June 4, 2024 | Marlon Wright

15 Things The TSA Wants Us To Stop Doing

TSA Screenings Don’t Have To Suck

Passing through TSA checkpoints often frazzles the nerves, even when you know you haven’t done anything wrong. But it doesn’t have to be that way. 

Here are some tips from actual Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agents.


1. Wearing Too Much Metal

Heading through airport security can be a breeze or a bit of a hassle, depending on how you approach it. If you're someone who loves accessorizing with jewelry or sporting flashy metal pieces, you might want to dial it down a bit before stepping into those security lines.

Person wearing black leather pants and jacket with zippersStudio Light and Shade, Shutterstock

Wearing Too Much Metal (cont’d)

When you’re traveling, it's all about simplifying your look. Choose comfort over glamour until you've arrived at your destination. Pack your statement pieces safely in your carry-on bags, making sure they're tucked away and won't cause any unnecessary delays during the security check.

Woman choosing to wear a metal ringNarisaFotoSS, Shutterstock

2. Leaving Electronics In Your Bag

Leaving your electronic devices in your bag might not seem like a big deal, but doing so can cause major delays during the TSA’s screening process. While some airports have scanners that can screen electronics through bags, most don’t so be prepared ahead of time.

Top View Photo Gadgets on Hardwood FloorAndrew Neel, Pexels

Leaving Electronics In Your Bag (cont’d)

Before you get to the conveyor belt, take out your phone, laptop, and any other electronic devices and put them in the bins. It seems simple, but this one small act can save a lot of headache for you and the TSA agents.

Man hand pulls a gray laptopAlex Ageev, Shutterstock

3. Cluttered Carry-On

If TSA agents have to check your carry-on luggage, having a messy bag can waste a lot of time. A disorganized bag takes longer to search and can cause you to have to go through manual screenings, like a pat down.

upset woman with messy bagBearFotos, Shutterstock

Cluttered Carry-On (cont’d)

Pack your carry-on with intention and organize the bag so that liquids and electronics are easily accessible. The easier it is for TSA agents to find what they’re looking for, the quicker you can be on your way to your destination.

woman packing hand luggagewarodom changyencham, Shutterstock

4. Forgetting To Remove Liquids

Forgetting to take liquids out of your carry-on bag often means you’ll be doing the dreaded unpacking-and-repacking routine at the security line.

person holding liquids in hand on airport securityMonkey Business Images, Shutterstock

Forgetting To Remove Liquids (cont’d)

Make sure you follow TSA guidelines when packing your liquids. That includes keep everything easily accessible and under 3.4 ounces.

Airport security check before flightJaromir Chalabala, Shutterstock

5. Letting Kids Run Wild

If you’ve got kids, then you know just how quickly an easygoing outing can turn into an embarrassing public meltdown. This is even worse when kids get rowdy during TSA screenings, where they can take the agents’ focus away from important duties. If you’re flying with children, come prepared.

Small girl doing cartwheels exercise on the airportJakub Rutkiewicz, Shutterstock

Letting Kids Run Wild (cont’d)

For older kids, talk to them about how you expect them to behave during the security screening. Babies can be carried on you with a carrier and usually won’t have to be taken out of the carrier during screening. Having snacks is always handy for younger kids, too—just make sure to store them in easily accessible Ziploc bags.

Little boy run in airport loungeSergey Novikov, Shutterstock

6. Not Declaring Money

Even if you were the richest person in the world, walking through airport security with a ton of cash would cause some suspicion. If you have to carry cash when your flying, always declare how much you have on your person.

banknotes in pocket of jacketKarolina Grabowska, Pexels

Not Declaring Money (cont’d)

Like many things on this list, not declaring cash might seem like nothing serious, but you’d actually be breaking the law. If you have more than $10,000 in cash or similar items, you must declare it to the TSA. That rule applies to any form of currency, regardless of whether it’s domestic or international.

Wallet with pile of American paper dollarsKarolina Grabowska, Pexels

7. Food That Triggers The X-Ray Machine

If you’re a fan of chocolates or cheese, be careful when packing these items in your carry-on. Certain food packaging, like the foil wrappings on Hershey’s Kisses, can trigger alarms in the X-ray machine. And forget about big blocks of cheese—those can look like explosives on the X-ray screen.

blocks of cheese in the marketcalimedia, Shutterstock

Food That Triggers The X-Ray Machine

To avoid raising any unnecessary alarms during the TSA screenings, eat your chocolates on the ride to the airport or wait to buy them until you’ve passed through security.

image of a man buying stuff from vending machinesimona pilolla 2, Shutterstock

8. Not Being Ready With Your Documents

No one wants to wait while you fumble around looking for your identification or boarding pass. And if you happened to forget either of those things at home, don’t try spinning a sad story—you’re not getting past security without those documents.

