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The TSA is an essential part of travel, however, so many of the headaches associated with the airport are related to security. The line! Taking off your shoes! Cramming your toiletries into a teeny baggie! Fishing out your laptop and emptying your pockets and chugging every last sip of that bottle of water before you send your stuff through the little luggage carwash. I’m exhausted just thinking about it.
For someone who travels as much as me, TSA Pre-check is a game changer. This pre-approved status means you don’t have quite as many rules during the security process.
You get your own line!
You can keep your shoes on! (no more sock embarrassment)
The laptop and liquids can stay in your bag
Light jacket and belt stays on! NICE!
TSA Pre-Check: Do or Don’t?
With all these perks you think I would tell EVERYONE to get TSA Pre-check. Well, I don’t. If you don’t travel often, I believe getting TSA Pre-check isn’t worth the effort. The fact is, you’re not guaranteed to get it every time (the TSA likes to switch it up so no one can game the system and do harm). For example, I always get it when traveling on one airline and never get it on another, even though I’ve entered my known traveler number. My co-host Chris Grundy has TSA Pre-check, but somehow NEVER gets it printed on his boarding pass. I know because I was always with him and of course would make fun of him as I breezed through security!
My advice? If you don’t travel often, it’s not important. Consider this: so many people have signed up for the TSA Pre-check that the OTHER line is getting shorter. So whether you have it or not, you are benefitting.
A better idea (if you are planning to travel abroad) is to do Global Entry. It’s $15 more, you apply, sign up for an interview and now you have both TSA pre-check privileges as well as Global Entry which allows you to pass by long immigration lines EVERY TIME you come home.
How Do I Apply for TSA Pre-check & Global Entry?
If you’re a United States resident, it’s so easy. You basically fill out an application, make an appointment with the TSA or Global Entry folks (most of their offices are housed at the airport). When you arrive, you’ll be expected to bring your current passport (or for TSA Pre-check, two approved forms of ID). If all goes as planned, you should receive your Known Traveler Number (KTN) and/or Global Entry card within within 2-3 weeks.
More information on applying for Global Entry.
More information on applying for TSA Pre-Check.
My Pro Travel Tips:
Though most cities have offices outside of major airports, my advice is to schedule an appoint with the TSA a few hours before an upcoming flight (so long as your flight falls on a weekday between 8 a.m. – 10 p.m.). They do take walk-ins, but if you’re going to be there anyway, why risk it?
What’s the point of getting pre-checked if you don’t use it? Be sure to enter your KTN number when booking flights. To make it extra-easy, your KTN can be added to your frequent flyer profile, so it’s automatically stored for future future reservations.