Categories
Security Travel Technology

Unlock Your Door With Your Fingerprint: Lockly Secure Pro Review

The Lockly Secure Pro can unlock your door remotely with a keycode, via Alexa, or with your fingerprint. Never juggle your keys again or have to run home to let house guests in.

Lockly Secure Pro Review

Price and Where to Buy: The Lockly Secure Pro is available on Amazon and Lockly’s website for $299.99.

[st_content_ad]How The Lockly Secure Pro Rates

  • Usefulness: 10/10. You won’t have to search your luggage for your keys at the end of a long trip anymore; you can open the Lockly Secure Pro using your fingerprint, the app, Alexa, Google Assistant, or the keypad. The keypad is a great feature for when you have guests, as you can issue separate codes and remove access when it’s no longer needed.
  • Style: 9/10. You can choose from a deadbolt or latch style, and pick your finish to match your existing door hardware. The keyhole is hidden under a nice, stylish flap and the keypad is blank until you swipe across it, adding to the sleek look.
  • Security: 10/10. The lock comes with a Wi-Fi-enabled hub that allows you to monitor your door from anywhere. Included wireless sensors will tell you if the door is opened or closed. Lockly can be programmed to auto-lock after any amount of time that you like (up to five minutes). The keypad uses a patented Pin Genie technology that shuffles the numbers each time you use it, so anyone who is watching won’t be able to guess your code.
  • Ease of Installation: 9/10. The Lockly Secure Pro takes about 15 minutes to install, an easy process if you follow the included instruction booklet. No special tools (aside from a screwdriver) are required.

Final Verdict: Secure your home better than keys can with the Lockly Secure Pro.

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Caroline Morse Teel is always on the hunt for the newest and best travel gear. Follow her on Instagram @TravelWithCaroline.

Editor’s Note: Reviews are based on usefulness, portability, durability, value, and “cool factor.” Some review products are sent to us free of charge and with no incentive to offer a favorable review. We offer our unbiased opinions, positive and negative, and will never accept compensation to review a product. If you have any questions or comments concerning our reviews or would like to suggest a product for review, please email us at editor@smartertravel.com.

Categories
Health & Wellness

Everything You Need to Know About Visiting a Travel Clinic

Until recently I had never visited a travel clinic. But after going once, I’m a convert, and from now on will always go before I take far-flung trips.

After going to Thailand and meeting a handful of people with friends who had contracted malaria on their trips, I vowed to start making a visit to the travel clinic part of my pre-trip prep work before going to developing or at-risk countries. So, when my next trip to Colombia came up, I decided to follow through on this promise. When I researched online and checked out the CDC website, I found mixed opinions on whether to get certain vaccines. I knew what to do next: get a professional opinion on what exactly I needed for the areas I was headed.

I contacted my primary care doctor, who referred me back to the CDC website, and after explaining that I’d already done the initial research, they decided to schedule me for a yellow fever vaccine. However, the yellow fever vaccine at the time was on national backorder (which it usually is), and my primary care doctor would not have it in enough time to administer it before my trip. The wild-goose chase to find a yellow fever vaccine led me to the Harvard Vanguard Travel Medicine Department.

I made an appointment a little over a week before my trip. (Which is a big mistake, keep reading to see why). When I arrived, I met with a nurse who asked which areas I was traveling to and went over my immunization chart they had from my primary care office. Shortly after, the doctor came in and handed me a thick folder with information I didn’t even know I needed. She went over the Travax Traveler Health Report for Colombia, which included health concerns, requirements for entry (i.e. necessary visas, immunization requirements—some countries require proof of a yellow fever vaccine for reentry within a certain time period of entering their country if you’ve been to areas with yellow fever cases), recommended immunizations, travel advisories, general information (i.e. entry and exit fees, currency, unusual laws, driving laws, civil unrest warnings), embassy contact information, basic preventative measures, and finally a pre-travel checklist.

Access to Shoreland Travax reports are restricted to licensed professionals only, so you can only receive this information at a clinical visit.

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We also went over a detailed map of the country with at-risk areas for yellow fever and malaria and determined I should take malaria pills and get the yellow fever vaccine since I was going to a national park. She also recommended I get the typhoid vaccine since mine was outdated and gave me a prescription for traveler’s diarrhea medicine since most areas in the country are at high risk.

She also helped me register in STEP (Smart Traveler Enrollment Program) and verified my travel insurance coverage through work with GeoBlue. I also got a handy over-the-counter travel medicine/product list to keep for future travels.

[st_related]The Ultimate Guide to Travel Insurance: Everything You Need to Know[/st_related]

Overall, I had a surprisingly pleasant experience and will make sure to visit the clinic before any travels to developing countries or destinations where I am unsure of what health and safety precautions I should take.

Things to Consider Before You Go to a Travel Clinic

The CDC website is a good place to start; however, the amount of information can be overwhelming and sometimes vague or conflicting. If your primary care office has its own travel medicine department, call them first and see what they recommend. In some cases (like mine) you may end up needing additional vaccines or prescriptions, so having an appointment or consultation is best in person so the doctor can order everything you need at the time of your visit. If your primary care office does not have a travel medicine department, call around and find a clinic covered by insurance in your area, as consultations and vaccines can be pricey if not covered.

Keep in mind that some vaccines can take up to six weeks to be active, so you will need to make your visit well in advance (something I will make note of for my next trip). Also, some vaccines cannot be given at the same time, or need to be given in doses, so it’s extra important to give yourself plenty of time in advance for the necessary vaccinations.

What to Bring With You to a Travel Clinic

A copy of your itinerary or at least a list of places you are going to as well as an updated immunization list if you are visiting a clinic outside of your primary care office. Also make sure to notify the clinic of any allergies, especially to medications.

What to Expect at a Travel Clinic

My visit was short and sweet. I got all of the information (and more) that I needed. My two shots were administered at the time of my visit and I filled out a card to keep with my passport verifying I had the yellow fever immunization.

