When I traveled to Las Vegas ten days ago, I forgot to do one important thing when I booked my flight.
And the result of this momentarily lapse was a long, forty minute wait to pass through security at Orlando International Airport.
Normally, when I’m at a US airport I pass through the TSA Pre✓® lane – the speedy security lane for pre-screened passengers. But this time, I could only watch the speedy lane from the chaos of seven long regular security lanes merging into one, creeping slowly along as the frustration of those around me grew with each minute.
Why was I in the regular security lane this time around?
When booking my flight, I had forgotten to enter my Known Traveler Number into the reservation. Simple as that. And with my Known Traveler Number, the words “TSA Pre✓®” are printed across my boarding passes, allowing me to zip through the dedicated TSA Pre✓® lanes at all airport security inspections in the US.
With the TSA Pre✓® lanes, the lines, if any, move quickly. The wait, if any, is never more than a couple of minutes in my experience. Shoes don’t need to be removed, laptop and liquids stay in my carry-on bag, jacket and belt stay on as well. It’s quick and hassle-free.
My airport experience is easier and I have more time to roam the terminal before my flight (which I like to do in order to stretch before boarding the plane). Just not having to wait in the long lines, take off shoes and take out my laptop makes it well worth it to me.
But alas, this time, en route to Vegas, I was back in the normal security lines, only able to watch the TSA Pre✓® passengers pass straight by me. I think it was only the second time I forgot to enter my number in the past two years.
For US citizens, nationals and permanent residents who travel a decent amount (even a couple of times per year would make sense) you can apply for TSA Pre✓® directly.
The process is quite straightforward, involving online pre-enrollment by filling out the TSA Pre✓® application, visiting an enrollment center near you (there are over 370 centers to choose from) with the required paperwork and paying the $85 fee. Once the process is complete, you should receive your Known Traveler Number by mail within 2-3 weeks and it will be valid for 5 years.
And with that number, you’re good to go. Enter it every time you make a flight booking (there is a box for Known Traveler Number when making flight bookings on any website these days) and your boarding pass will automatically say “TSA Pre✓®” on it, allowing you to head straight for the dedicated, and speedy, security lines every time you fly.
Do you already have TSA Pre✓®? Are there similar programs in other countries?
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Thanks for all this information this things are very useful for everyone
I just recently got my global entry card, and I would highly recommend it. By getting this, you also get TSA pre, so its a two in one combo.
TSA Pre-check is definitely the answer! I don’t know if I just keep forgetting to do it or if I’m too lazy, but it’s so much quicker than waiting in the long security lines! My parents have it and my family usually always gets it when we travel with them. It makes getting through the airport way less stressful!
I’ll have to look into this before I travel next … those lines are so frustrating!
If it makes you feel any better, I remembered to enter my Known Traveler Number, and when I recently flew out of Orlando’s airport on an early flight, the Pre-Check line just wasn’t open. Had to take off my shoes, get out my laptop, the whole annoying debacle. Having done pre-check/Global Entry for a couple years now, I have been spoiled.
On the positive side, when flying back to FL from TN (quick trip), the TSA agent saw that I was Pre-Check and waved my grandfather on through with me. Good times.
(As I mentioned in another comment, there are some airports that use CLEAR instead, so you are not guaranteed for the fast lane even if you remember your Known Traveler Number. Just FYI)
I can’t even add anything to this except to say that everything you said is dead accurate and worth every single penny. If you’re going to travel often, TSA precheck should pretty much be the standard for all travelers, though by saying that I hope it doesn’t get so busy that the lines end up of a similar length. I can’t even count how much time I have saved over the past few years by using this.
Earl that is so true!! I just came back from NYC travel show, and even though TSA Pre is not available to Canadians (I live in Toronto), there is something called Nexus, which I can get in Canada which includes the Global Entry and TSA. I will look into it. But without it, the lineups are very exhausting.
Thanks for this review, Earl! Funny timing, since I just renewed my passport and it came with a small leaflet advertising TSA-Pre, and I was wondering if it was worth it.
It definitely makes the Byzantine security process in the USA easier to navigate … if you are American, I would definitely sign up for this!
Global entry includes TSA precheck. You can get global entry for free from credit cards like the Amex Platinum, Citi prestige, jp Morgan Ritz carlton, Barclay aadvantage aviator Silver, and the Citi Executive aadvantage card.
You can also choose it as a choice benefit of either delta Platinum or Diamond status (Diamond will give you 2 $100 vouchers). Add your KTN to all of your frequent flyer accounts, and you can always call up the airline if you forget to add it in and they will add the KTN to your PNR for you.
I got my TSA pre-check as added perk when I signed up for Global Entry. I travel 2-3 times per month for work and 4-5 times per year for personal travel, so pre-check is a must. Perhaps we’ve just been lucky, but so far when I’ve booked travel with my boyfriend, who is not a US citizen, he’s been granted pre-check status too, provided we’re listed on the same PNR.
Earl, surely you are also aware of the Global Entry program. Upon entering the United States, you walk up to a kiosk, scan your finger prints, and a receipt is printed out. You never talk to any immigration officials.
That said, I’ve used it for a couple years and have never once received TSA precheck. Aren’t the two synonymous?
I chose to get a Global Passport (slightly higher version of the Known Traveler) after a horrific experience in Miami while returning from Costa Rica….it’s a $100 investment for the same 5 year timeline….I’m not a US citizen, however, I was able to easily procure mone with the appropriate documentation….and so far, I have to say, it was worth every penny…..
Oh ya. I always use the TSA pre-check. But also the Global Entry program is great for reentering the USA. You use that don’t you? It deserves an honorable mention. I just fly through the US immigration line. In fact, there isn’t even a line at all. I just walk up to the Global Entry kiosk machine, slide in my passport, and in less than a minute the machine spits out a little white ticket with my pass on it. At that point I skip the long line everyone else is waiting in, and I head for the exit and drop off the white ticket with the final officer on duty, and I’m in! I’m done! I got my Global Entry and my TSA pre-check at the same time for a cost of $100, good for 5 years.
Gordon, where did you go to get them both together for the $100 ? Thanks!
Ed, I live in the Tampa area. At that time, Atlanta was the most convenient spot for me to get my gov’t interview. (It was at an office that was right in one of the terminals at Hartfield.) However, now I hear there is an office at my local Tampa Int’l Airport.
There is a list on the site. When I lived in Vegas I just went down to that airport for my interview. Ended up talking to the TSA agent about his wife, who is from another country, since I am an English/ESL teacher.
I will say that Global Entry/Pre-check is well worth the money, but not infallible. Miami’s airport uses a private company for the same benefit, so I didn’t get the special treatment there even though I entered my Known Traveler Number.
In addition, many airports now have kiosks like the Global Entry uses for every passenger. In one airport, I had to walk past the “normal” kiosks to get to the Global Entry ones–however, the line was still shorter, and you have a “fast pass” through the customs agent lines–just flash the receipt and walk through.
Oh man that´s coll.You should tattoo that number on your forearm 🙂
I love using TSA Pre and as a bonus, if you’re traveling with a child under 12 they can tag along with you through the TSA Pre line!