Tell me if this sounds familiar: You pack everything the night before, give yourself plenty of time to get to the airport and arrive with more than an hour to spare before it's time to board your flight.
Then you see the security line: hundreds of people corralled into a double-back snake that makes your local DMV look like a model of efficiency.
The last thing you want to do is join that line. So don't. Many large airports have additional screening points that, while a little out of the way, more than make up for the inconvenience by being rarely used.
Log on to the Transportation Security Administration's Web site, which lists security checkpoints at every U.S. airport and publishes average wait times by the hour at waittime.tsa.dhs.gov.
There you can find out that, for example, the wait time at Newark Airport's Terminal C, Checkpoint 2 is an average of 11 minutes at 10 a.m. on a Sunday. At Checkpoint 1? Two minutes. It helps to know your airport's layout too. In general, airports shaped like a horseshoe (such as Dallas/Fort Worth International) have multiple screening points. If the terminals are connected beyond security, you can enter through the least busy line and make your way back to your gate.
At airports with one central security checkpoint (such as Denver), the shorter lines are usually the ones at the outer edges, away from where most of the traffic is funneled. And airports with hotels attached, such as Detroit Metro (the Westin) or Dallas/Fort Worth (the Hyatt), often have a separate security entrance for hotel guests, but anyone can use it.