Preparing for Your Trip

In addition to any prescriptions needed, this basic list for health and safety comes in handy for international travel:

  • Antihistamines: Benadryl, Zyrtec, or Claritin
  • Pain/Fever Relief: Asprin, Ibuprofen, or Tylenol
  • Insect Repellent: 30 percent DEET spray, and permethrin clothing spray
  • Anti-Diarrhea and Rehydration: Loperamide, Pepto Bismol, Pedialyte powder packets, Gatorade powder packets
  • Probiotics: Culturelle
  • Motion Sickness: Meclizine
  • Other Supplies: Hydrocortisone cream, flight compression socks, digital thermometer, bed net for mosquitos

We also have a handy first-aid packing list that you can download, as well as nine over-the-counter medicines you should always pack.

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After Your Trip

Make sure you take all of the recommended doses of your prescriptions, as oftentimes it’s necessary to take them for a few weeks after travel. Watch for any signs of diseases, as symptoms can have delayed onset.

More from SmarterTravel:

Ashley Rossi is always ready for her next trip. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @ashley_stravel for more advice on travel hacks and destination ideas.

Editor’s note: This story was originally written in 2015, it has been updated with the latest information.

Categories
Money

10 Smart Ways to Carry Money While Traveling

Carrying money on vacation is a balancing act between safety and utility. Making money difficult to access deters thieves, but when it comes time to pay for something, you still want to be able to get to it without stripping off clothes or playing hide-and-seek with a bag’s hidden pockets. With that in mind, here are 10 tips that will help you carry money safely and elegantly while traveling.

Divide Money

woman is holding a wallet

Even if you disregard all other advice about carrying money, take this tip to heart: Whenever possible, divvy up your travel cash and even credit cards into multiple safe spots. If you have all your money in one place, it only takes one incident for a thief to totally wipe you out.

When possible, leave all the cards and cash you won’t need immediately in a secure location in your hotel or vacation rental. And when you’re out and about, keep some of your money attached to your person (see below for ideas about how to wear money securely), and some in a bag you carry. If you’re smart about how you distribute your funds, you’ll still have enough money to get to a police station or back to your hotel in the event your bag gets lost or snatched.

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Favor On-Body Storage

Eagle creek undercover hidden pocket

Under-clothing storage accessories have come a long way since neck pouches and money belts came onto the scene. Though those classics are still effective, newer options include bra stashes, as well as long johns, underwear, and undershirts with built-in pockets for safe storage. On-body storage accessories are particularly useful if you’re sleeping somewhere that doesn’t have a secure place for cash and other valuables.

Note that on-body storage isn’t a good wallet alternative, since fishing around under your clothes for money advertises where you’re hiding the goods.

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Keep Small Bills Handy

Purse with money on old rustic wooden table

Changing or withdrawing large amounts of money minimizes the fees you’ll pay to get local currency, but it also means you’ll be traveling with far more cash—and larger bills—than you’d likely have on you at home. In addition to dividing your money, it’s also wise to make smaller denominations of currency easily accessible. That way, you won’t pull out the local equivalent of a $100 bill while attempting to buy a 30-cent souvenir. You also won’t have to reach down into your jeans to get more money from an under-clothing money pouch.

Make money preparation part of your morning routine: As you’re packing your bag, make sure you’ve got a variety of small bills and coins at the ready for purchases such as food, souvenirs, and attraction entry fees. Squirrel away larger bills in your under-clothing money pouch, or tuck them into a secure part of your wallet or bag.

[st_related]How to Avoid Counterfeit Money When Traveling[/st_related]

Carry an Anti-Theft Bag

Travelon anti-theft urban incognito backpack

If garbage-bag commercials have taught us anything, it’s that some bags are tougher than others. The same goes for travel purses, backpacks, and bags—some, designed specifically for travel, have features such as cut-proof, steel-cable-reinforced shoulder straps; slash-proof fabric; and locking zippers.

Since elements like these slow down thieves, anti-theft bags can do a decent job deterring opportunistic pickpockets. Anti-theft bags are available online from Arden Cove, Pacsafe, Travelon, and other retailers. Consider your purchase an investment that might save you some money.

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Trim Your Wallet

slim wallet

Are you going to need your library card when you’re 6,000 miles from your local branch? Probably not. Before you leave, take the time to go through your wallet and take out everything except the necessities (a primary credit card and a backup, an identification card, an insurance card, etc.). Not only will it help you travel lighter, but if your wallet does get lost or stolen, you’ll have fewer items to replace.

[st_related]Heading to the Airport? Use This Pre-Flight Checklist[/st_related]

Use a Dummy Wallet

If you’re traveling in a place known for pickpockets or muggings, consider getting a cheap wallet that looks real enough to use as a decoy that you can keep in your pocket or bag. Pad the wallet with some small bills and make it look more real by slipping in one or two of those sample credit cards you get with offers in the mail.

A dummy wallet can stop pickpockets before they get to your real wallet. And in the scary and unlikely case of an actual mugging, it also gives you something to throw and run, buying you time to escape with your safety and your actual wallet.

[st_related]One Brilliant Way to Hide Money While Traveling[/st_related]

Buy a Travel Wallet

Travelambo front pocket minimalist leather slim wallet

In addition to a dummy wallet, you might also consider a wallet that you reserve specifically for travel. There’s one simple reason for this: If you’re the type of person whose day-to-day wallet is packed with cards—gym memberships, prepaid coffee cards, frequent-buyer punch cards, and the like—the card pockets are likely to be stretched out and won’t be able to securely hold just an item or two. By keeping a travel-only wallet at the ready, your cards will have snug pockets that they can’t slip out of accidentally. It’s also a great place to store wallet items that you only use when you travel—for instance, SmarterTravel’s on-the-go guide to air passenger rights.

As an added bonus, you won’t have to unpack and repack your day-to-day wallet; you can simply transfer what you need for your trip to your travel version.

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Adapt to the Local Money Culture

Being prepared to pay your way on vacation means different things depending on where you are. In a cash economy, you’ll need to make sure to have a variety of bills and coins on hand at all times, but your credit cards will likely just collect dust.

