Travel Tidbits: contests, TSA finds & fast airport access

Catching up on some travel tidbits from the week:

You can’t win if you don’t play

prizes

In a recent contest round-up, I missed one from Hilton HHonors and ATT called Travel is Calling You. Include your phone number when you fill out the form and then be sure to answer your phone for a chance to win two free night hotel night certificates, a $500 American Airlines gift card and a $500 American Express gift card. The contest runs through August, 2013.

TSA makes it easier to get through security – for a fee

TSAS PRECHECK

Although the TSA’s plan to allow small knives and some currently prohibited sports equipment back on planes as carry-on items is still on hold, the agency is going forward with some programs.

On Friday, in fact, the TSA announced that it is expanding the popular TSA Pre✓ program, which gives expedited screening to pre-approved travelers.

Until now the main way to get into the program that allows passengers to keep their shoes and light jackets on at the airport security checkpoints was to be invited by an airline’s frequent flier program or pay a fee and get enrolled in the Global Entry, SENTRI or NEXUS Trusted Traveler programs.

But later this year, travelers who haven’t yet qualified for the program other ways will be able to apply for the TSA Pre✓ program online and, after clearing a background check, go to an enrollment site to show identification and get fingerprints on file.

The first two enrollment sites will open at Dulles International and Indianapolis airports, and there are plans to open other enrollments sites at a later date.

This next stage of the TSA Pre✓ program won’t be free. It will cost $85 for a five-year membership; $17 a year.

More details here.

And, while we’re talking about the TSA, each Friday the TSA Blog issues a report about the firearms, knives and other prohibited items that travelers try to take with them through airport security checkpoints.

This past week, 49 firearms were nabbed at checkpoints. 36 were loaded and, of those, 10 had rounds chambered.

Houston firearm

Loaded gun found at an airport checkpoint in Houston. Courtesy TSA

You can read more about the knives, throwing stars, fireworks and other, sometimes truly bizarre and prohibited items TSA officers found at airport checkpoints this past week here.