You are all excited about your trip to a Disney Resort, but you have one last hurdle in your way – getting there. For many of us this means flying, and the only thing worse than being crammed into a plane filled with overexcited, hyperactive children and stressed-out parents is standing in a seemingly endless airport security line with those same people. However, there is a way to avoid these lines – TSA Pre✓®.
OK, so what is TSA Pre✓®?
This is a program set up by the Transportation Security Administration to do advance background checks on passengers to make the security checks go faster. Once you have your TSA Pre✓® approval, you get to go through a faster security line (in June 2016, 95% of members waited 5 minutes or less), and you don’t have to remove your shoes, laptops, 3-1-1 liquids, belts and light jackets. TSA Pre✓® is available at over 180 airports for passengers of 16 airlines, so you can use it pretty much anywhere you are flying.
Sounds great! So, what’s the catch?
In a word, cost – a 5-year TSA Pre✓® membership will cost you $85. However, to put this into perspective, if you fly just once a year, you are only paying $8.50 per flight to avoid a potentially long wait in the airport security line. Also, there are certain availability restrictions:
- At this time, only U.S. citizens, U.S. Nationals and Lawful Permanent Residents (LPR) are eligible
- You cannot get it if you have committed one of the disqualifying criminal offenses listed here
I’m in! How do I get it?
Second, complete the 10 minute, in person appointment that includes a background check and fingerprinting. Note that you will need to present identity/citizenship status documentation during the interview – a list of qualifying documentation can be found here. The easiest document for this is a passport – what, you don’t have a passport? Besides the fact that it is the best proof of identity/citizenship/age, here are 9 reasons why you should have one.
OK, I got it! How do I use it?
Once your application is approved, you will receive a Known Traveler Number (KTN). You just enter this number when booking TSA Pre✓® eligible flights and you will have a TSA Pre✓® indicator printed on your boarding pass. Most frequent flyer programs and travel portals allow you to enter your KTN in your account details, so once you have done that it will be automatically added when booking flights. At the airport, look for the TSA Pre✓® line at the security checkpoint – it is usually clearly marked, and sometimes there is a TSA agent at the line entrance so be ready to show your boarding pass to enter.
Wait a minute? Do I need to get TSA Pre✓® for my whole family? That can get expensive!
Anyone 13 and over must have their own KTN in order to use the TSA Pre✓® lines; those 12 and under do not need one when travelling with a parent or guardian with a KTN. However, airlines have the ability to designate certain passengers as eligible for the TSA Pre✓® line, and in my experience my family members have gotten the TSA Pre✓® indicator printed on their boarding passes when travelling with me. In order to maximize the chances of this happening:
- Sign up all of your family members for the airline’s frequent flyer program (include their KTNs if they have them).
- Include their frequent flyer numbers when making the booking.
- Make sure that the lead traveler (the one who makes the reservation) has a KTN.
Have any experiences with TSA Pre✓® that you want to share, or have any additional questions about the whole process? Let us know in the comments section below.