I may pretend to be a travel expert on the internet, but in reality I don’t fly all that often. I don’t travel for work and I can only scrape together so many vacation days (and so much cash), so I only average about 6-8 flights per year. Despite this, in a hopeful attempt to manifest some more travel into my life, I decided to register for TSA PreCheck ahead of my trip to Hawaii and California last December. I had watched my family and friends abandon me in the airport security line for their shorter, more streamlined TSA PreCheck screening one too many times. It was my turn to be one of the traveling elite. Registering for PreCheck was..a bit of a process, but one I believe was worth it. Here’s how it all went down.
The application process for TSA PreCheck comes in two parts: an online application and an in-person interview. The online application mostly consists of personal information and I found it pretty easy to navigate. Once that was complete, I was asked to schedule an appointment at a local ID center. Of course, the center closest to me was booked for a good month, so I went with the next best option: Brooklyn.
I’ll be honest, the ID center in Brooklyn was so nondescript, I was sure the security guy in the lobby had misdirected me. I actually went downstairs again to make sure I was going to the right place. I eventually found some signage and didn’t have to wait too long to be seen. The woman conducting my interview wasn’t particularly cheery, but after several trips to the DMV I wasn’t expecting much. She basically asked me the same questions from the online application (you can actually do both in the office), scanned my license, and took my fingerprints. I was also recovering from getting stitches in my thumb, so this took a few tries. Overall, the process was shorter than my actual trip to Brooklyn and I was approved a few days later.
Flying With PreCheck
I’ll be honest, I was pretty pumped to see the words “TSA PreCheck” on my boarding pass when we checked in for our flight to Kauai. The line at security wasn’t that much longer than the standard one, but it did move a bit faster since we didn’t have to take off our shoes, belts, pants, etc. Of course, I got “randomly selected” for a pat-down my first time out the gate. There wasn’t much I could do there, I guess. At least I still didn’t have to take off my shoes.
PreCheck was extra helpful on our flight from Kauai to Honolulu, as the tiny Lihue airport was packed with post-Christmas travelers. As a major American airline, I shouldn’t have been surprised to see Hawaiian Airlines opting in to the PreCheck program. We were able to get through security with a little extra time to grab some last-minute Kauai gifts.
Overall, I’d say that TSA PreCheck is worth the $85 fee. I’m set for the next 5 years, and I plan to get as much travel in as possible in that period of time. Though the program isn’t available everywhere, it does make the whole security process much easier, and the flying experience generally more pleasant.
You can find out more about the TSA PreCheck program here.