illustration by Allison Berg

Travel Tips

5 TSA Survival Tips for Women of Color

It’s no secret that going through the TSA line can conjure up some uneasy feelings for us.

It’s no secret that going through the TSA line can conjure up some uneasy feelings for women of color. Women of color often feel anxiety about being targeted in some way while getting through the TSA. The feeling of being on display in front of other travelers and airport security while you get the dreaded curly hair pat down is not an ideal experience. We cannot control what happens, but we can control our reactions to it. Here are some ideas for getting through the process as quickly and painlessly as possible so that, at the very least, we can ease the technical stress of going through airport security and walk away with our confidence still intact.

If you plan to travel a lot within the United States, consider signing up for TSA PreCheck. This service allows you to bypass the long lines and breeze through security. Membership is $85 and lasts for five years. You apply online and then schedule a 10-minute interview with a TSA agent. Be prepared to present a valid passport or other form of government ID (driver’s license, ID card, or permanent resident card) and your birth certificate. (Global Entry is a similar service for international travel.)

If TSA PreCheck isn’t an option, the following tips will help you keep the line moving:

  • Keep your ID/passport and ticket together in the same pocket. Easy access will allow you to quickly present your info without frantically shuffling through your purse or bag. Put other items you don’t need to have readily available (keys, phone, etc.) in a different pocket.
  • Take the outside lanes. Less savvy travelers shuffle straight ahead, so the middle lanes are usually longer. Take the lanes on the far left and far right.
  • Wear a light jacket. Odds are you’ll want something lightweight and removable for those wildly fluctuating flight temps, and you can also stash items like your keys, phone, and ID/passport and ticket in the pockets. When you remove your jacket to go through the body scan, all your items are corralled in the pockets and less likely to get lost in the shuffle.
  • What goes on the X-ray belt. Take off shoes, belts, and jackets. Take your laptop, quart-sized bag of liquids, phone, and camera out of your bag. Any liquids over 3.4 oz. have to go in your checked baggage.
  • Wear slip-on shoes. Avoid awkwardly bending over to untie your shoes with a heavy carry-on slung over your shoulder. Slip-on sneakers are especially useful in case you have to break into a sprint to catch a flight. But skip the sandals, unless you don’t mind feeling the dirty airport rug under your bare feet.
  • Ask the TSA person to ask you or let you know if they need to touch your head/hair. There is nothing wrong with asking for what you need in this situation.

Lastly, take a deep breath. TSA lines are one of more undesirable aspects of travel even if you are the most savvy traveller. A zig zagging line of shuffling people looking bleary eyed, preparing to disrobe, and trying to make a flight is just a part of the whole airport experience. If you begin getting approached for a curly hair pat down – or it seems like you are getting barked at by a TSA person, keep your head up, and know that you belong there. Don’t let the cattle herding type orders from TSA freak you out. Take your time, and know this part of the process.

Leave a Reply