Usually, I love hanging around in airports. But when I come home from a long haul flight only to find hundreds of people in a standstill line shouting profanities at airport clerks, I definitely do not. On my last adventure, travelers waited unexpectedly in a hallway for over 3 hours because there were too many people in the customs room – traffic was backed up real bad.
I can’t blame them for their impatience. But there’s a better solution than tapping your feet and sighing loudly. For American travelers (or at least those who live here) I cannot recommend Global Entry and TSA Precheck enough.
Let me break them down for you.
What is TSA PreCheck?
It’s a program that the U.S. government uses in airports for passengers who have gone through a pre-screening. You only have to do the pre-screen once and as a result, you can skip the lines at any America airport security gate on a departing flight. It’s also cool for parents (of children under 13) because the kids are able to skip the line, too. Btw the TSA answers a ton of FAQs on their website.
Why It’s Great
You don’t have to wait on long lines. In 2016, the average TSA PreCheck customer waited for less than five minutes at security. I am all about efficiencies.
I never take my shoes off in the airport anymore, too. (Which is great for packing lightly BTW bc then I just wear my combat boots on the plane) I don’t have to worry about wearing a jacket and taking my laptop out of my bag, either, and things just move SO quickly.
When You Should Get It
I’d buy this if most of your travels are domestic (i.e you’re a college kid who goes to school out of State), you use air travel quite frequently, you never seem to give yourself enough time at airport security or you find yourself traveling with a laptop a lot.
What is Global Entry?
It’s the international cousin of TSA Pre-Check and instead of take-off benefit, it’s a life saver on your way home. It registers you internationally as a low-risk flyer so that when you land on U.S. soil all you have to do is walk up to a special Global Entry kiosk.
Why It’s Great
It saves literally hours of your life, when you’re already exhausted from a day’s worth of travel. The kiosk makes it simple to come home. It asks for your finger prints and a few other standard questions about your trip, prints out a piece of paper and then you just hand it to someone on your way out, skipping the whole interrogation from a human who stamps your passport for a second time (total waste of space!)
When You Should Get It
If you find yourself traveling internationally a lot. There’s no recommended minimum as to what “a lot” means, but I can almost guarantee you travel enough to consider getting it since you’re reading my travel blog 🙂
How They Work
You pay $85 for 5 years of TSA PreCheck membership and $100 for 5 years of Global Entry.
Hands down no matter why you’re interested in these programs, I recommend Global Entry because that $100 fee includes TSA Pre-Check benefits, too.
- Pro Tip: check with your Credit Card before buying – it’s included as a free perk with a lot of travel cards. I never paid for my membership; it was automatically waived. But I did have to opt into the service with my CSR.
You have to go to an airport for your interview (only happens once) where they will finger print you and ask you a few questions. This is the only annoying part of the entire process. But they let you book your appointment months in advance. I made sure to book mine for the same day as a flight I had, and just gave myself extra time to do so.
- Pro Tip: Don’t forget to bring your passport AND your driver’s license. Even though my flight was domestic, they still needed my Passport to process all my Global Entry paperwork. It would be really annoying to forget one of the documents they ask for because your next likely appointment will be 2 months later.
Once you complete the interview and your application has been accepted, they grant you a Known Traveler Number. It’s basically like another Passport number. Don’t forget it because you’ll need it when you book your flights. It’s how airlines will know to put you in the system and grant you TSA Pre-Check/Global Entry automatically.
- Pro Tip: The second I was approved, I immediately wrote my Known Traveler Number in my cell phone, under my contact information. Sounds weird to have contact info for myself but I always know where to look, have it on me at all times, and don’t need WiFi or email to find it.
The first time you fly as a Known Traveler, once you arrive at a U.S. airport, you’ll notice that 1) your boarding pass has a TSA Pre-Check logo automatically printed on it (as long as you put in your # when you booked your flight) and 2) there’s often a special security line that’s just for TSA Pre-Check customers.
In the case of Global Entry, there’s no perk for children traveling with parents who have the program. They, too, must have Global Entry to skip customs.
And if you’re checking bags in before you get to security, however, there’s nothing either of these passes can do to make your life easier.
Anything else I should know?
This doesn’t just apply to American Citizens! Some foreigners are eligible for these benefits, too, as outlined by the TSA below:
- Lawful U.S. Permanent Residents
- Canadian Citizens (through the NEXUS program)
- Citizens of the United Kingdom
- Mexican Nationals
- German Citizens
- Citizens of the Netherlands
- Citizens of South Korea
- Citizens of Panama
Also, anyone who does have Global Entry should take a look at some partner programs in countries like Australia or the Netherlands. We’re automatically eligible for a similar benefit in Aus, and in other places (Korea for instance) we just have to apply but will likely be accepted.
So that’s the quick run down. Definitely comment below if you have any questions or anything you’d like to share about your experiences with TSA PreCheck and Global Entry!