However, in much of Europe and parts of Asia, where automation is common and chip-and-PIN credit card technology is standard, having a compatible credit card will come in very handy, especially if you find yourself at an unattended gas station late at night or a train station after hours. Also keep in mind that in some countries, U.S. dollars are an official or unofficial secondary currency, so it’s wise to keep a few greenbacks at the ready.

Use Money Alternatives

london oyster car turnstyle

In high-traffic settings such as metro stations and close quarters like bus lines, it’s nice to be able to forgo cash or credit card transactions and rely instead on a multi-use ticket or other cash alternative. If you’re in a city where the public transportation system offers multi-use cards (for instance, London’s Oyster card or San Francisco’s Clipper card) or where you can buy a bunch of tickets at once for a discounted price, then take advantage. You’ll reduce your chances of losing your wallet simply by retrieving and stowing it fewer times.

[st_related]10 Travel Money Mistakes to Avoid[/st_related]

Stow Valuables Securely

hotel safe closet

Sometimes the best way to carry money is not to carry it at all. Hotels’ in-room safes are generally pretty secure, and if you’ve got an item (or a wad of cash) you’re particularly nervous about, check to see if the hotel has a safe-deposit box behind the desk. If you do use a hotel lockbox of any sort, remember to retrieve your items when you leave. In the rush to pack up and depart, out of sight can easily mean out of mind—until you’re on your way to the airport. If you’re a forgetful type, leave a colorful note on top of your suitcase.

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Traveling? Consider Some Favorite Carry-On Options

For info on these editor-selected items, click to visit the seller’s site. Things you buy may earn us a commission.

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Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2016. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.

Categories
Airport Passenger Rights Travel Technology Travel Trends

Ready for Your Close-Up? Airport Face Scans May Soon Include U.S. Citizens, DHS Says

Facial recognition is slowly making its way into U.S. airports, with the technology thus far being limited to non-U.S. citizens who are entering or departing the country. But that might be changing soon: The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) says it wants to expand the practice of airport face scans to include U.S. citizens entering and exiting the country, too.

According to TechCrunch, the use of facial recognition has increased in recent years as part of DHS efforts to identify visitors and travelers who overstay their visas. The DHS has a 2021 deadline to implement facial recognition at the country’s 20 largest airports, but faces technological obstacles. Under current rules, U.S. citizens and green card holders are exempt from the practice, but DHS says it seeks to “amend the regulations to provide that all travelers, including U.S. citizens, may be required to be photographed upon entry and/or departure” in order to “facilitate the implementation of a seamless biometric entry-exit system.” Basically, they’re primarily saying it’s just easier to scan everyone.

[st_related]What Is the CLEAR Program?[/st_related]

Biometric Airport Face Scans: The Concerns

But as with prior changes to airport security technologies, airport face scans come with a healthy helping of controversy and privacy concerns.

One big question looming over the technology is rather basic: Exactly how is the government is using it? The ACLU is currently suing the FBI, DEA, and Department of Justice to find out, Vox reports, after the government denied the ACLU’s request for information that would answer that basic question. Vox adds that there is currently “a lot of secrecy” around the issue, and privacy advocates have major concerns over just how far law enforcement will push the technology. Basically, if the government is determined to develop robust database of data by which it can surveil and identify citizens, where does it stop? What are they entitled to use your personal data (in this case your face) for?

Firstly, experts say it’s already being used to investigate crimes despite the fact that facial recognition technology is not necessarily reliable. “Right now, the FBI has access to DMV photos in something like 20 to 30 states,” Jennifer Lynch, the surveillance litigation director at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, told Vox. “I would argue that most of the people in those DMV files have not done anything wrong and yet they are being subjected to criminal searches without their knowledge [or] consent. And that could identify them as criminals or as suspects in a crime, because face recognition technology is not 100 percent accurate.” Lynch also worries about how facial recognition will affect communities that already face excessive surveillance.

Further, she likens these databases to a “search,” in the sense that ordinary, law-abiding citizens will be “searched” when law enforcement is trying to uncover a suspect via facial recognition. “For example,” she tells Vox, “if law enforcement is trying to identify somebody from a photograph … they’re going to search a database to identify who that person is. And that is definitely a search. And it’s something that the Supreme Court has determined to be a search in other contexts.” The Constitution, of course protects citizens from unlawful search and seizure.

Put differently, facial recognition means your face could flash before the eyes of a law enforcement official searching for a suspect in a crime. That fact makes many people uncomfortable, and rightly so, especially given the potential risk that the technology misidentifies you.

Quicker Airport Lines

But hey—facial recognition is pretty quick! (What’s new technology if it doesn’t save you some time at the airport?) Kidding aside, the technology does have the potential to speed up the security process. Time saved per person may be minimal, but overall the technology can smooth out some of the hitches associated with traditional check-in.

In the end, the pros and cons of facial recognition hinge mostly on whether or not it is compulsory. Opting out is likely to be an option for people who do not want the government infringe on their privacy. And for better or worse, it seems like many travelers are fine with the idea—when Delta tested biometric screening last summer, less than two percent of travelers opted out.

“At the end of the day, when the people are in control, the government doesn’t have a right to make decisions about us without our input,” Lynch told Vox, echoing broader privacy concerns. “But it’s hard to have input when you don’t know exactly what the government is planning to do.”

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Categories
Travel Scams Travel Technology

This Scary Travel Scam Hacks Directly into Your Phone

Your phone is on two percent battery and you’re stuck at the airport due to a delayed flight, when you see your saving grace—a free charging station at the gate! We’ve all been there, and we’ve all used them, especially while traveling, and you probably didn’t think twice about plugging in. Well, you should.

“Juice jacking,” as the travel scam is called, targets desperate travelers in need of a charge. Daniel Smith, a security researcher at Radware explains how this works. “Attackers can use fake charging stations to trick unsuspecting users into plugging in their device. Once the device is plugged in the user’s data and photos could be downloaded or malware can be written onto the device.”

