My wife and I recently went on a 2- week Northern European vacation as you may or may not know. I just wanted to give you a couple of bits of advice I think might be beneficial to anyone reading this that travels even a little.
About a month before the trip, my wife brought it to my attention she wanted to sign up for TSA pre-check. If you don’t know what TSA pre-check is let me explain briefly. For $85.00 for 5 years you can have expedited processing through security at most airports. It’s through the Department of Homeland Security. It’s not at every airport and it’s not for international travel either. However, the advantages can be huge. If you’ve ever seen the regular security lines versus the pre-check lines you’ll know what I’m talking about. It could be the difference between making or missing your flight. On our flight out of JFK we were so early it didn’t matter, but I remember when we went through the pre-check line we didn’t have to take off our shoes, and I could leave the laptop in my bag – it was a very painless process.
For international travel, you want the option through U.S. Customs and Border Protection referred to as Global Entry. It’s a little more money for $100 for 5 years. We didn’t find out about it until after we made an appointment for TSA Pre-check but we don’t travel internationally very often. $15.00 is not a lot of money but the requirements for Global Entry were several interviews and the closest interview spot was at Newark International Airport which is 60 miles away. For us, it was a no-brainer. TSA pre-check did have 1 interview but it was only 25 miles away and it took the four of us 20 minutes total.
Both my wife and I highly recommend it for anyone traveling even on a semi-regular basis.
Another juicy tidbit of advice I wanted to give was an app called Mobile Passport. If you do travel Internationally and on the return flight home you can fill out your passport information, answer 5 questions directly on the app and when you’re within cell range hit the submit button. At certain airports and cruise terminals, there is a special line you can go through for expedited processing through customs! It’s a complete no-brainer. The app is free however the information you input will only be saved for 4 hours. Or you can pay $15.00 and the app will permanently save your passport information.
The time saved could be potentially an hour or 2 in line. When we came back on our latest European trip, the lines at JFK were ridiculous. It was nothing but a sea of people.
Our particular experience at JFK was a little weird and I hope it saves you some frustration and a little time as well. I inputted my family’s passport information on Mobile Passport as we were landing. When we were in cell range I hit the ‘submit’ button and it gave me an error message. I can’t remember exactly what it said, but it was something to the effect of “cannot process the request, please verify all passport information”. So, I was thinking I typed in the wrong dates or passport ID number wrong. I re-verified 6 or 7 times and it kept giving me the same error message. By this time I’m walking through the terminal going towards where the line splits off to go through to general customs processing or through the Mobile Passport line. I tried it one last time but to no avail. So we had no choice but to go through general processing.
The process goes like this: you wait in a line until a digital kiosk is available, then you scan your passports and answer 5 questions, then you receive a paper ticket printed by the kiosk, finally proceed to the mainline to go through to a customs agent. However, I noticed a gigantic ‘X’ marked on all of our tickets that printed out. I looked up at the hanging signs and there was a special line for these tickets with ‘X’s and ‘O’s. We waited less than 20 minutes before we got to the customs agent and another 2 minutes to process all of us. He immediately asked us if we had tried another way to process ourselves through customs. I said “yes” and that I tried using Mobile Passport. The next thing he asked me was if I tried to process it on an iPhone. I said “yes” again and he said that’s why. It appears there’s some kind of glitch and the iPhones aren’t working properly with Mobile Passport.
So the moral of the story is if you use Mobile Passport save yourself some aggravation and do it on an Android device.
I hope our experiences can save you a little time and frustration. If you have any travel stories let me hear them in the comments.