12 Things TSA Agents Really Want You To Know

Keeping these TSA tips in mind can help you get through security quicker and even save money.

People waiting in security line at airport
Updated May 28, 2024
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You may be planning for your next trip, but have you thought about your time at the airport before you get there? Maybe not if you don't like traveling by air, but thinking through it beforehand can save you valuable time.

You’ll have to park your car, check-in, get your luggage sorted, and then stand in the dreaded line to get through TSA security. But there are some things you can do that will make it easier for you to get through.

Here’s a list of things TSA agents want you to know that could help you have a better experience before you head out for your next flight.

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Consider TSA PreCheck

ViDi Studio/Adobe woman ready for summer vacation

You have a quicker option if you don’t like standing in line and waiting to get through TSA.

Apply for TSA’s PreCheck or Global Entry to get through security quicker. Check the top travel credit cards to see which one offers you access to these programs.

No need to take off your shoes, belts, or other items. And you can also get in a separate line that can get you through security quicker, as well as bring children 12 and under with you if you’re part of the program.

Most medications won’t cause issues

New Africa/Adobe medicine pouch in travel suitcase

Prescription medications won’t cause you a problem when you travel through security screenings even if you have them in a pill case instead of a bottle with a clear label on them.

There may be one exception and that’s if you have liquid medications. You just have to tell the TSA that they’re in your bag before the screening process so they can check them.

And no, there is no limit to liquids that are medically needed compared to the 3.4 ounces for things like shampoo.

Review what you can bring on your flight

mtrlin/Adobe young boy booking vacation using laptop

Not sure about an item you want to take through TSA? They’re prepared for that.

Check out the TSA’s “What can I bring?” website to see if your questionable item is allowed or not. The site lists typical items you might be traveling with as well as more unusual options like antlers or tea kettles. 

Both are allowed, but the TSA asks that you review airline restrictions for the size of items that can fit in an overhead bin or under the seat in front of you.

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Keep your liquids in a plastic bag

zigres/Adobe man packing cosmetics in traveling bag

You may want to take shampoo, lotion, or other liquids in your carry-on that are within TSA regulations.

It’s also recommended you put all of them in a plastic bag so they’re together in case the TSA needs to check them. Consider a large sandwich bag and one that seals shut to protect your clothes and other items from possible leaks.

And remember to limit your liquids to 3.4-ounce containers. Even if you have 3.4 ounces of a product in a 5-ounce container, TSA will make you check it or throw it out, which could cost you money.

Liquids for children might be fine

Maria Sbytova/Adobe cute boy playing with luggage

In addition to medical exceptions for liquids, there are also exceptions for kids.

So feel free to bring milk or formula as well as baby food through the security line and let TSA know that you have those items in your bag in case they want to check them.

Breastfeeding moms can also bring pumped breast milk even if you aren’t traveling with your kids.

Check for your items before you walk away

Monkey Business/Adobe man placing tablet at airport security

You often have to put things like a belt, wallet, watch, phone, or keys in the TSA bin along with your shoes. So make sure you take a quick check for all your belongings before you head to your gate.

If you do leave something behind, there are ways to get it back such as TSA’s lost and found page or you can contact the agency through its AskTSA pages on Twitter and Facebook.

Get ready for the security check while you’re in line

Tawanboonnak/Adobe girl holding boarding pass with passport

Sometimes lines can be long to get through TSA, but you can use that time wisely to be prepared.

Make sure you have your ticket in your hand as well as your ID instead of digging around for your wallet when you finally get to a screening. 

That way you can be screened quickly and move along without holding up other passengers.

Kid gear will be screened

kasto/Adobe woman holding infant boy at airport

It can be frustrating to travel with kids so make sure you’re prepared with what to expect when you get there.

You’ll have to take kids out of strollers and car seats so they can go through the x-ray machines at TSA checkpoints or you can ask for them to be screened by TSA personnel if they don’t fit.

The good news is you can take your kids with you through the metal detectors so don’t worry about being separated from them.

They write on your ticket for a reason

Burin/Adobe female airport ground staff checking passport

TSA checkpoints include agents who review your ID and make sure the information matches with the information on your ticket. You may notice that an agent may put a mark on your ticket or some letters before they let you go. 

Those letters may be their initials and badge number and it’s just to let the airlines know that you’ve been screened by a TSA agent.

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Organic products can get you pulled aside

Svitlana/Adobe airport security standing with detection dog

Unfortunately, bringing home some tasty treats from your time away could get you in some trouble. Things like meats and cheeses can show up looking like explosives on the TSA’s baggage scanner.

So think about packing them in your checked luggage or perhaps eating them before you head through security instead of taking them all the way home with you.

Think about what you’re wearing

pressmaster/Adobe female airport security scanning businessman

TSA requires passengers over the age of 12 to take their shoes off so try and pick comfortable shoes that are easy to slip on and off. 

You should also remember to wear socks with your shoes so you don’t have to walk across the very public floor with your bare feet. It’s also a good idea to consider your outer garments.

Winter coats and jackets will have to be taken off and sent through the scanner in colder months but also remember that hoodies, cardigans, and other outer layers may have to go through the x-ray machine.

Pack a well-organized carry-on

davit85/Adobe woman at hotel packing luggage

Taking a carry-on instead of checking a suitcase is one of the many traveler hacks that can save you money. TSA doesn’t mind scanning it like they scan bags and other things going through security.

But you could end up holding up security lines with an over-stuffed and messy bag that might need to be checked.

So take a little extra time before you get to the airport and make sure your bag is neatly packed in case you get pulled out for additional screenings by TSA.

Bottom line

Prostock-studio/Adobe woman using laptop for booking trip

So are you ready to avoid wasting money and time when you go on your next trip?

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Traveling for business or pleasure both require some degree of planning. So to make sure you start on the right foot, make sure you’re ready for the airport security check.

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Jenny Cohen

Jenny Cohen is a freelance writer who has covered a bit of everything, from finance to sports to her favorite TV shows. Her work has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and FoxSports.com.