The summer is coming to a close, the kids a returning to school, and we’re thinking about fall and the upcoming family get-togethers.  To me this has always meant the vacations are over and it is time to get back to serious work schedules and serious travel schedules whether for work or for family get-togethers.  I’ve spent more than a fair share of time traveling in my career and have some technology tools to make it all less burdensome.  Since at least a couple of these require some advance planning I’m publishing this during the slower summer season so that by the time the travel needs arise you can be squared away.

What aspect of travel would most of us like to avoid?  I’d say the long lines, specifically the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) lines in airports.  Now, let me first say that I am not going to complain about the TSA because no matter what they do they get bad press.  When the government conducts security audits and then reports TSA is not doing a good enough job, TSA takes action to be more thorough.  Then we (the general public) complain that lines are too long and we’re missing our flights.  All the while many of our airports are increasing the number of gates at the airport and thereby increasing the number of flights and/or carriers at the airport to meet our travel needs.  As a result, the overall volume is increasing, the number of TSA personnel may or may not be increasing and we want them to be both thorough (perfect actually) and faster than ever before.  With this being said, I give my thanks to the TSA for their professionalism in an imperfect world with an expectation that they will be perfect.

The question remains – how can I get through travels lines as easily as possible?  There are two travel systems operated by the U.S. government with which you should become familiar.  Both of these systems require that you submit an application in advance for review and that you are approved for these systems.

  • The first is a system for travel inside the U.S. called “TSA Pre-Check”. This system is for domestic travel only.  If you will only be traveling inside the U.S., then think about submitting an application for TSA Pre-Check.  It presently costs $85 for a five-year period.  It is only available to U.S. citizens, U.S. nationals, and U.S. Lawful Permanent Residents (LPRs).  It requires:
    • you submit an application on-line at TSA Pre-Check
    • the government will perform a background check and fingerprinting at an appointment that you schedule in one of the almost 400 enrollment centers in the country (Note: proper documentation is required at the appointment), and
    • if you are approved for TSA Pre-Check that you add your assigned Known Traveler Number (KTN) to your tickets to ensure it is clearly visible on each ticket for review as you pass through TSA security.

How does this help you?  Most airlines in major cities now have a separate TSA Pre-Check line for those passenger that have already undergone this background check and been approved.  This TSA Pre-Check line does not require you to remove your:

  • shoes,
  • belts,
  • light jackets/sweaters,
  • 3-1-1 liquids or

So even if you look at both lines and see that they are equally long lines, de facto the TSA Pre-Check line is going to be moving faster.  I was an early adopter for TSA Pre-Check because of work I was doing with the Department of Homeland Security.  Now I can’t stand to be in the “other” line.

  • The second system is a similar system for travel outside the U.S. called “Global Entry”. Global Entry is for international travel.  Individuals eligible for this program are U.S. citizens, U.S. LPRs and citizens of a few other countries such as:
    • Citizens of the United Kingdom
    • Citizens of Germany
    • Citizens of the Netherlands
    • Citizens of Panama
    • Citizens of South Korea and
    • Mexican nationals

First you must create an account in the Global Online Entry System (GOES).  The non-refundable fee is presently $100.  Once your application is reviewed a determination is made whether you will be conditionally approved for the program.  If conditionally approved, you will schedule an appointment at a Global Entry Enrollment Center for an interview (Note: proper documentation is required at the appointment).  Again if approved, you will receive a Global Entry Card you bring with you on international travel.  An additional bonus upside to the Global Entry Card is that it can be used at both land and sea ports of entry to the U.S.  If you like to take international cruises this can be great.  If you travel across either northern or southern U.S. borders this can also be great because the card can be used for proper entry using SENTRI and NEXIS lanes.  How else does an approved Global Entry Card benefit you?  Let me count the ways:

  • Reduced processing
  • Reduced paperwork delays
  • Access to the expedited entry benefits in other countries
  • Reduced wait times for entry
  • TSA Pre-Check Eligibility

One case in point, several years ago I had a co-worker returning from Europe through Washington Dulles International Airport.  My co-worker had a Global Entry Card while his fellow travelers did not.  As a result, they went separately through customs and re-entry to the U.S. at Dulles.  My co-worker went through the airport process, took the bus to long term parking, collected his car, drove home to DC, and sat down with a glass of wine.  It was only at this point that he received a phone call from his fellow travelers saying that they had made it through customs and were going to pick up their vehicle.  And while results certainly vary in every case, I know the length of trip and the length of the flight time only increase my impatience to get home as quickly and painlessly as possible.  So I am all about the expedited process.

If you are going to be traveling, consider getting yourself into TSA Pre-Check and/or Global Entry.  It can make TSA lines easier and your travel more streamlined.

Bottom Line:  Don’t Wait If You Don’t Have To

Lisa Foy, Founder, The Curious Coyote

www.TheCuriousCoyote.comOn-Line Business Magazine