5 Ways to Avoid Airport Lines

Learn how to spend less time standing around at the airport


Getting through an airport doesn’t have to be a headache. These five tips can help you avoid long lines and get 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 will let you check in 24 hours in advance. It 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. Many 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 a ton of time. 

First, you can skip the bag-check line before boarding your flight. Second, you won’t have to wait at baggage claim once you land. Plus, you avoid the risk of checked luggage getting 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 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 Long Lines With TSA PreCheck or Global Entry

TSA PreCheck or Global Entry can be a great way to save time. In addition to skipping regular security lines, members aren’t usually required to remove laptops, shoes, belts, 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 $85 for a five-year membership. A Global Entry membership is $100. The extra money may be worth it if you’re planning to travel internationally. Plus, it includes access to TSA PreCheck.

Use your Capital One® Venture® card to pay your application fee, and you can be reimbursed. Cardholders are eligible for one statement credit per account every four years. Keep that in mind when it’s time to renew. 

4. Avoid Peak Travel Days

Memorial Day, Labor Day and the Fourth of July prove that summer has plenty of hectic travel days. But some of the busiest travel days of the year surround the fall and winter holidays. In fact, TSA predicts record-breaking crowds for the 2019 holiday season.

For Thanksgiving, the agency expects the busiest days to be the day before the holiday and the Sunday following it. Christmas has historically followed a similar pattern. In 2018, travel peaked from December 19 to 24 and between December 26 and New Year’s Day. 

Want to avoid holiday lines at the airport? Consider extending your trip or arriving early to avoid these busy travel days. Interestingly, traveling on the holiday itself may be the most efficient choice.

5. Consider Alternate Airports

Some airports—especially big travel hubs—are infamous for security lines that seem to go on for miles. 

If you’re traveling through a major city, you don’t have to resign yourself to a crowded airport experience. 

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. 

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

With shorter lines and fewer people moving in and out, alternate airports could be the key to more efficient travel.

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


We hope that you found this helpful. Our content is not intended to provide legal, investment, or financial advice or to indicate the Capital One product or service is available or right for you. For specific advice about your unique circumstances, consider talking with a qualified professional.