image of travel documents and health certificateLeeloo The First, Pexels

Not Being Ready With Your Documents (cont’d)

Keep your ID, boarding pass, and any other important paperwork in where they're easy to reach. Before you get to the TSA agent, have your documents in hand so you don’t have to waste time looking for them in your bag.

image of travel documentsTorsten Dettlaff, Pexels

9. Ignoring Instructions

It's never good to ignore instructions, but trying that with the TSA is especially bad. Pushing back against their rules could find you face down on the ground.

image of instructions at airportWirestock Creators, Shutterstock

Ignoring Instructions (cont’d)

Even if they don’t apprehend you, you could still pay thousands of dollars in fines, so it’s better to just comply without question when agents ask you to take off your shoes or empty out your pockets.

stewardess is showing safety rules before flyYaroslav Astakhov, Shutterstock

10. Talking On The Phone

People are rarely interested in overhearing random phone conversations. TSA agents also aren’t interested in hearing your one-sided conversation.

woman talking on smartphone in airportGustavo Fring, Pexels

Talking On The Phone (cont’d)

Put the phone down till you’ve passed through security. If you’re chatting away during the screening, you could miss important instructions from the TSA agents and hold up the entire line. If you really do have to contact someone as you’re going through security, send a text instead.

male in formal suit talking on smartphoneGustavo Fring, Pexels

11. Carrying Prohibited Items

It may seem silly, but people are always trying to sneak prohibited items through the security screening. Ninja throwing stars and replica grenades are just two surprisingly common items that TSA agents have confiscated from travelers.

image of airport sign for prohibited itemsChameleonsEye, Shutterstock

Carrying Prohibited Items (cont’d)

In addition to using some common sense (we all know you can’t bring knives on a plane, right?!), check the TSA regulations and guidelines from your airline to know what you shouldn’t be packing away in your carry-on. If you’re caught with a prohibited item, it could hold up the screening process and lead to expensive fines.

Airport security check before flight with can for prohibited itemsKirti Bhole, Shutterstock

12. Wearing Fancy Footwear

There’s little reason to be wearing your fanciest pair of kicks at the airport. No one really cares what shoes you’re wearing during the flight and if they’ve got a lot of snaps, straps, or buttons you could waste time taking them off during the security screening.

Woman wearing classic black high heelsArthur Bargan, Shutterstock

Wearing Fancy Footwear (cont’d)

Keep things simple on travel day and opt for shoes that are easy to slip on and off. TSA agents just want to keep the line moving smoothly, they don’t care about your sense of fashion.

Woman wearing high heels sandalsMinoli, Shutterstock

13. Making Inappropriate Jokes

The TSA screening line is not the time to test out your funny bone. And if you joke about the wrong things—like bombs or weapons—you’ll be treated to a free tour of a TSA interrogation room.

Portrait of joyful happy bearded man laughing loudly and pointing to cameraKhosro, Shutterstock

Making Inappropriate Jokes (cont’d)

Save the funny talk for once you’ve passed security. If you have to make small talk with the agents, keep it polite and cordial. Otherwise, just follow their instructions and keep the line moving.

Handsome man pointing with finger at someone and laughingLuis Molinero, Shutterstock

14. Petting The TSA K9 Unit

For some of us, not saying “high” to a cute pup is hard to do, but when it comes to the TSA dogs you see at the airport, you’d better keep your hands to yourself. Just like the agents, these dogs are working hard to keep us safe.

security worker and German Shepherd dog checking travel suitcaseYAKOBCHUK VIACHESLAV, Shutterstock

Petting The TSA K9 Unit (cont’d)

TSA dogs are trained to find bombs and other harmful items in people’s luggage. Interacting with them while they’re on the clock can distract them from their duties, so always get permission from the dog’s handler before you try to say “hello”.

German Shepherd dog checking travel suitcaseYAKOBCHUK VIACHESLAV, Shutterstock

15. Asking Agents To Change Gloves

Considering all the risks associated with germs and cross-contamination, asking the TSA agent to change their gloves before your screening seems like a logical idea. However, it’s standard procedure for TSA agents to frequently change their gloves, and doing so for every person that requests it would put a major stall in the screening process.

A TSA agent searches luggage at an airportCarolina K. Smith MD, Shutterstock

Asking Agents To Change Gloves (cont’d)

The primary goal of the TSA screening process is to ensure the safety of all travelers. If you have concerns about the screening process or specific needs during travel, you can contact TSA Cares 72 hours before your flight. They’ll answer all your questions and provide information on how you can get all the support you need during TSA screening.

TSA security at wooden tableGlynnis Jones, Shutterstock


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