Most recently, the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office issued a new warning about the scam that became a concern in 2016, warning travelers to “avoid using public USB power charging stations in airports, hotels, and other locations because they may contain dangerous malware.”

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Hackers can download anything that is on your phone, since the charging port is doubling as a data port. We’re talking passwords, emails, photos, messages, and even banking and other personal information via apps.

How to Prevent Juice-Jacking

Don’t use public charging stations. If you are a heavy mobile user, bring an external battery pack so you can avoid risking your device’s privacy at a charging station,” suggests Smith.

Here are some thin and lightweight external batteries that are easy to travel with:

8 tiny backupbatteries thatcould save your trip

 

He also recommends plugging into your laptop to charge your phone if you’re traveling with one and don’t have an external charger. And, if you find yourself always on low battery and relying on public charging stations, there are products out there that will protect your phone data while charging in public spots.

Consider purchasing the super tiny SyncStop, which is a “USB defender” that protects any data from being stolen off of your phone.

Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2016. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.

[amazon_native_ad search=”syncstop”]

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Categories
Booking Strategy Cities Health & Wellness Security

The 20 Safest Cities in the World, Ranked

One oft heard bit of advice to departing travelers is: “Travel safe.” That can be easier said than done, but if safety is a priority for your travels, there are the occasional studies that attempt to evaluate and rank the world’s safest cities according to varying factors. And according to The Economist’s esteemed Safest Cities Index for 2019, many of travelers’ favorite city destinations are among the world’s safest.

The study ranked 60 cities across 49 separate indicators for digital security, health security, infrastructure security, and personal security. So each city was ranked on all four dimensions, as well as on general security by an overall score.

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The World’s Safest Cities

These are the top 20 safest cities, ranked overall:

  1. Tokyo, Japan
  2. Singapore, Singapore
  3. Osaka, Japan
  4. Amsterdam, Netherlands
  5. Sydney, Australia
  6. Toronto, Canada
  7. Washington, D.C.
  8. Copenhagen, Denmark
  9. Seoul, South Korea
  10. Melbourne, Australia
  11. Chicago, Illinois
  12. Stockholm, Sweden
  13. San Francisco, California
  14. London, England
  15. New York City, New York
  16. Frankfurt, Germany
  17. Los Angeles, California
  18. Wellington, New Zealand
  19. Zurich, Switzerland
  20. Hong Kong

Based on only “Personal Security,” which looks mainly at violent crime and other physical hazards (and is therefore the factor most relevant to travelers), the top 10 safest cities are: Singapore, Copenhagen, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Wellington, Stockholm, Osaka, Toronto, Amsterdam, and Sydney. By this measure, the top US cities are Washington, Chicago, Dallas, San Francisco, New York, and Los Angeles, which score in the top to middle of the list, at positions 23 to 32.

If you’re more concerned with places to avoid, the worst cities for personal security (or the least safest cities for travelers) are:

  • Lagos, Nigeria
  • Caracas, Venezuela
  • Karachi, Pakistan
  • Yangon, Myanmar
  • Bogota, Colombia
  • Dhaka, Bangladesh
  • Quito, Ecuador
  • Cairo, Egypt
  • Bangkok, Thailand
  • Mexico City, Mexico
  • Johannesburg, South Africa

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Consumer advocate Ed Perkins has been writing about travel for more than three decades. The founding editor of the Consumer Reports Travel Letter, he continues to inform travelers and fight consumer abuses every day at SmarterTravel.

Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2017. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.

Categories
Airport

Heading to the Airport? Use This Pre-Flight Checklist

If you’ve booked an airline ticket for an upcoming trip, heading to the airport may be an anxiety-inducing experience. Whether you’re an avid flyer or an infrequent one, there are a slew of fees to keep track of, plus security protocols that may seem overwhelming.

Fear not. This handy flight checklist will help you get to the airport, through security, and to your gate with ease.

Before You Leave Your House

Before you even start to pack, consult this packing list to make sure you’re well prepared.

  • Check in online to avoid a long wait at the airport. You can usually check in online up to 24 hours before your flight.
  • Find out if your carrier charges extra baggage fees if you check your bags in person at the airport. Save yourself time and money by checking your bags online at home before you go.
  • Verify what the airline’s weight limits are for baggage. To avoid extra fees, weigh your bags at home using a small luggage scale. If they are overweight, remove or redistribute some items, or plan to pay extra.
  • Make sure you have all your travel documentation in one place (purse, carry-on, etc.) that’s easy to access. Add your hotel and airline’s phone numbers as well as the emergency number at your destination into your phone.
  • Make extra copies of important travel documents, ID/passports, key phone numbers, etc. It’s advised to have a copy for each bag.
  • If you’re traveling with a carry-on bag, make sure there are no full-size toiletries inside. All liquids and gels must adhere by the 3-1-1 rule, and be stored in a clear plastic quart-sized bag. For more information, see Airport Security Frequently Asked Questions.
  • Ensure you’re not traveling with any prohibited items. If you were planning on bringing such items with you, ship them instead—otherwise they’ll be confiscated at the airport.

At the Check-in Gate

Once you’ve arrived at the airport, you may need to head to the check-in gate, depending on what you did online before you left your home.

  • If you’ve checked in online, drop off your baggage (if applicable) and head to the security line.
  • If you haven’t checked in online prior to arrival, check in at a kiosk or in person at a check-in desk.
  • After checking in by kiosk, drop off bags at the appropriate counter.
  • Add your baggage claim receipt to your collection of travel documents. If you have connecting flights, especially those on separate carriers, it’s especially important to keep your baggage claim tag with you to avoid any delays or snafus.
  • Get your ID and boarding pass out for the security line.
  • Be sure to throw away any bottles of water, cups of coffee, or other liquids or gels that may be confiscated at security.

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At Security

Take stock of the following steps before getting in the security line.

