Tuesday Travel Tip - The ONE Thing You Should Do To Make Travel Easier

Picture this scenario...it is Spring Break week and you are headed to a relaxing, tropical vacation...your mind is already on the beach chair and the umbrella drink you are looking forward to later that day.

 But first, you must get there...
Upon arrival at the airport, you realize that everyone and their brother is also traveling on the same day and the security lines are snaking around the entire departure area. Not too relaxing, right? 
Now imagine walking beyond those crowds to a very special line just for you and a few other "trusted travelers"...one where you do not need to remove your shoes or take liquids out of your bags...wouldn't that be nice?? 
After having that exact experience a couple of weeks ago and feeling very smug while skipping to the front of the line, I thought it made sense to revisit my post from 2014 on TSA PreCheck and Global Entry...

Are You A "Trusted Traveler"? 

(repost from May, 2014)
Do you find the airport security screening process your least favorite part about traveling? I think pretty much everyone does, so why not make your life easier and become a "trusted traveler"?  By participating in the TSA Pre-check program, you proceed to your own security line, you don't need to remove your shoes or your jacket and you don't have to take your toiletries or your laptop out of your bag.  The average wait time for the TSA PreCheck line is two minutes! I can hear all of you saying "sign me up", so I am here to tell you how it all works!
There are two primary ways to achieve "trusted traveler" status - by signing up for TSA PreCheck, or by participating in Global Entry, a program offered through US Customs and Border Patrol, which offers expedited passage through immigration when re-entering the United States, as well as automatically enrolling you in TSA Precheck.

TSA PreCheck costs $85 for five years. You initially fill out an online application, followed by an appointment at an enrollment center where you will be fingerprinted and provide the necessary documentation (valid ID and proof of citizenship).
Global Entry costs $100 for five years. The process is similar to TSA Precheck, but following your initial application, you schedule an interview with a customs agent, where they will also fingerprint you and verify your documentation.   If you anticipate traveling internationally at all, it is worth the extra $15 to do Global Entry to receive expedited passage through customs upon re-entering the United States. Also, if you have an American Express Platinum card, they will credit back the $100 fee to join Global Entry, if you charge it on your Amex card.
Following the successful completion of the above steps you will be provided with a "known traveler" number. When you book your plane ticket there is a place to enter this number and when your boarding pass is issued, it will be marked TSA Pre-Check and you will receive all of the benefits mentioned above.
I recently went through the process of joining Global Entry and I can tell you the process was incredibly easy. We scheduled our interview at JFK airport for a day when we were flying, so we simply arrived at the airport a bit early. The interview took about 10 minutes and we were on our way.
It is well worth the time involved in filling out the application and going for the interview to not have to deal with long security lines. I haven't tested to the Customs aspect of the Global Entry program, but judging from the long lines at JFK whenever I come back from an international trip, I can imagine it will be a pleasure to simply scan my fingerprints at a kiosk rather than waiting in those lines!
 So, what are you waiting in that security line for??

Update as of 2016: 

I have now returned to the US several times using the Global Entry fast track and it is a dream - there is nothing worse than landing after a 12 hour flight only to stand in line for an hour at customs/immigration! 

The following countries have reciprocal privileges with Global Entry allowing you faster customs and immigration processing when arriving: UK, Australia, Canada, Germany, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand and Korea. If you have plans to visit any of those countries and have Global Entry, go here for more information on fast tracking the entry process. 

I use the TSA PreCheck line every time I fly and 95% of the time it is a huge difference. If you fly during times when there are a lot of business travelers, you might find the TSA PreCheck line longer (yes, businessmen are on to this already). It still tends to move faster because you do not have to take your shoes off or remove liquids.

 As much as I hate to let the secret out of the bag for fear my "special" line will grow longer, knowing that I can make just one person's travels a little more comfortable is worth it!