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Brace yourselves: The government shutdown will start up again in T-5 days if lawmakers don’t reach an agreement on funding for a wall along the southwest border of the US. On Feb. 15, temporary funding expires for the federal agencies affected by the shutdown. During the last shutdown, which lasted a historic 34 days, hundreds of TSA agents called out sick to protest work without pay. While most airports experienced little to no delays in security wait times, others were forced to close multiple security lanes, which resulted in wait times of more than an hour in some cases.

Passengers flying from Miami International Airport wait in line to enter the checkpoint at Concourse F, where some of the flights of a closed terminal were diverted, in Miami, Florida, on January 13, 2019. - Operations at Concourse G were shut down during the weekend due to a shortage of security agents sparked by the partial US government shutdown. (Photo by Leila MACOR / AFP) (Photo credit should read LEILA MACOR/AFP/Getty Images)
Photo by LEILA MACOR/AFP/Getty Images

With less than a week left until the next potential shutdown, there are a few last-minute steps you can take to prepare for the travel nightmares that may ensue:

Apply for TSA PreCheck ASAP

Getting TSA PreCheck is a straight-forward process that will expedite your security wait. Applicants will need to fill out an online form and schedule an in-person interview at an airport, a participating Staples store or other local participating locations may be available. There is also an option to forgo a specified appointment time and simply just walk in. Once the interview is complete, the applicant will need to wait until their submission is approved to receive their known traveler number, or KTN, the special digits added to your frequent flier profile and flight reservations that should get you — most times — into the faster PreCheck lanes.

TSA PreCheck at a participating Staples location.
TSA PreCheck at a participating Staples location. (Photo by Danielle Vito)

To test out the current turn-around time for approval, we sent a PreCheck-less traveler to Staples for a walk-in interview on Monday, Feb. 4. He completed his ten-minute interview at 7:30pm. The Staples employee mentioned that the process could take anywhere from 2-4 weeks, but approval could happen in less than a week. By Thursday, Feb. 7, just three days later, our PreCheck guinea pig received an email at 11:30pm with his KTN.

If you are interested in finding out more about TSA PreCheck, here is our guide for everything you need to know.

Download the MyTSA App

You can see recently reported wait times via the TSA’s MyTSA mobile app found in both major app stores. The handy app not only reports on wait times but offers other useful information such as delay information, weather conditions and a searchable database of items you can bring with you through security checkpoints onto the airplane.

Monitor Your Airport’s Website

Nowadays, many airports report the current wait time right on their websites.

Monitor the website of your departing airport in the hours leading up to your flight. You may get stuck in a long line, but at least you’ll be prepared and be able to allow yourself enough time to get through security without panic.

Bottom Line

If you don’t already have TSA PreCheck, now is the time to get it — especially if you plan on traveling in the near future. While we can’t guarantee the three-day turnaround that our test subject saw, it’s definitely worth a shot. The $85 fee (which is waived by these credit cards) is an investment that will save you time and frustration for the next five years.

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