  • Have your ID and boarding pass out and ready for the TSA official.
  • Take off your shoes, belt, and any jewelry that may set off the metal detector. Make sure there is no loose change or other items in your pockets. Place all items in a bin on the conveyor belt. (Note that you can skip some of these steps if you have TSA PreCheck or Global Entry.)
  • If you have a clear plastic bag of liquids or gels in your carry-on bag, take it out and place it in a bin next to your shoes, belt, etc.
  • Place your bags and coat on the conveyor belt.
  • If you are traveling with a laptop, take it out of its carrier case and onto the screening belt. If your laptop is in a checkpoint-friendly case, it does not need to be removed from its outer bag.
  • Wait until you are called to go through the metal detector or full-body scanner. If asked, show the TSA official your ID and boarding pass. Acceptable forms of ID include passports, driver’s licenses, military IDs, and permanent resident cards, among a few others. (Make sure your ID is compliant with REAL ID requirements.)
  • Comply with any TSA official requests, such as an additional bag inspection or personal screening.
  • Reclaim your items and head toward the gate.

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At the Gate

You’re almost done. Before you board the plane, check the following:

  • Make sure your carry-on fits the aircraft’s overhead dimensions. Usually there is a sample crate at your gate to determine if your bag will fit.
  • Check to see if there is meal or snack service onboard your flight. If not, you may want to purchase food and drink from a concessionaire in your terminal or at a food court.
  • Wait for your clearance to board the plane, then make sure to get in line with your designated group (check your boarding pass to see which group you’re in). If you have small children or special needs, you may be able to get advanced boarding privileges. See the gate agent if you have any questions.

Do you have any expert tips for how to prep for a trip to the airport, as well as how to handle check-ins and security? Share your own airport checklist below.

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Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2010. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.

Categories
Money Security Travel Technology

What Is the CLEAR Program, and Is It Right for You?

Post-9/11, airport security went from being largely a formality to downright formidable, with long lines and arcane policies leaving travelers frustrated and flustered. It made sense, to a point, given the shock that followed those attacks; but ever since, the air travel industry has been searching, mostly unsuccessfully, for a better balance between security and efficiency.

The CLEAR program is one such attempt at streamlining the check-in process. 

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How CLEAR Works

CLEAR uses biometric data—your eyes and your fingerprints—to check you in at security. The company has dedicated lanes at participating airports, meaning CLEAR customers can bypass the line to check in with TSA (the part where the agent reviews your ID and jots a note on your ticket). CLEAR says skipping the line plus the quick biometric check-in process saves you time and offers a more predictably fast experience.

What Is CLEAR? (and What It Isn’t)

From there, you go through the security screening like any other traveler. This is an important point: CLEAR does not get you around the screening process, and therefore does not replace the TSA PreCheck or Global Entry programs. Instead, CLEAR uses a biometric process to let you cut that first part of the airport security line, thus providing a faster track to the screening portion.

As a reminder, TSA PreCheck grants you expedited passage through TSA lines at hundreds of U.S. airports for domestic flights on dozens of airlines. You get to pass through the screening process without taking off your shoes, removing any electronics or liquids from your bag, or taking off your belt or jacket. Global Entry includes all the benefits of PreCheck and the added service of expedited reentry to the U.S. from abroad.

CLEAR is really designed to work in tandem with PreCheck, or even with some of the expedited security lanes that come with certain upper level travel classes or elite frequent flyer tiers. Where those programs speed up the screening, CLEAR speeds up the security check-in. Combined with other services, CLEAR says, travelers can enjoy a smooth process from start to finish.

Where Is CLEAR Available?

Currently, CLEAR is available at over two dozen major airports around the country, as well as in several sports stadiums. You can see a full, up-to-date list on CLEAR’s website. 

How Do I Join?

Unlike TSA PreCheck and Global Entry, there’s no interview required, although you do need to appear in-person. CLEAR says it takes “about five minutes” to enroll, and that you can start online before finishing at a CLEAR location. 

“The in-person process includes answering a few simple questions to verify your identity, providing a valid photo ID and payment method, and attaching your biometrics (fingerprints and a picture of your irises) to your newly created account,” according to the companyParticipants must be 18 years old, and an American citizen or legal permanent resident with a valid form of government-issued ID. 

Membership costs $179 per year, but members can add up to three additional adult family members for only $50 per person. Children under 18 can accompany CLEAR members using the CLEAR lane for free. Delta offers a range of discounted memberships for SkyMiles participants.

Should I Enroll in CLEAR?

Unlike Global Entry, which is a slam dunk ‘yes’ for many travelers, CLEAR is not for everyone. Justifying the cost depends on a handful of factors: 

  • First (and most obvious), is CLEAR is available at the airports you use most often?
  • Do you fly often, perhaps two or three times a month?
  • Are you enrolled in Global Entry or TSA PreCheck?

If you answered “no” to any of those questions, particularly the last one, CLEAR probably isn’t a worthwhile investment for you. A hundred and eight bucks is a lot to pay just to arrive at the regular security line a little bit faster. Even at a discounted rate with Delta, you have to wonder if you’re really getting anything worthwhile for your membership fee, as the TSA check-in lines can vary wildly in how arduous they are. 

On the other hand, CLEAR may be a good fit for very frequent flyers who use major airports and value efficiency (or simply can’t stand waiting in the TSA checkpoint line). If you’ve already enrolled in one of the expedited security programs, it makes sense to streamline the first half of the security process as well. CLEAR seems like it can deliver on that promise, ensuring you’ll have a more predictable and easily scheduled experience at the airport. 

Even then, though, some travelers may feel that $179 is a lot for what amounts to slightly less hassle. Your mileage, as they say, may vary.

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Security Travel Etiquette Women's Travel

6 Important Rules of Travel, Rewritten for Women

With more women traveling than ever before and the growing availability of low-cost flights, female solo travel is a relatively new fixture of today’s travel landscape. Women are no longer waiting to take their dream vacation until they find someone else to come along—they’re doing it by themselves.

However, that doesn’t mean the part of the world they’ve set out for is ready for them. Even in the United States, street harassment and other dangers are ubiquitous for women. There are many places in the world, including at home, where women are still struggling to be heard and respected and even tourist attractions where women aren’t allowed to enter.

