TSA Pre-check. Is it worth it?
The short answer - Yes.
Airports have always been a necessary evil for me. That unpleasant means to an end. Over the years the whole experience has gotten increasingly stressful with all of the extra security measures. Metal detectors have given way to these unnerving full body scanners. Liquids are now strictly reduced to tiny annoying bottles that must be quarantined to a flimsy plastic bag. The internet is now full of videos featuring insensitive security agents being unkind to passengers. Pat downs, shoe removals, separate bins for laptops, and the general vibe that you are guilty until proven innocent makes air travel even more stressful and dehydrating than it was 20 years ago.
In my younger years I put up with the whole thing because, well, I wanted to see the world and sailing to far flung locations seemed like it wasn't an efficient use of my time. For years I did it- Arrive 2 hours prior to my departure just in case the security line got crazy, contain tiny lotions and hand-sanitizer to a Ziploc, sprinkle odor eaters in my shoes, make mamma-bear eye contact with the TSA agent as I sent my children through the scanner, etc., etc. In recent years I found myself loathing the airport.
While I completely understand and support the efforts for a safe and secure travel experience, it seemed like something needed to give for the frequent and responsible traveler. It all went down one day when I lamented to Scott that I was a respectable citizen, why is it that I should be treated like a criminal and herded like cattle just because I want to visit Hawaii? It was during one such rant that Scott suggested the idea of TSA Pre-check. Apparently I wasn't the only one who felt this way because the Transportation Security Administration recently birthed a program that addressed this very frustration. He explained that the program was a pre-screening process for the respectable and responsible domestic travelers who traveled frequently and disliked standing in obscene lines with stinky shoe-less feet. At first I bucked at the idea. Citing things like "I already pay TSA for security screening, why should I pay more?" or "It is probably like the Disney FastPass- somewhat less of a wait, but not really." Getting your "known traveler number" is no small feat, either. You must go in for an interview, background check, and fingerprint scan before being approved. It wasn't until Scott and I had a little race at SeaTac to see how much of a difference it made. As a frequent business traveler Scott had gotten TSA Pre-check a year earlier. He went off in one lane, and I in the other. I hadn't even made the turn into the second turn-style when Scott called me saying he was through security and asked what I wanted for lunch. Well played, Husband. Well played. I was converted. Next thing I knew I had my TSA Pre-check "KTN" in hand.
I am happy to say that it has been totally worth it to have the pre-screen process done. No longer do I hum at this weird level of anxiety when it comes to airport security.
Have I forgotten a stray lip-gloss they will confiscate?
Do my feet smell?
Will they be mean to my kids?
Will the line blossom to a three hour wait time making me miss my flight?
These questions are gone. I didn't realize how heavily they weighed on my mind until they were taken away. Going through the notably shorter line and not needing to disrobe before heading through the scanners make travel life so much simpler. This benefit multiplies when you travel with your children because TSA Pre-check allows your children under the age of 12 to accompany you through the line. Nobody has to take off their shoes, separate out their liquids, or waste our precious non-napping time in a long line. It makes traveling with kids 1,000% less stressful. Because getting small children through airport security is like herding cats.
The extra good news is that once you clear the interview, fingerprints, provide identification, and pay $85, you are good for 5 years.
If you travel frequently I would say this is money and time well spent. Especially if you are traveling with kids. It is a significant stress reducer and the fringe benefits of being low risk.
For more information visit https://www.tsa.gov/precheck