If you travel by air very often, you’re likely familiar with long, slow security lines and the hassle of taking off your shoes, getting out your liquids, and removing your laptop from its bag. Add an extra shudder (and an extra five minutes) if you’re behind a family with small children and a stroller (we love you, traveling families, we’d just like to be in front of you in the security line!). We’re thrilled that there’s a way to avoid the headache of those long, slow security lines.
US travelers now have the option of applying for TSA PreCheck, which allows cardholders to bypass the regular security line, leave their shoes on, leave everything in their bags, and zip on through security with minimal hassle or slowdown. At the Milwaukee airport recently, we were at our gate less than ten minutes from the time we walked into the airport because of our TSA pre-check status!
Getting TSA PreCheck is a matter of filling out some paperwork, paying a fee, agreeing to a background check, and doing a short in-person interview. We had to wait several weeks for our interview appointments, but recently Erin’s parents went through the process and waited only a few days for their interviews by going up to Vancouver, Washington, instead of to the Portland airport, so be sure to ask about availability in other locations if the wait seems long at your local airport.
The fee is $85, so it’s not inexpensive, but TSA PreCheck status is good for five years. Even if you fly only four times a year, that’s about the cost of a cup of coffee from the airport kiosk each time, and you’ll probably spend more time in the coffee line than you did in the security line! Most major US airports participate in the program, and, the more you fly, the cheaper the per-use cost, of course. You can also pay a small surcharge ($15) to get a Global Entry card that allows you to bypass some of the US customs lines on international travel.
Each time you fly, you’ll need to enter your TSA number into your reservation so that you’re recognized as a PreCheck passenger. Entering your “Known Traveller” number into your reservation with a participating airline results in TSA PreCheck status noted on your boarding pass. Jeff traveled with a group of friends a few weeks ago, and all of them were upgraded to PreCheck status because their reservations were linked to his!
Having to wait in the regular security line isn’t the worst thing ever, but it sure is nice to have a shorter wait and avoid the hassle, especially at peak travel times. We’ll gladly forego four cups of coffee to make our flying experience that much more palatable.
What about you? Would you pay $85 for five years of automatic TSA PreCheck status? Let us know in the comments, and enjoy starting your next airline trip off with less stress — whether it’s for a week or a weekend!