It's travel season, and TSA lines aren't getting any shorter. But let's face it: Fuming in the security line won't get you anywhere (because, surprise, you're still not moving.)
Here's a better alternative: Read this handy Get-Through-The-Airport-Without-Losing-Your-Mind Guide, complete with tricks for getting through security fast, entertaining yourself during delays and finding a dog to pet when you just want to sob like a 6-year-old.
We will explain.
First Off, Apply For TSA Pre-Check
We know. This isn't exactly helpful if you're already going nuts in the line. But use the heightening frustration you feel as motivation to finally apply for the program. (And do it fast: reports that in the past three months, the number of applicants for TSA PreCheck have doubled to nearly 16,000 per day. Thanks, ridiculously long lines.)
Essentially, the PreCheck program lets you bypass all that security line madness and go through security without removing shoes, laptops, liquids, light jackets or belts. The application process does involve a five-year, $85 application fee, but in the midst of holiday travel season, we suspect it's completely worth it.
"It's really a must for all travelers," says Brian Kelly, founder and CEO of travel website . "In my experience, I get through TSA security in under five minutes, which is especially crucial now because we've seen growing TSA security lines. That $85 can save you hours every year."
Do A Quick Mental Check In The Security Line
The second you get to the front of the security line, you want to get through it fast. So, take a few seconds to stop scrolling through Instagram and instead check your pockets for coins, your luggage for over-the-limit liquids and your clothing for items (like belts) that might set off the body scanner.
It sounds simple, but it means you won't have to go through security twice. Shudder.
"Make sure you know what security entails," says Gary Leff, author of the travel site . "You want to have as little metal on your body as possible and you want to have your bag as pre-prepared as possible."
Also, if you're approaching boarding time, take a deep breath.
"Remember that most flights begin to board 30 minutes before departure, but if you're there 15 minutes before, you're still going to make your flight," says Leff. "So you probably don't have to stress if you're not quite through security and it's 40 minutes before your flight."
Ask If There's A Therapy Dog Available (Really)
Look, we know it sounds slightly loopy. But if you're a nervous traveler who is getting increasingly anxious waiting around at the airport, ask if the airport offers a therapy dog. These canines have been spotted at airports across the country, including Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport and Denver International Airport.
"Our job is to decrease stress in people," Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport volunteer Patti Anderson told , a local news station. "There's very solid research that petting not only a dog, but warm-blooded, fur-coated animals reduces stress and lowers blood pressure."
Of course, you could always plan ahead and travel with your own furry pal.
If your airport doesn't have therapy dogs, visit the yoga room or chapel for some peace and quiet. Just a few minutes of "om" can make a big difference in your stress levels.
Check Out The Airport Lounges
This is where those airline credit cards or club cards come in handy, says Leff.
"United, for instance, has a credit card that offers two club passes per year so you can use their club lounge," says Leff. "It's really useful in the event of big delays or mechanical issues, or if you're going to miss a connection. The agents in the club can get you re-routed so you're not standing in long customer service lines."
Don't have a club card? Don't despair. Airlines often sell club passes to walk-ins, says Leff.
"They may be $50 on a walk-in basis," he says. "Or, you can also buy those passes ahead of time, discounted on Ebay, where they might go for less than $20." (Just make sure you're buying from a trusted seller.)
Or, if you have an Platinum or Centurion card, you're in luck.
"My favorite lounges are the American Express Centurion Lounges, which are sanctuaries," says Kelly. "They are gorgeous and free for AmEx Platinum and Centurion cardholders, and they actually have food you want to eat by top chefs. Best of all, there are no charges for food or beverages."
Oh, and they also come with napping pods, which translates to paradise in an airport. You can find in LaGuardia, Miami, Houston, Las Vegas, San Francisco, Seattle, Dallas and Houston.
Fuel Up With Delicious Food Or An Attraction
There's no need to cringe at the mention of "airport food." Many airports now have incredible cuisine offerings to keep your taste buds satisfied as you wait for your flight.
Some of the best include Torta Frontera by Rick Bayless (Terminal 1) at , National Coney Island (Terminal A) at and Piquillo (Terminal 5) at , according to .
Meanwhile, some airports have plenty of things to do while you wait. Take JFK, which much like New York City, operates around the clock — meaning you can get massages at certain spa kiosks until midnight, according to . Experience Asia's largest 4D projection screen at or get your teeth cleaned at a dentistry in .
Keep In Touch With The TSA
All tricks and entertainment aside, the best stress-free way to get through the airport quickly is to be well-informed and prepared with what to expect. The TSA has a just for that, which gives you wait times, current weather and airport status updates.
Also, if you're bored at the airport, may we point out that the TSA's Instagram account actually has quite the sense of humor? Take, for example, this gentle reminder not to stow jawbone tomahawks in your carry-on:
Thanks for the reminder, TSA.