Airport at night
General Security Tips Country-Specific Security Rules How to Get TSA PreCheck

Peak travel periods including holidays and whenever schools are in recess usually mean packed planes and long lines. These airport security tips will make it easier for travelers in the U.S. and around the world.

General Airport Security Tips

Great, you found the cheapest tickets possible. Next, follow these two important rules before your flight, especially during peak travel periods.

1. Get to the airport early

Airlines often give advice on when to get to the airport. If yours doesn’t, use these guidelines:

  • Domestic flights: Arrive 2 hours early
  • International flights: Arrive 3 hours early

Don’t forget to factor in heavy traffic on roads and crowded parking lots as you calculate when to leave your home.

2. Be prepared for security

In  the U.S. and other countries, prepare for security by taking no large containers of liquids through checkpoints (containers that hold more than 3.4 oz. or 100 ml.). Other general guidelines: No no sharp objects, and wear easy on-off shoes in case you have to remove them (as is the case at U.S. checkpoints).

Airport Security by Country

Rules and regulations vary from country to country. If you don’t see your nation listed below, do a search for ‘airport security’ and the country name. Also, airline and airport websites often have very good information so check there as well.

  • United States – includes information on passports and conditions in other countries
  • Australia – includes packing and screening advice
  • Canada – includes everything from passenger rights to traveling with pets
  • European Union – includes additional links to several countries
  • Mexico – includes general information plus links to popular airports

Also, check to see if your country has a special fast-track program that offers a quicker security experience like TSA PreCheck for U.S.-based travelers.

How to Join the U.S. TSA PreCheck Program

A first person account by a FareCompare employee who joined PreCheck in 2016.

Step 1 – Online application

I went online to the TSA PreCheck Apply page to sign-up and answer a series of mostly yes-or-no questions like these:

  • Have you ever used a maiden/previous name?
  • Have you ever used an alias?
  • Is your mailing address the same as your residential address?
  • Have you lived at your current residential address for more than five (5) years?

I was also asked to describe myself including hair color (the usual shades as well as “bald, blue, green, pink, purple”). Then there were more serious questions:

  • “Excluding juvenile cases unless convicted as an adult, have you been convicted, pled guilty including “no contest” (nolo contendere), or found not guilty by reason of insanity, of any disqualifying felony listed in TSA Eligibility Requirements, Part A, in any jurisdiction, military or civilian?”

After filling this out, I was then told to make an appointment for an in-person interview. You may be given a variety of location options and some allow walk-in interviews but I opted to set an appointment. This happened to be a busy time for the TSA, so I had to wait about two weeks for an appointment.

Step 2 – The interview

My interview took place at the office of a small tax business that leased space to the TSA.

Interview: It was very short. I was shown my online application and asked the verify my answers (“Yes, that’s what I wrote”). Then I placed my fingertips on an electronic gizmo to record my fingerprints (no ink, no mess). Finally, I handed over a credit card and was charged $85 for a five year PreCheck membership. This entire ‘interview’ took about five minutes.

Step 3 – Acceptance

About a week later, an email arrived telling me I’d been accepted into PreCheck. To complete the enrollment process, I had to retrieve a Known Traveler Number (KTN) from universalenroll.dhs.gov. From there it was a simple matter of answering a few easy questions to verify my ID, and getting the number.

Step 4 – Use your KTN

The next time I booked a flight, I added my Known Traveler Number (KTN) in the appropriate space; then, when it was time to check-in for my flight, I printed out the boarding pass and there in the upper left hand corner was an abbreviation for TSA PreCheck. At the airport, I was directed to the designated PreCheck-only line where I was allowed to keep my shoes and jacket on, while my toiletries stayed in my carry-on and my laptop in its bag.

Was the TSA PreCheck program worth joining?

Absolutely.