Spoken or unspoken, at home or abroad, there are always rules for women to follow.

Nevertheless, there’s not one rule that says women can’t travel and travel alone. There may be rules for female travelers that don’t exist for men, but the good news is that the number of things women can do far outnumbers the things they can’t.

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Follow the Rules of Cultures That Aren’t Yours

As outsiders traveling to foreign countries, all travelers need to respect the customs and the cultures of the people who live there, even if they don’t align with our own beliefs—and often they’re different for women. There are many religious sites in the world where women are not allowed to visit, such as Thailand’s Silver Temple or Greece’s Mount Athos. In Thailand, female visitors are allowed to enter the grounds of the temple, but only men are allowed to enter inside. On Mount Athos, women are not allowed within 500 meters (1640 feet) of the coast.

These travel rules for women might be tough to stomach, but part of opening yourself up to new cultures is observing the world as it is. Kiona, the founder of How Not to Travel Like a Basic Bitch, a website which publishes diverse perspectives on travel, believes “Whether or not we agree, changing and challenging those rules are not roles for the outsider. A traveler’s position is merely to learn and attempt to understand the places we travel to, not to judge or change. Respect is the first and foremost responsibility for visitors, even if that means our travel privilege is removed.”

Travel with Your Guard Up

Any person traveling in an unfamiliar place should take precautions to stay safe, but female travelers are often especially at risk, even close to home. Apps like bSafe allow you to share your live location with someone you trust at home, and there are plenty of other tools women can use to feel safer as they travel. Self-defense devices are also good for getting out of a dangerous situation, but the best tool in any female traveler’s arsenal is her intuition. If something doesn’t feel right, don’t take a chance. If you’re uncomfortable, remove yourself from the situation—even if that puts you at risk of seeming cold or impolite.

In her final installment of her year-long project to travel the world for the New York Times, journalist Jada Yuan wrote about the experience: “It’s good to know what people who live in a place have to say about safety, but also realize that the rules that apply to them, who know where they are going, and can blend in, don’t apply to me.”

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Know That Sometimes Women Can Do What Men Can’t

With tour operators answering the demand for women-only travel, new opportunities and experiences have been revealed with the explosion of female-only travel. In some countries, a women-only group is an asset that offers travelers access to experiences they wouldn’t ever have if they were in a group with men. For example, on Intrepid Travel’s Women’s Expedition to Iran you can visit female-only spaces like parks, hair salons, and even take a female-only yoga class with locals. Going beyond the striking places to see like the ruins of Persepolis and the colorful Nasir Al-Mulk Mosque, this tour offers insight into Iran’s culture that would never be experienced on a co-ed tour.

Solo Women Can Travel Together

If you don’t have someone to travel with and you don’t think you’d be comfortable traveling solo, female-only tours might be the way to go. Many large tour operators like REI and Intrepid Travel offer women-only trips, but there are also small female-only tour operators that might be able to cater to your particular niche. For example, WOAH Travel is a female-owned company that organizes women-only adventure tours which incorporate fun themes like summiting Mount Kilimanjaro during the summer solstice or paragliding in Bavaria during Oktoberfest.

Women Can Travel Alone

It doesn’t matter if you’re booking a tropical bungalow for one or setting out for a transformative trek through the Himalayas, you can travel solo wherever and whenever you want. Although there are some destinations where women need to practice more caution, there are also plenty of countries that have excellent reputations for safety when it comes to solo female travel such as New Zealand, Iceland, Japan, and Rwanda, just to name a few.

Solo travel can be more expensive, but smart travel companies are starting to adapt their prices to accommodate the influx of solo travelers. More and more tour companies are getting rid of single supplement fees, and some even offer roommate matching services, so you can be matched with someone of the same gender and avoid paying the single room supplement. Many cruise lines like Norwegian, Celebrity, and others are also adapting by building more affordable studio cabins on their ships, which are perfect for solo travelers who don’t want to pay for that empty extra bed.

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Women Can Travel Anywhere

Every destination is worth visiting, even if it doesn’t make the list of most female-friendly destinations. There are certain destinations that could get you some funny looks when you announce your travel plans. Friends, family, and even total strangers often have no inhibition to express their concern, and might even ask you something along the lines of, “But aren’t you scared to go there?”

Of all the challenges for female travelers to overcome, doubt is one of the biggest—and most of the time it’s entirely unfounded. Just ask any solo female traveler who has ever visited a far-off place alone; you never really know until you go.

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Jamie Ditaranto is a writer and photographer always looking for her next vacation. Follow her on Instagram @jamieditaranto.

Categories
Airport Booking Strategy

Airports Close Terminals as TSA Workers Stay Home During Government Shutdown

Update: On January 13, Houston’s George Bush International airport closed a terminal due to a worker shortage. The move followed Miami International Airport’s closure of a terminal amid TSA officer call outs. Our original story including tips on how to avoid airport delays during the shutdown continues below.

As the government shut down drags on into January, travelers are rightly concerned about impacts at the airport if federal workers continue to be furloughed. TSA staff continued to work during the first few weeks of the government shutdown, mitigating any potential impact at our nation’s airports. But with no end to the shutdown in sight, and no pay for TSA workers (and other government employees), it’s fair to wonder when your airport could suffer noticeable delays.

TSA Calling in Sick

The first sign of trouble came from reports of TSA employees calling in sick during the third week of the government shutdown. Hundreds of TSA workers at four major airports called out last week, according to CNN. This includes 170 employees each day at New York’s JFK, and an increase in call-outs of 200  to 300 percent at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport.

These call-outs require other TSA employees to extend their shifts to fill in the gaps, again without pay. So far, it does not seem like the call-outs have overwhelmed the TSA’s capacity, as wait times remain within the agencies standards. But extending shifts is obviously not ideal in a job where attention to detail is essential.

