There’s a seemingly endless number of reasons it’s so difficult for those of us with migraines to travel, and it’s gotten worse since 9/11. Those same rules and safeguards that make it safer for us to travel also make it more difficult.
Over the last year or so, I’ve been seeing signs in airports about the new TSA Pre✓“ expedited screening program. This is a TSA program in which we can apply to go through security more simply and quickly because we’ve been pre-checked for security. On a few flights, my boarding pass has been marked “TSA Pre✓“,” so I was able to see how the program works. It’s wonderful! When you’re TSA Pre✓“approved, going through security is streamlined and simplified:
- There are separate security lines that are shorter and move more quickly.
- It’s not required to remove laptops, tablets, liquids and gels, or anything from carry-ons.
- Shoes, belts, and light jacket don’t need to be removed.
- No body scan, just the “regular” metal detector.
- Just take everything out of your pockets and put them in a container on the conveyor belt along with your carry-on items.
When I was flying back from Los Angeles in June, TSA Pre✓“ was so quick that, after I checked my suitcase, it took me just 10 minutes to go through security and be on the way to my gate. Never have I had such a quick and easy experience with airport security. After passing through the metal detector, I was asked to stand with my arms out while a TSA agent checked my left arm with a wand because my stainless steel watch had shown up strangely in the metal detector. Still, that was next to nothing. Nobody opened my carry-on pieces. No questions were asked about the injectable migraine and diabetes medications or the syringes and needles I was carrying.
Here’s how the TSA describes TSA Pre✓™:
TSA Pre✓™ is one of several intelligence-driven, risk-based initiatives helping TSA move away from a one-size-fits-all model to provide the most effective security in the most efficient way. The use of risk-based initiatives will allow TSA to maintain its high security standards and improve the passenger experience while ensuring as many travelers as possible experience the benefit of expedited screening through the TSA Pre✓™ lanes.
Travelers that are eligible for TSA Pre✓™ include:
- U.S. citizens of frequent flyer programs who meet TSA-mandated criteria and who have been invited by a participating airline.
- U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents with a Known Traveler Number (KTN), sometimes referred to as a trusted traveler number.
- U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents who are members of the TSA Pre✓™ application program.
- Members of the U.S. Armed Forces, including those serving in the U.S. Coast Guard, Reserves, and National Guard.
- Department of Defense and U.S. Coast Guard civilian employees.
- Members of the following U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) trusted traveler programs:
- All members of Global Entry.
- U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents and Canadian citizens who are members of NEXUS.
- U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents who are members of SENTRI.
Applying for TSA Pre✓™ is easy. You can start the process from the TSA’s Pre✓ page. After answering a few questions, you’re given the opportunity to schedule an appointment for a short personal interview and told what documentation you’ll need to take with you. More and more offices are opening to conduct these interviews, so you probably won’t have to go very far. My appointment was scheduled for an office about 10 minutes from my house, and the interview took less than 15 minutes. I received a letter that told me I’d been approved and gave me my known traveler number (KTN) about three weeks later. After the personal interview, a fee of $85 is required. Pre✓ approval is valid for five years.
Traveling with migraines can be burdensome and exhausting. Anything that makes travel easier can result in feeling better both during the trip and once we reach our destination. The TSA Pre✓ expedited screening program can help reduce problems and make travel easier and more enjoyable. If you fly much, it’s well worth the time and small monetary investment to apply.
Teri Robert is a leading patient educator and advocate and the author of Living Well with Migraine Disease and Headaches. A co-founder of the Alliance for Headache Disorders Advocacy and the American Headache and Migraine Association, she received the National Headache Foundation’s Patient Partners Award and a Distinguished Service Award from the American Headache Society. Teri can be found on her website, and blog, Facebook, Twitter, StumbleUpon, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and Google+.