The airport security line can be intimidating, especially if you don't travel often and have trouble remembering all the rules. Even more intimidating is the prospect of setting off the metal detector or full-body scanner and being sent to a secondary screening. Here are a few strategies for reducing your chances of being asked to step aside for a search:
First, know the general guidelines. Belts and shoes must be removed and placed in a bin. Try to avoid wearing a belt if possible. If not, choose one that is light and easily removed. Take it off, roll it up, and place it in your carry-on before you get to the x-ray machine. Wear shoes that slip on and off easily. Knee-high, buckled boots are probably not the most efficient choice! Wearing socks is advised, since you'll be walking barefoot through an area that thousands of people traverse each day.
Have your carry-on bag well-organized and neatly packed. This makes it easier for the items inside to be viewed on the x-ray machine, and also makes it easier to remove items from the bag if requested. Bulky electronic devices like laptops and DVD players must be removed from your bag before entering the x-ray machine, so have them placed in your bag in such a way that you can easily remove them.
All liquids must be in containers of 3 fluid ounces or less, and the liquid containers must be inside a plastic zip-top bag no larger than one quart. You are only allowed to carry on one quart sized bag of liquid containers.
TSA asks that all "bulky" jewelry be placed in your carry-on bag. I've found that "bulky" can be subjective depending on which TSA agent you encounter, so I typically only wear my wedding ring through the x-ray or full-body scanner. I do this because I once removed my wedding ring with the rest of my jewelry, and TSA pulled me aside to tell me that I did not need to do that. So much for saving time! Of course, the easiest route is to pack your jewelry in your checked luggage or your carry-on so that you have one less thing to remove when you reach the security line. If at all possible, remove earrings and other body piercings beforehand as well.
Wearing appropriate clothing will also help speed your trip through the line. Try and wear simple clothes, such as jeans and a t-shirt. Avoid clothes with large metal buttons or buckles, as well as bulky clothing that may make it difficult for the full-body scanner to determine if you are concealing anything. If you are wearing a coat, you will be asked to send it through the x-ray machine, so have it removed when you approach the line or avoid the hassle by packing it in your checked luggage.
Most importantly, EMPTY YOUR POCKETS! Essentially, nothing should pass through the metal detector or full-body scanner but you and your clothes. ESPECIALLY the full-body scanner, as this will pick up any little object you may be carrying, and if your pockets are not empty, you will be pulled aside for a secondary screening. During my last vacation I saw a man being patted down in front of me because he did not remove a gas station receipt from his back pocket. I find the best strategy is to place everything I usually keep in my pockets into my carry-on bag, except my photo ID and boarding pass. I place these items in the bin with my shoes so I don't lose track of them.
If you are in doubt about something, check the TSA website or contact your airline, they can answer any questions you can think of. It's best to trust your gut, and if you feel like wearing a certain item of clothing or bringing an item through security might cause a problem, put it in your checked luggage and don't take the chance.
When it comes to dealing with airport security, preparation is your best friend. Not only will you speed up your own trip through the line, but you'll make it a little quicker and less stressful for your fellow travelers as well!