Insiders Guide To Skipping the Long Lines at the Airport
Updated: Sep 8, 2021
There you are, standing in a cow path that stretches from one concourse to another, your blood pressure rising as you look at your watch, realizing your flight is about to board and there are still 100 people in front of you moving reaaally slowly. Is there any hope for the weary traveler?
Yes! Just like you can get a Fast Pass for your favorite ride in Walt Disney World, you can get your very own TSA Fast Pass…it’s called TSA PreCheck. And, while you are at it, pay the extra 15 dollars to get the comprehensive package – TSA PreCheck and Global Entry. Trust me, you will thank me. John and I have been on about 12 flights just this summer (remember, travel is our business) and having TSA PreCheck has saved us hours of frustration and stress.
The difference between TSA PreCheck and Global Entry
TSA PreCheck and Global Entry are Trusted Traveler Programs, which means that low-risk, eligible travelers get the perks of speeding through typical, time-consuming processes at the airport.
Those eligible for TSA PreCheck are U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents who do not have any of the disqualifying offenses such as having previously committed treason, espionage, or murder, and/or being on the terrorist watch list.
You can use TSA PreCheck for flights departing within the United States. Though you still have to go through the security line if you have TSA PreCheck, it’s a separate line exclusively for those with TSA PreCheck and often much shorter. You also can skip taking off your shoes, belt, and light jacket, and do not need to remove your laptop and liquid items from your bag. However, you are still subject to being searched if asked by security and your liquids still need to be no larger than 3.4 oz and fit in a 1-quart bag IF you are carrying your luggage onboard and not checking it.
Two things to note: In order to use the line, you must make sure to add your Known Traveler Number, which you’ll receive after you go through the TSA PreCheck application process, at the time you make your booking. Make sure it is added to your profile with the airlines on which you fly. And you need to make sure your name on your Known Traveler Number and on all your airline documents match EXACTLY. My husband John is a Jr. (we now have John III and John IV, our little grandson, which is a wonderful legacy to John’s dad) and he initially had quite a time getting some of the airlines to add his Jr. to his profile and reservation as some software does not recognize the Jr. Thankfully, he finally got it sorted out. Make sure all of your identification has your name recorded accurately- your personal profile with the airlines, your airline ticket, your TSA PreCheck and Global Entry, your passport…you get the idea.
Global Entry allows those returning to the United States to have expedited re-entry to the country after their trip. In lieu of waiting in a long line at customs, those with Global Entry head to specific kiosks to scan their passport and fingerprints, as well as answer questions on the screen. You then take a printed receipt to an agent on a typically much shorter line and head out. Trust me, after a long and tiring international flight, you will be so happy to get through the airport quickly and get home to bed.
The Cost of TSA PreCheck and Global Entry
TSA PreCheck costs $85, while Global Entry is $100. Both will provide you with a five-year membership. However, if you want TSA PreCheck, you should know that Global Entry provides the TSA PreCheck benefit as well as its expedited customs screening — so it may be worth it to spend the extra money if you plan to travel internationally. All you have to do to get the TSA PreCheck perk is make sure you use your Known Traveler Number upon booking a flight.
Certain credit cards will reimburse you for your TSA PreCheck and Global Entry fees, so it may be worth exploring that if you’re considering this move. Some of the cards we know about include: The Platinum Card® from American Express, The Business Platinum Card® from American Express, Chase Sapphire Reserve®, Capital One® Spark® Miles for Business, Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®, Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card, Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card and American Express® Green Card.
The application process is simple but it can take a while so start now
If you’re a United States citizen or permanent resident who does not have any of the disqualifying offenses on your record, you can apply online for TSA PreCheck/Global Entry. Remember, you might as well apply for the Global Entry (rather than just TSA PreCheck) as you automatically get the TSA Pre-Check with it for only $15 more, so you are covered for your domestic and international travel. Click on this link to read about it and start the process: https://www.cbp.gov/travel/trusted-traveler-programs/global-entry.
From there, you can find an enrollment center near you and schedule an appointment to meet an agent and finish the process. We did our interviews at our local airport.
The entire process will
probably take a few months, so the sooner you begin the process, the faster you will be enjoying those shorter lines.
Global Entry and TSA PreCheck for the whole family
There is no age requirement for TSA PreCheck or Global Entry; however, depending on a child’s age, it may be worth waiting to get them their own approval. Children under 12 who are traveling with a parent or guardian who have TSA PreCheck can go through the expedited line with them. However, if the child is 13 or older, they must use the regular security line, even if their parents are using TSA PreCheck.
We got TSA PreCheck and Global Entry for all of our children. They were in high school and middle school at the time but since our family flies a lot and I knew our children were planning to do Study Abroad in college, it was worth it to us to have the whole family approved. We filled out the application for all of us and I got appointments for the children and me (John already had his from his business travel) at the airport in Seattle where we were living at the time. The agent had all 5 of us come into his office together, he asked a couple of questions, made sure pictures and names matched, took everyone’s finger prints and we were done in about 5 minutes.
Until our next great adventure...