Travel has not been a happy occasion for many people lately. An irate traveler caught the hours-long wait of many people stuck in security lines at Chicago O’Hare Airport. It set off a firestorm in public opinion, management heads rolled, and Congress magically found the money for TSA to hire several hundred people by mid-June.
For the Memorial Day weekend, many people are taking to the roads, the rails, the buses, and the skies to visit family, or go away on vacation. If flying is your preferred (or only) method of going where you need to go, consider this option, which will improve your travel life for years to come.
Travel Program Choices
There exist several programs that can make the process of going through security lines a lot faster. Your choices depend on whether you primarily travel:
- Domestically, within the US (TSA PreCheck)
- Between the US and Canada (NEXUS)
- Between the US and Mexico (SENTRI)
- Between the US and other parts of the world (Global Entry)
The TSA offers a Precheck program,at a reasonable $85. The downside is that it’s only valid for domestic travel. NEXUS and SENTRI have similar downsides. Who’s to say that one day you won’t go on vacation in Mexico or Canada?
How to Apply
You are better off applying for the Global Entry Program. The application process can be done completely online, in less than 20 minutes. Within a few weeks, you’ll get a notification to choose the nearest airport, where you will watch a short video, answer a few questions. You will be fingerprinted, receive an ID card and be sent on your merry way.
Have no fear that your time will be wasted at the in-person appointment. Most airports batch 4 or 5 people together in the 15-20 minute time slots, and you’re in and out.
Make Your Money Back
Even if you rarely travel, you will quickly recover the cost of this program.
- First, enrollment will carry you through 5 years of travel.
- Second, American Express members who hold the personal or business version of the Platinum and Centurion Cards get a statement credit equivalent to the cost of the program. A couple of other cards offer a refund, as well.
- Third, unless you and your spouse mostly travel separately, you can get by on only one of you being enrolled in this program.
- Best of all, when you put other travelers on your itinerary, ALL of you are eligible to go through expedited security together.
Trusted Travelers through that program will be recognized by the TSA though a reciprocal agreement. There’s no additional fee because your Known Traveler Number (KTN) will be automatically accessible by the TSA.. In addition, Global Entry allows you to qualify to apply for the UK’s Registered Traveller program. But that’s not even the best reason to apply.
Not only can you travel happy, so can everyone on your itinerary. Simply purchase the tickets for everyone traveling with you, so that everyone’s information is loaded together. That means all of you qualify to go through the shorter TSA line together. They may still be subject to the normal physical checks, but at least, they’re eligible to bypass the long lines. In some airports, certain airlines allow you to pay a fee in order to expedite you through the line. You can save boatloads of money by having this one credential.