Are you traveling for the holidays? If so, are you ready to conquer the stress of lines, security checks, and delays? If you think you are ready, you might want to think again.
The holiday season is the busiest time to travel with an average of 98.6 million Americans traveling around the country to see their families. The holidays are supposed to be filled with joy and happiness, not anger and stress because you missed your flight due to long security lines. Well, you can cut the line (guilt-free)! Many of us have seen the new TSA Precheck line at the security check, but don’t fully understand who gets to use it and how. So I’m here to share with you how to get into that shorter, stress-free line.
I would have to say that I’m an experienced holiday traveler. I’ve traveled every Thanksgiving and Christmas for the past 8 years because I live in the Greater Boston Area and my family lives in Virginia and the Mid-West. I’ve dealt with my fair share of long lines and delayed flights throughout the years, and even though I mostly travel alone, it can still be a stressful event trying to get to my destination. Wanting to make my travels easier, my dad has been encouraging me to sign up for TSA Precheck, but I kept putting it off because I thought it was a long draining process to apply.
This year, as the holidays were approaching, and with reports of a record 48.7 million Americans traveling for Thanksgiving alone, I knew it was finally time to sign up for TSA Precheck. I cannot tell you how happy I am that I did it because the process was extremely easy from start to finish.
What is TSA Precheck?
TSA Precheck started in the fall of 2013. According to the TSA, “it is an expedited screening program that makes risk assessments about passengers prior to their arrival at an airport checkpoint. TSA Precheck enhances aviation security and provides a better travel experience. The program has expanded to more than 180 airports across the country and millions of passengers have enjoyed the benefits of this program since its inception.”
Through a simple application, background check, and membership fee of $85.00, travelers are able to enjoy easy security lines for 5 years. With TSA Precheck, you no longer have to remove shoes, laptops, liquids, belts or light jackets. TSA Precheck has 19 airlines and 180 airports participating, which gives travelers plenty of opportunities to take advantage of this service.
Any U.S. citizen or members of other Trusted Traveler Programs are eligible to apply for TSA Precheck. To apply you must provide either a Passport, Enhanced Driver’s License, Enhanced ID, Enhanced Tribal Card, Free & Secure Trade or an official seal bearing birth certificate (a copy is okay).
You are able to use TSA Precheck for both domestic and international flights. Please remember even though you are eligible for TSA Precheck, TSA is still authorized to do random security checks on any individual in the airport.
The process of signing up and experiencing TSA Precheck
- I went to tsa.gov/precheck, and clicked on the “Apply Now” button. (Note: fill out the application before your enrollment appointment because it will save you time)
- The application is simple, it asks for legal name, address, citizenship, identity & eligibility questions, etc.
(Note: Legal name must match exactly to passport or ID that is brought to enrollment appointment)
- Last step of the application is to pick an appointment location nearest to you. You are able to schedule an appointment at an airport, at the nearest IdentoGO, or third party location. I was able to set up an appointment at the nearest IdentoGo on a Friday during lunch.
(Note: They do allow walk-ins but it’s a lot easier to schedule an appointment, you are able to reschedule 24 hours before)
- When I checked in for my appointment they asked for my identification (passport) and credit card. Right way, I was able to go to the back to a small interview room to start the process.
- A gentleman went over the application that I filled out online to make sure all the information was correct. He scanned my fingerprints on both hands. It actually took a couple of tries to get all the prints. He charged my credit card $85.00, which is nonrefundable. He gave me my receipt that stated I should receive a letter in the mail in 30 days if I am cleared. He also told me that I can track my Traveler Known Number online. I was in and out of my appointment in 8 minutes exactly.
- I have to be honest, I was a little nervous that I wouldn’t be cleared in time for my Thanksgiving flight since he said 30 days but my appointment was on a Friday and on Tuesday I checked my status online, and I was cleared with my own Known Traveler Number! My official letter came in the mail a week later. I could not believe how easy this whole process was, I wish I did this sooner.
- I was flying on Delta, so I updated my Delta profile and existing reservation with my new Known Traveler Number.
(Note: Make sure you updated all your airline profiles with your KTN so it will appear on your next reservation)
- When you check into your flight make sure your printed or mobile boarding pass shows the TSA Precheck logo next to your confirmation number or at the top of the boarding pass.
- At the airport, the regular security line was 20 to 30 minutes long. I went to the TSA Precheck side, a woman checked my boarding pass to make sure the logo was there, and I was the fifth person in line to get through security. Just like the regular security check, I had to put my suitcase and purse on the belt, and make sure nothing melt was in my pockets. I was wearing a light jacket that I was able to keep on, and I walked right through the metal detector.
- The security check took a total of 5 minutes. I had no worries about making my flight on time, I was able to relax and enjoy a cup of coffee while I waited for my flight to board.
I encourage everyone to sign up; it will save you a lot of time and stress!
Please visit https://www.tsa.gov/precheck/faq if you have any questions.
I hope you have a safe and happy holidays!