

These are just some of the rules to know about. It’s a good idea to make sure you know about all TSA rules and regulations before you fly.

8. Be prepared for COVID-19 requirements

It’s also important to note that COVID-19 requirements and restrictions are constantly changing. Make sure to check restrictions for your destination—and any airline-specific requirements—before you travel.

Some international destinations might require negative COVID-19 tests for entry. Knowing what will be required of you before traveling might help you get through airport lines faster. 

To help get through checkpoints faster, you may want to print out your test results prior to arriving at the airport, just in case you have slow cell service or can’t access your phone easily. It’s a good idea to check ahead to see what types of documentation will be accepted.

Travelers without proper documentation can be denied boarding. And while some airports have testing sites, you might be charged for the test—and it could delay you.

9. Utilize airport lounges

Airport lounges like the Capital One Lounges are designed to help you avoid the airport crowds and grab a bite to eat or something to drink while waiting for your flight. If you’re a Venture X or Venture X Business cardholder, you can also enjoy complimentary or specially priced access to Capital One Lounges at Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) International Airport, Denver International Airport (DEN) and Dulles International Airport (IAD) outside Washington, D.C.

The Capital One Lounges offer you a space to recharge, and they come with several amenities:2 

  • Use high-speed Wi-Fi to get some work done, watch a video or listen to a podcast.
  • Reflect in a multifaith room.
  • Grab a cup of coffee.
  • Settle into a relaxation room.
  • Get a workout or stretch in the cycling or yoga rooms.
  • Tend to little ones in a private nursing space.

Your complimentary Priority Pass™ membership from your Visa Infinite® benefits also lets you escape the crowds and relax before you fly at participating airport lounges worldwide. 

With a little planning and the right tools, you may be able to avoid long lines at the airport. And with less time spent in lines, you might be able to spend extra time exploring a new city or grabbing some local food.

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