If you’ve been following my advice for years, then you know that one of my best travel tips for speeding through U.S. airports is to get TSA PreCheck; it’s 85 for five years. The Trusted Traveler program began in 2011 and is run by the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and allows selected members of certain frequent flyer programs, Global Entry, NEXUS, and SENTRI, as well as members of the US military, to receive expedited screening.
That means no taking off shoes, belts, light jackets or removing laptops and liquids from bags. There are usually dedicated lanes available at more than 200 airports with 80 participating airlines nationwide.
But COVID-19 did a number on the TSA and they laid off a lot of workers when hardly anyone was traveling. Now, the vaccines are working and travel is bouncing back (there have been four days of over two million people this month passing through security, including this past Thursday and Friday). But the TSA can’t hire and train workers fast enough. So, before you book your tickets or at least head to the airport, I suggest logging on to the TSA PreCheck Checkpoint Schedule to see if the TSA PreCheck lane is open at the airport during the time you will be passing through. If it’s not, you should allow for more time.
My family and I went through New York’s JFK International Airport on Thursday and because we were stuck in mad traffic (it took 2 hours to get to the airport from Norwalk, Connecticut, which usually takes 45 minutes without traffic), we missed the TSA Pre lane.
Fortunately, there weren’t a lot of flights departing at night so the line was short but that’s not always the case. I’ve had friends say that there have been times when the TSA security line was really long and TSA PreCheck still wasn’t open. So again, plan accordingly.
And if you really want to speed through security, get CLEAR, which you can learn about here. Unfortunately, the private company doesn’t have a presence at JFK’s Terminal 8 (American Airlines) but they do at a couple of other New York Terminals.
Also, I recommend not paying for TSA PreCheck but instead, getting one of the other Trusted Traveler Programs like Global Entry as it costs just $15 more and includes TSA Pre but also allows travelers to zip through U.S. Customs and Immigration when returning home. Keep in mind certain premium credit cards will cover the $100 fee.
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