SEVENSEAS Marine Conservation & Travel Issue 15, August 2016 - Page 90

Saving Time by Skipping Lines

@ the Airport

By Marcus Reamer

he summer travel rush is in full swing. While we haven’t seen news coverage of horrendously long lines for airport security in recent weeks, that doesn’t mean you should feel

comfortable calling your Uber to the airport at the last minute. Security checkpoints are expected to be more difficult than normal this summer due to numerous factors such as budget cuts and more travelers than ever. Since we here at SEVENSEAS hate the wait just as much as our readers, we spent some time and money exploring ways to help you move through security faster to get to the overpriced, gourmet airport food a little sooner.

Free options:

Fly During Off-Peak Days and Times If you can help it, avoid booking flights between 6:30 am and 9:30 am and flights between 3:30 pm and 7:30 pm during normal travel periods. During holidays and school-breaks, all bets are off and anything goes. The bonus is the chance to snag a cheaper ticket for off-peak travel, saving you both time and money.

Pack Smarter Packing is probably the worst part of getting ready for a trip because there tend to be more questions than answers. “Will I really wear this shirt I’ve never worn at home on vacation?” “Do I need 9 pairs of shoes for this weekend trip?” The world may never know, but you can make life easier for TSA agents and the travelers behind you in line by packing your carry-on bags in a way that will prevent you from fumbling around when you get to the X-ray machine. To pack smart, you just need to take a few minutes to look at TSA regulations for what is and is not allowed on the plane and how they want to see liquids organized in that clear plastic bag. If you layer your items neatly and keep your liquids and large electronics easily accessible in your bag, life will be easier for you and everyone around you. It’s also smart to wear slip-on shoes and avoid an outfit that requires a belt; when you get near the airport remove your light jacket and anything from your pockets until you get past the checkpoint.

Be Among the Elite Ok, so this one isn’t exactly free but it’s not exactly paid either. Most of the larger airlines offer loyalty programs with tiered reward levels based on how much you travel per year. Depending on the loyalty program you join, you may be able to use a dedicated priority security checkpoint based on the airport you’re traveling from and your rewards level at that time. If you booked a business-class or first-class ticket, you generally gain access to a priority security lane included in the price of your ticket. Check your airline’s website or give them a call to confirm.

The Perks of Plastic Some travel credit cards offered by American Express, Barclaycard, and Citi offer a rebate for application fees required for enrolling in programs such as TSA Precheck and Global Entry. While these credit cards generally require an annual fee that exceeds the application fees for any of these programs, you do avoid dishing out more cash for the benefits. Definitely take the time to check the benefits page of your credit card account or reach out to your creditor to see if you qualify for this perk.

Paid options:

CLEAR One of the major hold ups at a security checkpoint is the identify verification portion where you present your boarding pass and identification to a TSA officer. At about a dozen select airports throughout the U.S., CLEAR offers an interesting solution to these waits: using a fingerprint or iris scan to verify your identity. Once your identity has been confirmed, the CLEAR agent escorts you directly to the security conveyor belts for screening. CLEAR is adding lanes to several airports this year, including at all of Delta’s hub airports, in Seattle, and in both of the airports near Washington D.C. When paired with other programs like TSA Precheck and Global Entry, CLEAR can help you fly through the security checkpoint by addressing two different points of delay.

CLEAR starts at $179 per year for individuals; dependent children under 18 receive complimentary membership and additional family members are an extra $50 per year. Take note: some credit cards such as Visa Signature cards offer complimentary access to CLEAR for up to six months followed by a discounted rate after the promotional period ends. After online enrollment, you simply stop by the CLEAR lane at your local airport with a government issued form of identification such as a passport or driver’s license, provide some basic information about yourself, give your fingerprints and iris scan, let the agent take a picture of you, and you’re a CLEAR member for the next twelve months. My experience with CLEAR has been worth the price so far as I have skipped some seriously intimidating lines and the two airports I travel out of frequently (MIA and BWI) have CLEAR lanes. If you don’t live near an airport that is currently offering a CLEAR lane or projected to get a CLEAR lane this year, you may want to skip this program for now and save the $15 per month. Added bonuses included in CLEAR membership include discounted Hertz car rentals, a free trial of TripIt Pro, a popular app to help you organize your travel, and access to CLEAR lanes at select sport venues such as baseball stadiums and basketball arenas. For more information on this program visit www.clearme.com

TSA Precheck TSA Precheck is one of several known traveler programs and is best for those traveling domestically in the United States. For this program you agree to undergo a background check, provide your fingerprints, and pay an application fee in exchange for benefits at the security checkpoint such as: dedicated TSA Precheck lines; the ability to leave your shoes, belts, and jackets on; not having to remove your liquids or large electronics from your bag; and the ability to go through a regular metal detector instead of the normal x-ray scanner. Individuals 12 and under can use the TSA Precheck lane with an eligible guardian, but anyone 13 and up needs to have their own TSA Precheck membership to use the dedicated lane.

The application fee is $85, paid to TSA when applying for the program online but if you are approved you are entitled to use TSA Precheck for the next five years. After a conditional approval you will be asked to attend an in person approval which requires a fingerprint scan, verification of your identity and a few questions. A few days after the in person interview you will receive what is referred to as a Known Traveler Number (KTN) which you will provide when booking travel. People with TSA Precheck commonly forget to provide their KTN at the time of booking, but most airlines will let you update this information up to the time you check in for your flight. You will not receive a membership card or any credentials beyond the KTN so keep this number written in a safe place. When you print your boarding pass or load it on to your phone you will see TSA Precheck and this is the only way to prove to the TSA that you are a member of the program. For more information on this program visit www.tsa.gov/precheck

Global Entry Similar to TSA Precheck, Global Entry is a known traveler program best suited for individuals traveling internationally more than a few times a year. This program includes TSA Precheck, but the main perk is expedited screening at customs upon returning to the United States. Most major airports are outfitted with Global Entry digital kiosks which allow you to declare any items you are bringing into the country, scan your passport, and take your receipt to the customs officer, all in a few short minutes. The application fee for this program is $100, only a few dollars more expensive than TSA Precheck alone, and you remain enrolled in the program for five years. After a conditional approval you will be asked to attend an in-person approval which requires a fingerprint scan, verification of your identity and a few questions. Just like with TSA Precheck, you receive a Known Traveler Number to be entered every time you book a flight departing in the United States, though with Global Entry you receive your KTN at the conclusion of the in-person interview. You will receive a membership card which is only used when crossing the Mexican or Canadian border by car, so it’s important to keep the KTN on hand. From application to approval, I had to wait about six weeks but I only had to wait about a week for a convenient interview time after my application had been conditionally approved, though wait times will vary based on your location. For more information on this program visit www.globalentry.gov

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