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How to Skip the Lines and Save Money at Airports

6 minute read

By Katie Ormsby

Whether traveling for work or play, we bet you’d rather not start your trip by standing in long airport lines. And we bet you’d like to save as much money as possible. Fortunately, savvy travelers have several options to beat the crowd and keep more money in their pockets.

If you want an airport experience that’s less stressful and more affordable, then keep reading. These 12 tips can help you skip the lines and save money at airports.

Skip Long Lines With TSA PreCheck

Love to travel but dread long airport lines? Then you may want to consider TSA PreCheck. It’s a five-year membership that can save you significant time at more than 200 airports nationwide. In fact, the TSA says 94% of TSA PreCheck passengers got through security in less than five minutes in April 2022.

Members get access to TSA PreCheck lanes and other time-saving perks. For instance, they don’t need to remove shoes, laptops, jackets, or liquid toiletries. The application fee is $85. However, several credit cards cover the fee as a member benefit. So, check that out before applying.

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Save Time With Global Entry

If you plan to travel abroad anytime soon, then you may want to consider Global Entry instead. It provides the same perks as TSA PreCheck and then some. In addition to TSA PreCheck benefits, Global Entry passengers get to save time when they return to the U.S. after traveling internationally.

With Global Entry, you get to skip the general customs line. Instead, you can use a Global Entry kiosk to scan your passport and fingerprints, complete the customs declaration form, and reenter the U.S. The application fee is $100, but many credit cards also cover the fee as a member benefit.

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Speed Up the Process With Clear

You know the line you wait through so TSA agents can check everyone’s ID and boarding pass? With Clear, you can skip that line and go straight to the bag screening line. Rather than waiting in the ID check line, you can use a Clear kiosk to verify your identity with biometric data like your fingerprints.

Unlike TSA PreCheck and Global Entry, Clear is run by a private company instead of the government. According to Clear, it’s available at more than 50 airports across the country and costs $179 per year. Some credit cards and airline loyalty programs cover part of the cost, so be sure to look into that.

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Purchase Priority Lane Access

Depending on the airline you choose, you may have another option to consider. Some airlines sell upgraded tickets that give passengers access to priority security lanes. Take United’s Premier Access, for example. It grants access to exclusive security lanes, check-in lines, and priority boarding.

Elite status is another way to access those perks. Airlines often give their elite members access to exclusive security lanes, etc. Elite status can typically be unlocked by using an airline credit card or through a points program. So, check out your options before purchasing a ticket.

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Take Advantage of Apps

Several apps can also help you save time and stress at the airport. For instance, you can use the MyTSA App to check delays, cancellations, and security line wait times. Plus, you can use it to assess how busy the airport is likely to be on any given day based on historical data.

Then there’s App in the Air, which can notify you if your departure time, gate, or terminal changes. And if you travel abroad, then the Mobile Passport Control app can streamline the customs process. Users who complete a profile and answer questions in the app can use the Mobile Passport Control lane.

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Park at a Nearby Hotel

If you’ve ever left your car at an airport, then you know just how expensive on-site parking can be. But you may be able to save money by parking at a nearby hotel instead. As a matter of fact, USA Today says certain hotels allow you to park your car for as little as $5 per day.

The source suggests using AirportParkingReservations.com to compare options and reserve parking. The site also provides helpful information like whether the hotel provides a free shuttle to and from the airport. You can also call airport hotels directly to see if you can reserve parking.

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Avoid Peak Travel Days

Traveling on non-peak days whenever possible can save you time and money. According to ABC 7 Chicago, industry experts recommend flying on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. They also recommend avoiding holidays like Memorial Day weekend as well as right before and after the Fourth of July.

Peak travel days are typically busier and more expensive. Plus, the source says they’re more likely to have delays. As previously mentioned, you can use the MyTSA App to see how busy the airport is projected to be on any given day. That way, you’re more likely to avoid crowds when you travel.

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Use Less Busy Airports

Similarly, you can save time by flying in and out of certain airports. If you’re traveling to or from a city with multiple airports, then spend some time assessing your options. For instance, AARP says Dallas/Fort Worth, Chicago’s O’Hare, and Los Angeles’ LAX are some of the busiest airports.

The source suggests using alternate or secondary airports instead. For instance, there’s Love Field in Dallas, Midway Airport in Chicago, or Hollywood Burbank Airport (formally known as Bob Hope Airport) in Los Angeles.

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Bring an Empty Water Bottle

Snacks and drinks tend to be overpriced at the airport. For example, the Los Angeles Times found bottles of water are 200% more expensive at airports, according to Business Insider. So, you can save yourself a few bucks by bringing an empty water bottle you can fill up at water fountains.

Alternatively, you could freeze the water in your water bottle. According to the TSA, “frozen liquid items are allowed through the checkpoint as long as they are frozen solid when presented for screening.” However, partially melted or slushy drinks must meet the 3-1-1 liquids requirements.

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Pack As Lightly As Possible

If you want to save time and money at the airport, then don’t check bags. Gone are the days of free checked bags. Now, the median fee is $25 for the first checked bag and $35 for the second, according to Money. That can really add up, especially if you’re traveling with your family.

Limiting yourself to carry-on luggage saves not only money but also time. First of all, you can skip the bag-check line before your flight. And second of all, you won’t need to wait at baggage claims after your flight. Plus, you won’t need to worry about lost or delayed luggage.

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Dress With Security Lines in Mind

Strategically dressing is another thing you can do to make traveling easier and keep security lines moving. Since those in general security lines need to remove jewelry, watches, and belts, consider packing those in your carry-on instead of wearing them.

Likewise, consider wearing slip-on shoes that are easy to take off. That way, you can get them in the bin quickly. In addition to dressing strategically, you can save time by making sure your electronics and liquid toiletries are easy to access in your carry-on.

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Choose an Overnight Flight

The time of day can also affect ticket prices and crowd sizes. That’s why OneTravel recommends red-eye flights. Since many people avoid overnight flights, the source says airlines often price the “seats at much lower prices.” Additionally, airports are typically less busy late at night.

So, you can save time by getting through security lines faster. Plus, you’ll be less likely to get stuck in traffic because the roads tend to be less busy late at night. And who knows? You might even get bumped up to first-class or at least get a row to yourself since overnight flights often have fewer passengers.

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Katie Ormsby

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