There are a lot of stressful things about traveling, but we truly hate going through the security checkpoints at airports. Who doesn’t? But when you have certain anxieties, something about airport security can be extra stressful. Don’t get me wrong, crossing at land borders isn’t pain-free, but the whole TSA process is in a league of its own. That’s why we’ve wondered if enrolling in TSA Precheck can help our travel anxiety.
Going through security is such a small part of a trip, but many travelers spend a lot of time preparing for it. You’ve got to have the right containers, know the rules about liquids and electronics, and commune in close quarters with everyone else to survive the process. For our own reasons, we just don’t like it.
What Triggers Jeanne:
I’ve been randomly selected for additional screening so many times — even while carrying my grandmother’s ashes — that I’ve come to expect it. The germophobe in me, however, is highly triggered by almost every aspect of the TSA checkpoint. Getting through it can be traumatic (check out our 7 Carry-On Essentials for Germaphobes). There have been times when I’ve cried through a flight because it was so difficult. Here are some of the things that bother me most:
- Walking with no shoes
- Putting jacket in gross bins (where people have put their shoes)
- Having personal items handled by strangers
- Feeling rushed
- Being surrounded by people who are sick
If I’m standing in line with someone coughing right behind me and I’m walking around shoeless in an airport, you can be sure I’m freaking out inside. The last thing I want is to look nervous and get flagged by an agent so it takes a monumental effort to look “normal.”
What Triggers Josh:
While he’s less concerned about being sanitary, Josh gets just as anxious at the TSA security checkpoint. He’s not a fan of lining up for anything (even the grocery checkout), so the disorganization that can exist among travelers is something he’d prefer to avoid. Here are some of the things that make the screening an ordeal for him:
- Not picking the “right” line.
- Making the people behind him wait.
- Lack of efficiency.
- Not wanting to bring attention to himself.
- Needing to follow the rules perfectly.
Before we talked through our mutual dislike for the security process, I had no idea why he was so agitated. I’d assumed he was annoyed with me. Now that I’m more aware of his triggers, I try to avoid them by allowing him to choose the line we go through and being more proactive about grabbing a bin. It’s been wonderful to learn how to support each other and make everything go more smoothly.
Applying for TSA Precheck
Before applying for TSA Precheck, it’s a good idea to determine whether it is included in any of your credit card perks or with any of the loyalty programs to which you belong. If you aren’t eligible through those channels, it’s still pretty easy to apply for TSA Precheck in most areas. If you’ve ever considered signing up, these are the steps you’ll have to take:
Step 1 – Apply Online: The online application is very straightforward and should take no more than five minutes to complete. Once you’ve submitted all of the required information, you’ll be prompted to choose a location and schedule an in-person appointment. Sometimes you’ll have to wait weeks just for an appointment, so do your homework and see which location is the least busy and choose that one.
Step 2 – Background Check: During the in-person appointment, you’ll need to bring your identification and payment. You’ll also have your picture and fingerprints taken. I don’t love touching a surface where hundreds of people have put their germy hands, but the agent had hand sanitizer ready for those who wanted it!
Step 3 – Wait for Confirmation: You won’t know the status of your application right away. In fact, it can take up to 30 days to receive an update. In the meantime, you can check the status on their website.
Step 4 – Enjoy TSA Precheck: If you’re approved, you’ll be given a Known Traveler Number by email or in a written letter. To use TSA Precheck, you’ll add your KTN to your ticket before you travel. You’ll want to make sure that the name on your reservation matches the one associated with your KTN.
Benefits of Having TSA Precheck
Travelers with TSA Precheck enjoy some awesome benefits. While the following perks may not be important to all, for people like me and Josh, it’s can be a sanity saver:
- You won’t need to remove shoes, belts or hoodies/light jackets.
- Your liquids can stay in your bags!
- No need to remove laptops and electronics from luggage.
- Wait times of five minutes or less.
This already has me and my OCD smiling! While the risk is low, you could pick up something nasty by walking barefoot in an airport. For me, it’s a matter of not wanting to further expose myself in a situation where I’m already feeling vulnerable.
Shorter, more orderly lines really helps alleviate stress too. I’ll be surrounded by fewer people for less time and Josh won’t have to worry that he’s picked the wrong line. It’s definitely worth $85 for five years!
Updated Guidelines from TSA
Right now, we’re in the midst of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. In response to this, TSA is asking travelers to change the way they go through the screening process at airports. We are not fully changing this blog post as we don’t know if these changes will be permanent, but we’ll include them here in the interim:
- Wash your hands before and after the screening procedures.
- Do not place items such as your phone or wallet in the nasty bins. Put them in personal carry-on luggage.
- Liquid hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes (including the jumbo packs!) are now allowed in carry-on and checked luggage.
We can’t even tell you how many times the previous restrictions cost us a bottle of hand sanitizer, so this is a welcomed change. Hopefully, they will continue to allow this after we’ve moved past the outbreak.
Can TSA Precheck Help Travel Anxiety?
If you’ve made it this far, you might still be wondering whether TSA Precheck can help with travel anxiety. The truth is that it really depends on the person. Anxiety manifests in different ways in different people and only you can know whether it’s beneficial.
That being said, avoiding long lines, having less hassle during the screening process, and not having to put your shoes back on/repack your bag will probably create a more peaceful traveling experience for anyone — not just travelers with anxiety. Along with my favorite essential oils for beating travel anxiety, TSA Precheck has really made this process easier.
When you can simply stroll up to the TSA screening area, walk through the detectors, retrieve your bag, and continue walking to your gate, we’d say your trip is already off to a great start.