Don’t Let Your TSA PreCheck Expire!

I am a busy woman, okay? I’ve got books piled up on my nightstand, waiting to be read. I’ve got a stack of New Yorker magazines gathering dust on the living room end table. There are recipes I want to try, hikes I want to take, and then there’s that pesky job waiting for me too. I tell you all this to offer up an excuse for why I didn’t realize until last Friday that my five year Global Entry membership expires in three weeks. Whoops.

I do vaguely remember getting an email about this some time ago, and I’m sure I told myself that there was plenty of time to renew. Well, time is now clearly running out for me to get my handy dandy TSA Pre-Check on each flight I take in the next few months.

Once I realized that my procrastination had gotten out of hand, I hastily got into my account on the Trusted Traveler website and filled out my online renewal. Among other things, I had to list every country I have visited since 2014. (Note to self: keep better records.) It’s possible I may have forgotten one country. Will this throw a wrench into my renewal? To be determined. After several screens of questions, I was able to pay my renewal fee of $100, and send in my renewal application. It’s unclear if I’ll have to do another in-person interview at a Global Entry office. It’s also unclear how long the renewal process will take. Some take a few weeks, others longer. It appears I might be able to keep my Global Entry membership while my application is under review, even after my current one expires. But I’ll believe it when I see it.

So if you’ve got TSA PreCheck or Global Entry – and if you’re a frequent traveler, why don’t you? – do yourself a favor and check the expiration date of your membership. Don’t wait until the last minute to renew. Let us hope the TSA gods shine favorably upon me.

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How To Speed Thru Airport Security

by Nancy Bestor

airport1We’ve all been behind someone who takes an extraordinarily long and frazzled time getting through an airport security checkpoint. Maybe they didn’t know there was a rule about carrying large shampoo bottles on board a plane, or carrying on large scissors or razor blades. Or perhaps they were unaware that their jewelry, belt, shoes, watch, keys, cell phone and pocket change all had to get put into the bin? The truth is that getting behind a slow moving traveler can’t be helped. But if we all prepare ourselves better for airport security, maybe we’ll offset the slowpokes, speed things up for everyone and ease our own stress. Here are a few tips to make your airport security experience go quicker and more efficiently.

Take a look at the TSA’s list of prohibited items for luggage carried on a plane. You might be surprised to learn that snow globes larger than a golf ball are prohibited, but knitting needles are okay. The TSA mobile phone app has a handy “Can I Bring” feature where you can type what you hope to carry on and make sure it is legal.

Give yourself plenty of time to get through security. This will certainly make the whole process less stressful, and give you more opportunity to people watch at the airport. The TSA mobile phone app gives you live, current wait times at airport security locations, which is handy for letting you know how far in advance you might need to arrive at the airport.

Take everything out of your pockets and put it into a small pocket of your suitcase or carry on bag before you get to the front of the security line. This way you won’t have to put your change, Chapstick, keys, etc. into a bowl, and you won’t have to waste time at the opposite end of the security checkpoint scrambling like Lucy Ricardo to retrieve all those items individually as they slide by on the conveyor belt. You can even take your belt off and put it into the same pocket. Again, it will save you time and stress at the pick-up end of the line. Put these items back into your pocket or loop your belt back onto your pants after you’re out of the line.

Wear slip on shoes, and either bring or wear socks! I often fly in sandals, but I always throw a pair of socks into my purse, so I can put them on in the security line. I do not want to think about the germs that may be floating around on the security checkpoint mats.

If you have a choice between two lines, studies say the one on the left will be shorter. Research shows that right handed people tend to go right more often than left, and there are far more right handed people in the world. Are there facts to back up this tip? Probably not, but it sounds pretty good to me.

airport2Finally, if you join the TSA’s pre-check program you’ll whisk yourself into the pre-check line wherever one is offered, and you’ll avoid having to take off your shoes and belt, and take your quart sized liquids bags out of your carry on, among other things. This is a great program if you’re a frequent traveler, and willing to pay the $85 fee and go to a TSA interview.

When going through TSA lines I’ve wondered how something so slow moving can feel so hectic. But just a little bit of pre-planning can make a big difference.