Close your eyes and imagine a place where you can breeze through the security lines at the airport. A place where you never once take off your shoes and get your bare feet dirty, where liquids and your laptop stay snug in your carry-on, and you're through the security line faster than it takes to open your Facebook app on your phone.
That isn't just a fairytale land; it can happen with the help of TSA PreCheck and its mighty counterpart, Global Entry.
No matter where your travel plans take you this summer, avoiding the long lines at all cost surely is high on your agenda. Turn on any of the major news networks lately and the pictures of long and exhausting lines are sure to be a drag on your impending travel plans. Some of the top offenders for the longest security lines this year are San Francisco, Miami and Dallas airports, all with wait times averaging north of one hour.
What is PreCheck?
There's lots of talk and confusion over just what are TSA PreCheck and Global Entry, and are either of them worth the expense? Simply speaking, TSA PreCheck will cost you $85 for a five-year membership, while Global Entry will cost $100 for a similar five year membership. Those rates work out to $1.42 and $1.67 a month respectively, and they're a drop in the bucket when you consider all the things you probably spend $100 on every month without even thinking, like,
* lunch out five days a week, * coffee runs every day for your caffeine fix, * drinks out on the weekend with friends, and * interest expenses you might be paying on credit cards that are carrying balances.
In a nutshell, TSA PreCheck lets you enjoy the very perks that you detest the most when you're at the airport. Think of PreCheck like the famed Fast Pass at Disneyland, but with a few extra benefits:
* You can keep your shoes on. * You have a dedicated TSA Pre Check line for security. * Laptop and Liquids can stay in your baggage. * There's no need to remove your belts and light jackets.
Global Entry includes access to TSA PreCheck, but it costs $15 more because it includes a nifty feature of being able to clear international customs in a breeze. Just like TSA PreCheck, Global Entry requires you to schedule a short 15-minute interview at your local airport where they confirm the information on your application, check your driving record and get you fingerprinted.
Is PreCheck worth it and should this be on your budget?
Applying for TSA PreCheck or Global Entry is a no-brainer if you travel more than a couple of times a year. The expense is minimal, at just $85 for TSA PreCheck for a five-year membership, that equates to roughly 5 cents a day. There's probably more change than that lurking under your sofa right now. You can simply add the expense to your next travel budget and have it paid for before you even depart for your trip.
If you're still stuck on whether this is a good expense, here are a few things to consider:
* How often do you travel? * Do you travel internationally? If so, Global Entry should be your choice. * Do you hate waiting in long lines? * Do you believe that the long lines will continue or might get worse?
If you think only about the potential time saving that TSA PreCheck allows you, there's a multitude of ways your time is probably better spent than standing in line and looking at the back of heads in front of you. You can use the extra time you save to outline your first book that is sure to be a Pulitzer Prize winner, catch up on phone calls to friends, Snapchat your adventures all around the airport or even simply just to do the thing that we never allow ourselves to do; relax. When you stack all the other features together, it's hard to discount the actual benefits that TSA PreCheck or Global Entry offer you as a traveler.
Photo: Andrew Fresh