Q: Hi Playground! We’re getting ready to fly for the holidays, and I’m curious about getting TSA PreCheck to avoid the long security lines at the airport. Any tips for signing up? Also, how old do kids have to be to apply? ~ Thanks! NM
A: Hi NM! Glad to hear you’re being proactive about holiday travel — nothing is more stressful than getting to the airport and seeing a security line snaking around the terminal when you’re in a rush to get a flight, especially when you have your kids with you. TSA PreCheck is a great way to avoid a lot of the lines and stress that come with security screenings. This service lets you keep your shoes, light jacket, and belt on when you’re screened and also allows you to keep your laptop and toiletries in your bag when you go through screening in a special fast-moving line — all fabulous perks.
Here’s how to get your application rolling. First, go to the TSA PreCheck website where you’ll fill out a quick 2-minute form. Next, it will ask you to pick a location for an in person interview. This is basically an appointment to have your fingerprints taken. Luckily, there are options that aren’t at the airport, so scroll through the list until you find a convenient option, although note the when I looked the New Jersey options had many more available time slots than the ones in New York City. (I actually was incredibly lucky and discovered a pop up TSA PreCheck center at Penn Station right when I was in the midst of going through the application process. Talk about good timing!)
Your application and fingerprints are then forwarded for processing. At this point you’ll be asked for the $85 application fee which is good for 5 years. (I was able to use United miles to pay my application fee; other airlines provide similar opportunities.)
The process can take up to a month; but then you’ll have your trusted traveler number for 5 years, which you then enter into your frequent flier accounts before you fly (you do not receive an ID card).
Still with me? Good! Because now I have that great news about kids: all of your children under 12 can travel with you through the designated TSA PreCheck line for FREE! That’s right, they don’t need their own number, and you aren’t limited to one-child-per-adult (although they do have to be your children). How great is that?
Have a family travel question?
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(Photo Credit: TSA.gov)