You may have heard about TSA Precheck and perhaps you’re curious about what it actually is and more importantly, if it’s worth your time, energy, and moolah.
I signed up for TSA Pre-check back in February. I had heard from a few friends that it was convenient but I hadn’t actually decided if it was something that I wanted to. I was all revved up with travel planning, however, so I just went for it, without thinking too much about it. I figured if $85 could save me some airport drama, I might as well try it.
The application process, at least in my experience, was extremely easy. I went online to the TSA website and booked an appointment at a convenient location. There were lot to choose from in Los Angeles. For some reason, I expected to have to wait a while to get an appointment but that wasn’t at all the case. I got one within a week and I could have had one sooner if my schedule had allowed for it. On the day of my appointment, I showed up a few minutes before I was scheduled. I was able to start the process immediately and within minutes – like… less than five, no exaggeration – I was done. The woman working with me asked me a few questions, took my fingerprints, swiped my credit card and that was it. I believe she told me that I’d receive notification as to whether or not was eligible within two months. I got an email in less than a week. The email contained a link to my Known Traveler Number (KTN), which is the number that you input when booking flights so that your boarding pass prints with the Precheck logo. About a week later, I received a paper copy of this information in the mail. Easy peasy.
So what was my actual experience at the airport like?
My first time flying under Precheck status was for my trip to Portland. Although I had technically read about the perks of the Precheck life, I didn’t actually know what to expect at the airport. I showed up according to my usual schedule for a domestic flight – approximately an hour and fifteen minutes before departure- just in case something went wrong. I could have actually shaved about 45 minutes off of that time because it took me so little time to get through security. Obviously, this will vary depending on airport traffic. My flight was around 10am on a Saturday so it wasn’t packed. But still, I was really shocked. The best part of it was that I didn’t have to take my laptop out of my carry-on. This is a big deal for me as an avid carry-on-only girl. My carry-on and personal item are usually packed strategically to maximize space so it always pains me to have to take out my computer. I also dread having to walk on airport floors. When I’m not wearing socks, which is often since I live in Southern California, it’s the worst. Even if I’m wearing socks, I find it to be unpleasant and a bit demoralizing. With Precheck, I literally took off my jacket, put my suitcase on the conveyor belt, and pranced through the security scanner. It was amazing.
How does it work for international travel?
So obviously Precheck status does not get you out of all the security hoopla that comes with international travel. It does, however, still come in handy when leaving and coming back into the U.S. Leaving the States for Europe was basically the same deal as when I flew to Portland. When I got back to the States, I still had to go to the automated machine that scans your passport, takes your photo, and gives you a printout to take to the TSA officer. BUT I didn’t actually have to wait in line and speak with the TSA officer. I was able to go straight through to baggage claim, which was a win.
So overall, I would recommend getting TSA Precheck if you fly often enough and you’d like to make your airport experience a little sunnier. It’s particularly convenient if you like to cut it close with time at the airport, travel carry-on only, and/or hate having to walk on nasty airport floors.
A few things to note:
If you get Precheck status after you’ve already purchased an upcoming flight, you have to either call the airline ahead of time or speak to someone at the airline check-in desk to get your KTN added to your boarding pass.
There is something called Global Entry that further expedites the security process for international travel. I don’t the details of it but it could be worth looking into if you’re really about that globetrotter life.
Hope this is helpful! If you have specific questions about this, please comment with them below!