I recently had a friend (who flies frequently out of Chicago's O'Hare International Airport) let me know that after several travel experiences waiting up to 3 hours in security lines and missing a flight, she was taking my advise and applying for TSA Precheck. Does this experience sound familiar to you? Flying out of US airports is definitely not a trip to Disney, but here's a way to fast track your security line process.
There is no way to skip the airport's security line entirely but TSA's Precheck allows qualified "low risk" travelers to speed up the process. I've heard continued stories of long wait times in security with the ever increasing risk that you'll miss that flight departure. TSA Precheck allows you to breeze through with much shorter lines and much less anxiety. You won't have to remove your laptop, belt or that light jacket. Most shoes can be kept on, but keep in mind, anything with zippers or buckles may still beep and you're going to be going back into the line.
There's a $85USD non refundable fee and a brief form to fill out on TSA Precheck's website. Once the form is completed, you'll need to find the closest center to you and make an appointment. There are many centers and you don't necessarily have to head to the closest major airport. Be prepared with the appropriate identification (passport in most cases) and to be fingerprinted. Once you have your appointment (which takes all of about 5 minutes) and you're approved, you'll receive notice within 10 business days and be given your Known Traveler Number or KTN.
In the future when you book online or with a travel professional you'll want to be sure to give them the KTN so that it's in the system. Once your date off travel arrives, your boarding pass will have it notified that you are TSA Precheck and you can proceed to the designated and usually much shorter security line.
We've noted that some of the smaller airports currently do not have separate TSA PreCheck lines, but depending on the process, they may give you a special colored card to show the TSA screeners and you can still avoid taking out your laptop, removing belt etc.
If you travel internationally more than once a year, it's worth the extra $15 to get the Global Entry Pass. See my previous blog for details.