How to skip TSA security AND immigration lines for good

If you’re a frequent traveler, you’ve undoubtedly had the near-universal experience of enduring a TSA security line or an immigration line upon re-entry to your home country.

What if you could bypass these lines for good?

You may have heard of Global Entry, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) program that allows expedited clearance for pre-approved, low-risk travelers upon arrival in the United States. You fill out a (fairly lengthy) application, pay $100, and if your application passes the initial phase, you’re invited to an in-person interview/screening at a participating airport. If you pass that phase of the application, you are granted a Global Entry ID. In a nutshell, this is how it works:

At airports, program participants proceed to Global Entry kiosks, present their machine-readable passport or U.S. permanent resident card, place their fingertips on the scanner for fingerprint verification, and make a customs declaration. The kiosk issues the traveler a transaction receipt and directs the traveler to baggage claim and the exit. (www.globalentry.gov)

 In addition, people who are approved via the Global Entry program can also participate in TSA Pre-Check, which allows people to skip regular TSA security lines at participating airports and go through an expedited line —without having to remove shoes or other clothing items, open laptops, or do any of the other things that take up time in line.

Global Entry (and the accompanying TSA Pre-Check) is a good fit for your flying needs if:

  • You plan to travel internationally any time in the next five years. The more you travel, of course, the more worthwhile it will be —but many reviewers indicated that Global Entry is worth the time savings even if you travel internationally once a year or less.
  • You have the Amex Platinum, Mercedes-Benz Platinum, or Business Platinum (or Centurion) cards, as the $100 fee is refunded to you as a statement credit. Other cards may also offer this reimbursement check with your credit card company to be sure.
  • You live within a reasonable distance of and use any of the airports listed here. The GE program requires the in-person interview, so if the nearest participating airport is several hundred miles from you, it might not be worth it, unless you are a very frequent flier. Participating TSA Pre-Check airlines and airports can be found here.
  • If you are a Canadian resident, the news is even better! If you qualify for Canada’s expedited-traveler program, called Nexus which only costs $50), you get Global Entry for free.

In addition to inside info on things like GE and Pre-Check, as your travel advisor, I’ve got tons of helpful hints and connections to make your next trip an amazing one. I would be thrilled to meet with you and plan out your next great adventure! You can reach me at marnie@wheelsupadventures.com.

Even Us Travel Agents Learn Lessons Too: Reminding myself, you always get what you pay for.

My husband, my youngest and myself decided last minute to travel home to Toronto for a few days in early December to celebrate the holiday with our family.  Although my hubby travels most years to celebrate the season with his family in early December, due to factors like the cost of traveling as a family of five, sports commitments, kids school schedules & exams we have not traveled home in December as a family in many years.

When we realized that schedule wise it would work for us to travel with our youngest, and surprise our family, I immediately went into booking mode.  Although in booking mode, I somehow took off my travel advisor hat and went right into traveler mode.  We had a short window of time to book our tickets, I was super busy working on my clients travel itineraries and getting ready for the holiday season, my first instinct was to find the lowest fare possible.  Without even thinking I pulled up a popular Online Travel Agency, aka OTA (sites such as Travelocity, Expedia, Priceline etc) and found a fare that I was super happy with and it was departing out of Daytona Beach to boot.  I quickly compared the pricing to the airlines booking tool and choose to save myself minimal dollars and booked with the OTA.  I was so ecstatic about the price that I proudly sent my hubby a text to tell him what a bargain shopper I was.  (He is a numbers guy and I knew that he would be impressed).  I think my ticket purchasing transaction took me a total of ten minutes.

Immediately after booking my tickets I signed into my sky miles account and attempted to book our seats.  What I quickly realized was I had not read the fine print when I purchased my financially pleasing airlines tickets to Toronto, and seat assignment was not available for this class of service until time of check-in.  Not being seat assigned is a stress that I am not very good at dealing with as I suffer a little from claustrophobia and need an aisle seat when I travel.  I know, I know it seams a little silly that an ex-flight attendant, now travel advisor has issues while flying. But such is the case.

Anyway, I finally received my notification that it was time to check-in and we were able to secure seats (me with an aisle) for the first leg of our trip.  What it didn’t allow us to do was obtain our seat assignments from Atlanta to Toronto, we had to receive these upon arrival in Atlanta.  Now, one of the perks traveling international is that you get to stop at the Duty-Free store and make a purchase or two.  Once we reached our terminal we stopped by the Delta counter to get our seats assigned but were quickly informed that we can only get them from our gate agent.  Our gate was of course the second from the end of the corridor, so the three of us kicked it into gear and headed to the gate to get our seat assignments so that hubby and I could make it back to the Duty-Free store to pick up our libations of choice to enjoy during our trip home.  We arrived at the gate and while we waited patiently for our turn to speak with the gate agent I checked my Delta app to see if by chance our seats had by assigned.  Nope, however we were number 3,4,5 on the waiting list with many more seats still available on the plane.  We were getting on the flight but just need to wait.  It was finally our turn to speak with the gate-agent.  In the time period between checking the app and speaking with the agent, our seats had been assigned and yes I was able to get an aisle again.  We actually didn’t need to be in the boarding area or speak with a gate agent to be assigned, it was done automatically based on when we checked-in. We looked at the time and taking a deep breath we began our trek back to Duty-Free.  We knew what we wanted and quickly headed to the cashier thinking, phew we made it, or so we thought.  What we had not anticipated was that Duty-Free has a cut-off period to make purchases for each flight.  We had just missed that time-frame and our purchases were not allowed.  Feeling defeated we headed to our gate and boarded our plane.

The stress of not being able to obtain seats prior to check-in, not being able to receive seat assignments on multiple legs of a trip, and the Duty-Free fiasco, it was decided by all, never again, will we book the least expensive option when traveling.   For us, it is just not worth the savings.