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If call-outs increase, however, travelers may soon encounter prolonged waits at understaffed airports. A TSA union official told CNN that more call-outs are likely as the shutdown continues. “This problem of call outs is really going to explode over the next week or two when employees miss their first paycheck,” the official said. “TSA officers are telling the union they will find another way to make money. That means calling out to work other jobs.”

The official added that while some call-outs are a protest of the paycheck situation, many simply can’t afford to work for free. Some parents, for example, can’t afford child care with no pay coming in.

What You Can Do

The trickiest part of this situation for travelers is that it’s evolving and unpredictable. No one knows how long the shutdown will last, and there’s no way to predict where, when, and how severely TSA operations might be affected.

That said, there are a few simple things you can do to minimize disruptions to your travels:

  • Leave extra time: Build some breathing room into your schedule. Arriving at the airport at least 30 minutes earlier than you otherwise would will give you some peace of mind in the event of slower-than-normal security lines.
  • Pay attention to the news: The shutdown and its impact on TSA operations is big news, and media outlets will continue covering it thoroughly. If disruptions increase, you’ll be able to know ahead of time. You can also check individual airports’ websites and social media pages for any updates.
  • Keep your eyes open: In addition to slower security lines, there is concern that a prolonged shutdown could diminish the thoroughness of security checks. Overworked, unpaid screeners may pressure themselves to rush through screenings just to keep the line moving.
  • Be patient, be kind: Remember, the women and men of the TSA are working unpaid, with no clear sense of when their paychecks will resume. How would you feel if you boss demanded you show up to work for weeks on end with no pay? Whatever your thoughts or feelings are about the TSA philosophically, show screeners a little kindness next time you pass through a checkpoint.

Readers, have you flown during the shutdown? What was your experience?

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Airport Booking Strategy Travel Technology Travel Trends

The First Facial-Screening Biometric Terminal Just Opened at This U.S. Airport

Get ready for your close up. Delta Air Lines and the Atlanta-Hartsfield Airport have opened the nation’s first optional biometric screening checkpoints, which use facial recognition scanning to expedite the airport process from check-in to boarding.

The technology is being used at the airport’s international terminal: Terminal F. In an announcement, Delta said Atlanta “customers flying direct to an international destination on Delta, Aeromexico, Air France, KLM or Virgin Atlantic Airways can use facial recognition technology from curb to gate, including to:

  • Check in at the self-service kiosks in the International lobby
  • Drop checked baggage at the counters in the International lobby
  • Serve as identification at the TSA checkpoint
  • Board a flight at any gate in Terminal F
  • And, go through CBP processing for international travelers arriving into the U.S.”

According to Delta, replacing traditional processes with biometric alternatives will not only speed things up, it improves security. “Nearly all 25,000 customers who travel through ATL Terminal F each week are choosing this optional process, with less than 2 percent opting out,”the airline said in a statement. “And, based on initial data, the facial recognition option is saving an average of two seconds for each customer at boarding, or nine minutes when boarding a wide body aircraft.”

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According to USA Today, Delta customers can enter their passport information during online check-in or scan their passport when checking in at the airport. Travelers can then opt for a facial scan at Delta’s automated kiosks. These scans will be matched to passport or visa photos on file with U.S. Customs and Border Protection. The same option is available at check-in kiosks, TSA checkpoints, and gates.

“We’re removing the need for a customer checking a bag to present their passport up to four times per departure,” Gil West, Delta’s COO, said in the statement. “[This] means we’re giving customers the option of moving through the airport with one less thing to worry about, while empowering our employees with more time for meaningful interactions with customers.”

The Future of Flying, Long in the Making

Biometric screening is not a new concept, but Delta is the first airline to put it into regular use. JetBlue tested the technology last year, and other airlines have experimented with pilot programs as well. For its part, Delta rolled out the features slowly over the course of the fall, presumably so travelers could get used to the idea.

Looking ahead, the airline also plans to bring biometric check-in to its hub in Detroit, where the airline began testing facial recognition technology this past summer. Delta plans to roll out roll out facial recognition technology from curb to gate in 2019.

Readers, have you flown through Atlanta’s Terminal F lately? Have you encountered facial recognition experiments elsewhere? Share your experience below.

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Airport Booking Strategy Passenger Rights Security Travel Trends

2 Major Budget Airlines Join TSA PreCheck

If you’ve ever excitedly booked a cheap transatlantic flight on a budget airline only to realize you’ll pay in airport time spent waiting in a long, non-PreCheck security line, rejoice: The chances of that happening just got slimmer. Two popular foreign budget airlines now participate in TSA PreCheck: Norwegian Air and Icelandair. This means PreCheck travelers booked on either airline can use the PreCheck lane, where available, when departing from the U.S.

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Notably, these are both international carriers, meaning the PreCheck benefits are only one-way. This decision has no bearing on return flights from Europe, since travelers will go through security in Europe and then through customs back in the States. In addition to these two international budget airlines, regional U.S. carrier ViaAir will also join PreCheck in November.

This does, however, mean Global Entry travelers will enjoy expedited services both ways. Global Entry includes all PreCheck benefits, and adds on streamlined customs services when re-entering the U.S.

TSA PreCheck and Global Entry

If you’re not familiar, TSA PreCheck grants expedited security screening at hundreds of U.S. airports when you fly domestically with dozens of airlines. Members can pass through an airport security lane without taking off shoes, removing any electronics or liquids from bags, or taking off accessories like belts or jackets. The TSA says that, on average, PreCheck travelers wait less than five minutes to pass through security.

Global Entry includes all of those benefits and, for only $15 more, adds expedited re-entry to the United States via kiosks at passport control—no paperwork or processing lines.

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Airport Booking Strategy Security

10 Things You Need to Know About Global Entry

Want more expert tips and vacation inspiration? Subscribe to SmarterTravel on YouTube!

Global Entry, along with TSA PreCheck, is one of the primary ways American travelers can streamline their airport experience. Both programs are designed with frequent travelers in mind—let’s say those who fly at least two to three times per year—and each is tailored for a different kind of travel. PreCheck is for domestic travel, while Global Entry for international flights.

