How to Skip Long Lines when you Travel

19 May 2023
How to Skip Long Lines when you Travel

I can’t think of anyone that likes standing in lines. It’s a huge waste of your precious travel time. Would you agree?

Thankfully, now more than ever, there are many ways to bypass lines when you travel.

Read on to find out how to skip the line everywhere you go.

Consider timing

Timing is critical in how well you can avoid crowds and long lines. Here are some tips for optimizing your travel timing:

  • Try to travel in the off- or shoulder seasons. Fewer people mean shorter lines and less crowding around the things you want to see.
  • Visit popular sites in the early morning or late evening.
  • Always check the local calendar for events or holidays that could attract crowds.
  • Check the local customs for opening and closing times for your travel days.

One Christmas season, my family and I were traveling in England, and we were shocked to find out that the museums closed very early. This wasn’t the norm throughout the rest of the year, but those ‘winter hours’ meant we never got to see the Tower of London, and I still regret it.

Know the rules

The TSA has a lot of rules. If you want to breeze through security, you gotta follow them all. See What Can I Bring if you need a reminder.

Pre-book everything

Bypass the ticket queues by pre-booking everything you can. Museums, bus rides, even that cultural walking tour—almost everything can and should be pre-booked before your trip.

Use sites like GetYourGuide.com (my favorite) and Viator.com to research things to do, compare prices and pre-book tickets.

Pro tip: Be sure to download the booking system’s app so you can look up the ticket details and even make last-minute adjustments as you go along.

Pick the right suitcase

While you might not think your suitcase would be a factor in whether you have to wait in line or not, you’re wrong. What makes a suitcase wrong for bypassing lines?

If a suitcase is too big or too heavy, you’ll be stuck in a line. If the bag doesn’t fit in the overhead bin, you’ll have to check it, and you’ll have to stand in line to do it. If it’s too heavy, you’ll first have to empty some of the weight out and then re-weigh it (another line).

The best suitcase for speeding through security lines: 

  • Meets the carry-on size imposed by airlines (with these typical dimensions: 22 x 14 x 9)
  • Is constructed of lightweight and sturdy materials
  • Includes easy-access compartments for quick removal of liquids and electronics

Selecting a suitcase with the right features can significantly speed up the security process.

Use all the mobile apps

One of the positive things to come out of the recent global pandemic is companies used their downtime to invest in technology. There are so many mobile and digital options that allow you to skip long queues, it’s worth taking the time to investigate whether there’s an app for any line you think you may encounter.

I put all the travel-related apps into a folder on my phone so I can find them quickly. Here are a few in my folder right now:

  • Airline apps – use these to check in, select your seat, and get your boarding pass.
  • MyTSA – use this one a couple of hours before you leave for the airport to check the security line wait times.
  • Priority Pass and LoungeBuddy – use these to discover airport lounges along the way.
  • Starbucks – use this to stay caffeinated through US airports.

Nearly every travel provider along your trip will have an app, including apps for lodging like Airbnb, VRBO, and Hotels.com. 

Pro tip: Even if you didn’t use the app to book your lodging, be sure to have it when you leave in case you need to adjust your booking in any way.

Warning: Be cautious using public QR codes; crooks have figured out how to use them to redirect victims to malicious websites and steal your login and financial info.

Sign up for priority services

If you value your time like I do, you’ll have already signed up for a security service or two. If you haven’t already, what are you waiting for?

  • TSA PreCheck (for quicker US airport screening)
  • Global Entry (for re-entering the US, includes TSA PreCheck)
  • CLEAR (also for cutting the US security lines, but $$)
  • NEXUS (for expedited re-entry to the US from Canada, also includes TSA PreCheck)

Yes, these services have a cost, but how much is your time worth these days?

Damian Tysdal

Damian Tysdal is the founder of CoverTrip, and is a licensed agent for travel insurance (MA 1883287). He believes travel insurance should be easier to understand, and started the first travel insurance blog in 2006.

Damian Tysdal is the founder of CoverTrip, and is a licensed agent for travel insurance (MA 1883287). He believes travel insurance should be easier to understand, and started the first travel insurance blog in 2006.