One Simple Trick to Get Rid of the Majority of Airport Annoyances

What if we told you there’s an easy way to improve your airport experience?

Our passion is travel, but let’s be honest: Who really likes the actual act of traveling, especially when it involves flying? You have to show up well before your flight time, just in case the security lines are long. You have to take off your shoes, dig your liquids out of your bag, unearth your laptop from its case, and “assume the position” inside a body scanner. If you’ve gone overseas, you may lose hours of precious time waiting in line to be interrogated by a customs agent upon your return home. But what if we told you there was an incredibly simple way to avoid all of that?

It’s called Global Entry. Here’s why you should join it instead of TSA PreCheck: It’s only $15 more ($100 total for a five-year membership), and you’ll automatically be qualified for TSA PreCheck as well (without paying anything extra to join). So you’ll get all of the TSA PreCheck benefits, plus you’ll be able to skip the customs lines whenever you return to the United States.

Here’s what you get with TSA PreCheck (assuming you’re flying on one of the 11 domestic airlines that offer it and through one of the 120-plus airports that participate in the program):

  • You get to use an expedited airport security line. I’ve had TSA PreCheck for over a year, and I’ve never had to wait more than 10 minutes to be screened. This even includes the times I’ve flown on notoriously busy days like the Sunday after Christmas and the Monday after Thanksgiving, when the regular security lines were extremely long.
  • You can leave your laptop and travel-sized liquids in your carry-on.
  • You don’t have to remove your shoes, belt, or light jacket.
  • You pass through a metal detector rather than an X-ray body scanner.

With Global Entry, you get all of these TSA PreCheck perks and expedited entry into the United States. This means that instead of filling out a customs form on the plane and waiting in the long customs line, you get to wait in a much shorter line (or no line at all—it’s been nonexistent every time I’ve traveled) to use a kiosk. All you have to do is scan your passport and fingerprints and make a customs declaration. You’ll get a special printout and be on your way, usually in less than five minutes.

A few hints about the application process:

  • The wait for an interview can be long. If your local airport doesn’t have an open appointment for months, check airports that you’ll be traveling through or arriving at sooner and try to schedule an appointment during your layover or upon reaching your destination.
  • The interview is the easiest part—it takes less than 10 minutes.
  • Make sure you qualify for Global Entry, because the application fee is nonrefundable if you are denied.
  • You will be issued a trusted-traveler number after you are approved for Global Entry. Be sure to enter this number into your airline reservation every time you book—otherwise, you won’t have TSA PreCheck on your ticket.

Traveling has become so much faster and more pleasant since I signed up for Global Entry. Now if only there were tricks to avoid flight delays and get upgraded to first class…

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By Caroline Morse Teel

Unfortunately for her bank account, Principal Editor Caroline Morse Teel is powerless to resist a good flight deal. Follow her on Instagram @TravelWithCaroline.

Caroline joined Boston-based SmarterTravel in 2011 after living in Ireland, London, and Manhattan. She's traveled to all seven continents, jumped out of planes, and bungeed off bridges in the pursuit of a good story. She loves exploring off-the-beaten path destinations, anything outdoorsy, and all things adventure.

Her stories have also appeared online at USA Today, Business Insider, Huffington Post, Yahoo,, TripAdvisor, Buzzfeed, Jetsetter, Oyster, Airfarewatchdog, and others.

The Handy Item I Always Pack: "Earplugs. A good pair has saved my sleep and sanity many times!"

Ultimate Bucket List Experience: Hiking Mount Kilimanjaro.

Travel Motto: "Don't be boring."

Aisle, Window, or Middle Seat: "Aisle (when the first class private suite isn't available)."

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