Here are some key elements of the service to help determine if it’s right for you.

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What does Global Entry get you?

A lot! The central benefit is expedited re-entry to the United States via kiosks at passport control—no paperwork or processing lines.

In addition, you get all the benefits of TSA PreCheck: expedited passage through airport security at hundreds of U.S. airports and through dozens of airlines. Having TSA PreCheck means you can pass through an airport security lane without taking off your shoes, removing any electronics or liquids from your bag, or taking off your belt or jacket.

How do you enroll?

Global entry is available to U.S. citizens and U.S. lawful permanent residents, as well as citizens of several other countries.

To enroll, you must first register with the Trusted Traveler Program (TTP). Once enrolled, you must complete an application and pay a $100 fee. If U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP), which administers the program, approves your application, your TTP account will instruct you to set up an interview at a Global Entry Enrollment Center. You must bring your passport and one other form of ID to this interview, and long wait times mean you could have months to prepare for it.

Can family members use it if they are not enrolled themselves?

No, every member of your family or traveling party must be enrolled to use the service. This includes children.

Do you always have to use Global Entry if enrolled?

No. In the event you are traveling with non-members, for example, you can use the regular passport control process rather than the designated Global Entry kiosks.

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Does it guarantee expedited passage through security?

Mostly. Occasionally there may be reasons that the designated kiosks aren’t working or are available, but in those cases members are typically granted “head of the line” privileges.

Do I still need to declare food items or agricultural products?

Yes. Global Entry does not exclude you from standard declaration requirements. If you declare something, your kiosk receipt will have an “O” on it and you will still need to meet with an officer to discuss the declaration.

How often must you renew?

Membership is valid for five years, after which you’ll need to reapply. You can begin the renewal process one year prior to the expiration of your membership.

Do all airports participate?

No. As of October 2018, Global Entry is available at most major U.S. and Canadian airports, and at several airports overseas.

Does my loyalty program or credit card cover the program cost?

It may! Several travel credit cards (usually those with a fee) will reimburse or otherwise cover the $100 application fee.

Is Global Entry for me?

If you fly regularly and your travel plans typically include at least one international flight per year, yes. Remember, Global Entry includes all the benefits of TSA PreCheck, which alone costs $85. For an extra $15 you’ll get expedited security screening and streamlined re-entry following your journeys abroad. It’ll save you a lot of time.

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Airport Passenger Rights Security

TSA PreCheck Lanes Could Soon (Finally) Be for PreCheck Members Only

For $85 and a little bit of legwork, TSA PreCheck lets you skip the airport security line on domestic flights. It’s a nice service for frequent travelers wanting to save time, and a privilege, you’d think, worth paying for.

There’s just one problem: TSA sometimes lets regular travelers who haven’t purchased TSA PreCheck use the PreCheck lane. Understandably, that doesn’t go over well with valid PreCheck passengers, especially when said unenrolled travelers don’t understand they don’t need to remove their shoes or take anything out of their bags, and therefore hold up the line. But Congress might be about to put a stop to the practice.

[st_related] Global Entry vs TSA PreCheck: Which Is Better? [/st_related]

Non-PreCheck travelers haven’t paid the $85, and haven’t provided fingerprints or visited a PreCheck enrollment center. As Forbes points out, the program, called Managed Inclusion, “officially allowed low-risk passengers access to the lane. As a result, expedited screening lanes were often congested with passengers unfamiliar with procedure, slowing down the overall flow of the checkpoint.”

Managed Inclusion was supposed to end in 2015, but some outside passengers are still given access to expedited screening.

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Can Congress Fix PreCheck?

Congress may now be poised to step in via the awkwardly named PreCheck Is PreCheck Act, which “directs the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to ensure that only travelers who are members of a trusted traveler program are permitted to use TSA PreCheck security screening lanes at TSA checkpoints.” The legislation does make exceptions for travelers under 12 or over 75 who are traveling with a PreCheck member, allowing them to use PreCheck lanes regardless of status. The House passed the law, and it now awaits consideration in the Senate.

Interestingly, the act also states that “the TSA shall implement a risk modified screening protocol for lanes other than designated TSA PreCheck security screening lanes at TSA checkpoints to further segment passengers based on risk. Only low-risk passengers shall be eligible to undergo risk modified screening at TSA checkpoints.”

This seems to direct or allow TSA to develop an alternate approach to divert “low-risk” travelers from the main security line that’s not through PreCheck. That alone would be a benefit to ordinary travelers, so hopefully it comes to pass.

Readers, are you enrolled in PreCheck or its international counterpart, Global Entry?

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Airport Travel Trends

How to Get Paid to Speed Through Airport Security

Do you want to get paid to speed through airport security? CLEAR is now offering travelers a free three-month trial, $20 in Lyft airport ride credit, and a $50 LoungeBuddy credit to test its security-expediting services.

[st_content_ad]CLEAR members get to bypass the TSA’s ID check line and head straight for security screening. Instead of having an officer check your identification, CLEAR will verify your identity by scanning your finger or eye at one of its machines. Then, if you’re a TSA PreCheck member, you’ll head for the PreCheck security screening, and other travelers go to the regular security screening.

[st_related]A Guide to Global Entry Renewal[/st_related]

At $179 a year, CLEAR is far more expensive than TSA PreCheck’s membership fee of $85 every five years. CLEAR is currently available at over 35 airports and sports stadiums nationwide, compared to PreCheck’s availability at over 200 American airports. But because CLEAR hasn’t yet reached the same popularity as PreCheck, it might have shorter wait times.

Even better, children under 18 can use CLEAR for free if they’re accompanied by a family member who uses the service. Meanwhile, TSA PreCheck only permits kids ages 12 and younger to go with a family member through its screening.

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CLEAR is an exciting new option for travelers looking to get through security faster. Since CLEAR is paying travelers to try their expensive security-expediting service for free, you get to decide if it’s worth it.

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Alyssa Lukpat loves exploring new places. Follow her on Twitter.

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