Of course, your loved one wants to toast the bar mitzvah, kiss the bride and meet the new baby. Maybe the dream is a vacation at the lake, a bucket list adventure or simply reuniting with family and friends you haven't seen since before the pandemic. Zoom doesn’t let you hug the ones you love. And it makes the Grand Canyon look like a screensaver.
You’d like to make the milestone trip happen, but caregiving can be tough even in familiar surroundings. The thought of leaving the routine you have carefully established to guide the person you love through the complications of modern transportation may fill your head with dread. Is it wise? Is it even doable?
Yes — if you plan ahead.
Step 1. Contact the Transportation Security Administration (TSA)
TSA Cares is designed to help travelers with limitations get through security as easily as possible. The call center is open from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. ET weekdays and 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET holidays and weekends. Contact them at 855-787-2227 or by email 72 hours before departure.
- Explain your loved one’s situation and needs. If you have specific concerns — like traveling with a service animal or with oxygen, medical gels, liquid medication such as insulin, medication that must be kept cold or medical accessories such as syringes — ask for restrictions and guidance.
- Ask what you can do or bring to help the security check run smoothly.
- Should you bring medical documentation? Generally, it’s useful to have a letter from your loved one’s medical provider that notes conditions and implanted medical devices, and lists medications, including medical accessories such as liquid medication and syringes, IV bags, oxygen tanks and pumps.
- Print and fill out the TSA Notification Card.
If wait time is a concern, consider applying for TSA PreCheck, a federal "trusted traveler" program that expedites airport screening time for members. More than 80 airlines and over 200 airports accept TSA PreCheck. As of May 2022, 93 percent of TSA PreCheck travelers waited under five minutes.
You'll want to apply several weeks before the planned trip. The application process costs $85 and requires you to fill out a five-minute form online and undergo a 10-minute in-person background check and fingerprinting at a local office or airport.
Membership lasts five years and is renewable (renewal costs $70 if you do it online, $85 in person). Members get a Known Traveler Number which they can add to flight reservations.
As a precheck traveler:
- You can enter a designated line at airport checkpoints for faster processing.
- You do not have to take off light jackets, shoes or belts.
- You do not have to unpack laptops and liquids that fit the 3-1-1 requirement.
You are still subject to screening by technology or a pat-down. In addition, hands, mobility aids, equipment and external medical devices may be swabbed to test for trace explosives, and mobility devices may be X-rayed.