Flying can be an absolute pain. We all know it's true; and as much as I like to travel there's always a bout of nerves that seem to flare up before a flight — it's not because I'm scared of flying, it's because of all the motions you have to go through to actually get on the plane. (Though it probably doesn't help that I'm always running late.) And as important as I know airport security is, it's also a huge headache to get through most of the time. You know how it starts — there are always long checkpoint lines, then combine that with people who are extra slow putting their luggage on the x-ray's conveyor belt, taking off their shoes and then forget to take their liquids or laptop out of their bag and next thing you know you've added at least an hour onto your time at the airport. Maybe I'm just impatient, but I like to get to the airport and just get where I'm going as quickly as possible — without all the runaround and wasted time. Luckily if you're like me and hate wasting time standing in line, there are two simple ways to fly easier and avoid most of the hassle that's typically involved with getting through security checkpoints.
2 Simple Ways To Fly Easier
1. Apply for TSA PreCheck
Best for U.S. citizens who fly within the U.S. at least once a year. You do not need a passport to apply.
Put simply TSA PreCheck helps you speed through security checkpoints at airports. With PreCheck access you'll be able to bypass long airport security lines by using a dedicated TSA lane and you won't have to remove your laptop or liquids from your bag or have to take off your shoes, belt or a light jacket! More than 180 airports across the country offer TSA PreCheck lanes.
Applying for TSA PreCheck is a simple process that includes a quick online application that takes about five minutes, followed by a very thorough background check (don't worry, they don't let just anyone have this privilege — only low-risk travelers) and an in-person interview at an airport enrollment center. During the interview an agent will ask a few simple questions, check your IDs to make sure all your information matches and scan your finger prints. If everything checks out then you're good to go.
While there is a $85 fee to apply for TSA PreCheck it's good for five years and the time you will save at the airport makes it well worth the money.
Here's the application to get started. Once you have been accepted you'll be given a Known Traveler Number that you'll enter when booking flights. It's imperative that you remember to add your Known Traveler Number to your reservation, without it on you plane ticket you won't be able to go through TSA PreCheck lines no matter how hard you try.
2. Apply for a Global Entry Pass
Best for U.S. citizens who fly internationally at least once a year. Must have a valid passport.
I opted for the Global Entry Pass because I fly out of the country a few times each year. (Even if you only plan to fly out of the U.S. once over the next five years it's definitely worth getting instead of TSA.) A Global Entry Pass includes TSA PreCheck, but it goes a step further by providing quicker access through U.S. Customs & Border Protection when you return from an international trip. Travelers with Global Entry can bypass Customs and Immigration lines by checking in at a Global Kiosk with a Known Traveler Number. The kiosk will print a receipt to show you checked in.
The first part of the Global Entry application process can be done online and once you've been approved (which can take awhile) you'll have to schedule an in-person interview at the airport to finalize your pass. You'll need two forms of identification. I took my passport and driver's license. The interview is short and straight to the point. The security agent will ask you a few questions like why you're applying for Global Entry — I said for personal travel as well as work — which is typically the case for most people. They made sure everything on my application and IDs checked out, scanned my finger prints, took an awful photo for my Global Entry card, and it was over. My ID came in the mail within 10 days and now I'll be able to stroll through TSA PreCheck lanes and U.S. Customs a lot easier for the next five years.
It's important to know that only certain airports offer Global Entry interviews; if there isn't one near where you live you can schedule an interview at an airport that does have an enrollment center during a layover. Here's a list of airports that have enrollment centers.
Start the Global Entry application here. Like TSA PreCheck, once you've been accepted to Global Entry you'll get a Known Traveler Number that you'll need to include on each flight reservation you make or else you won't be able to use your new privileges. You'll also get a Global Entry ID card. You don't have to carry it with you on trips, but I recommend taking it just in case. I keep mine in my passport holder that's similar to the one below.
*** TSA and Global Entry will only work for the person who has been accepted by one of the programs. Your privileges do not extend to anyone else even if you're traveling together. Each individual must have his/her own Known Traveler Number for privileges ***