How to get TSA Precheck for Your Family
Air travel is getting to be insanely difficult. Nowadays you have longer and longer lines through ticketing, more security lines, grumpy travelers, and grumpy employees. And if you live in a large metropolitan area, you’re going to have airports that are always crowded leading to an even more unpleasant experience. Now there’s TSA Precheck, GOES, and CLEAR. Will they help you? How can you get TSA Precheck for your family? Should you?
When you’re traveling with children, it’s that much harder. Now you have to deal with all of the above in addition to managing busy children, handling their needs, handling car seats, putting a lot more things on the belt to get through security screening, and then repacking and dressing everyone when you get to the other side of screening. And no one is going to help you or even sympathize. Because you are in an airport and for some reason it becomes Lord of the Flies once you enter the arena. And people can be downright nasty.
Once we even had a United employee cut in between our family members and grab one of our bags on the other side of security and drop it on top of all of our shoes and various other things. When we mentioned it, she was downright hostile with us and looked down her nose at us for traveling with a 6 month old. Even the TSA agents were shocked. But this isn’t a gripe post, it’s a solution post.
We travel often, generally throughout the United States, but we also take the occasional jaunt across the pond. Maybe to France, maybe to Korea, maybe Switzerland. It’s all fair game.
After so many trips and bad experiences, and so much stress, we decided we would look into the TSA Precheck program. Using TSA Precheck, it gives you access to that little side security lane and so you don’t have to deal with the crowds as much. It also allows you to leave on your shoes, leave your laptop in your bag, and keep on your belt and light outerwear. We also looked into the CLEAR program which offers similar benefits, but it’s only available in a handful of airports and is quite a bit more expensive.
After checking around and comparing, we found TSA Precheck’s big brother, TSA Global Entry or GOES – the Global Online Enrollment System. This offers all of the same benefits as Precheck, but also has the added benefit of skipping the customs line if you’re flying back into the United States from abroad. And it only costs a bit more.
First and foremost, a big question a lot of people have, including us was ,”Does a minor (especially a 3 year old) really have to go through this? Apply, Pay, and Interview?“. The answer is YES. As ridiculous as it sounds, everyone, even babies have to do it. But you’ll see below the “Interview” process isn’t really an interview in the sense of a job interview, or being grilled about your personal life.
Below is a comparison chart of the three optionsYou can see that CLEAR has very few airports and is a LOT more expensive, especially over a 5 year period. For two adults and one child it’s WAY more expensive and has a lot fewer airports, and the added “perk” in no way evens out the cost.
Also, you can see that the cost for Global Entry is only slightly higher than it is for Precheck.
We figured if there is any chance we’re going to be traveling abroad over the next 5 years, we may as well go for it. Also, living in California there is a chance that we could drive to Mexico if we really wanted to.
So we went for it. How does the process go?
Upon visiting the Global Entry website, you’ll be directed to their online global entry application process. It’s relatively simple, but make sure you have all of your personal information handy when you do it. If not, don’t sweat – you can save it and return to it later. After filling everything out, you’ll have to pay the non-refundable application fee. In my case it was $100 per person. Not to worry, it’s the last time you’ll have to pay anything – whether or not you’re approved.
The application approval process took about two weeks. At that time I received an email saying there was a “change in status” on my GOES application. It is at this point where the waiting, or strategy game starts. Trying to find an application center (generally an airport) that has an opening in the near future is tough, especially if you live in a large metro area. In our case, the two closest airports were OAK and SFO. And the wait for those was about 5 months. However, if you’re planning on traveling between now and then, check the places where you’re going. We had a trip to Tampa scheduled, and both Tampa and Orlando were much easier to find a time. I managed to get an interview time for both myself and Flying Lad back-to-back at the same time we were going to be in Tampa. Flying Momma’s application took longer to come back, so we left her scheduled for SFO in June.
The interview process:
When we got to the Global Entry interview location at Tampa International there was no one waiting besides us. I signed in myself, Flying Lad, and just on a whim signed in Flying Momma. Luckily because it was so slow and they had time, she got to do her interview as well! The process itself it very straightforward. It’s more them telling you what you get with GOES and what you can and cannot do, while verifying the things you wrote on the application. It took about 15 minutes for each of us. They’ll take your picture and fingerprints for your card, which will come in the mail in about two weeks. There was some confusion about whether we could use our status on our outbound flight, which was 5 hours later. One said “Yes”, one said “No”. Because even though you don’t have your ID cards yet, you do have your Number (which was on your email). The answer is “No” you can’t. Quick note – it seemed a lot easier to walk in and get an appointment from step zero at the TSA Precheck office. We accidentally went there first and they were ready to get us going on the spot!
We have yet to use ours, but we are looking forward to it. We’ve been allowed to use that faster security lane in the past and it was an enormous help for us. I almost want to fly somewhere just to use it. But I guess it will have to wait for our upcoming flights to Switzerland, France, and Korea (and some other US locations).
This was our experience with GOES and the interview process at TPA. Your mileage may vary based on your chosen location. Have you gone through the GOES or Precheck process? Is there any detail you’re curious about that we didn’t cover? Let us know below.