Things You Need to Know to Get Through TSA Fast
The long wait is over and it’s finally time for that great vacation you have been planning. You get to the airport and see the TSA line has a 2-hour wait! UGH! If only there was a way to just skip that line! Well, there is. Not only that line but the line for customs too. Read on to find out some of the best ways frequent flyers have to speed through security and skip those annoying line.
If you have flown anywhere in the last few years then you must have seen the TSA Pre-check signs. You may have wondered, “Why am I waiting in this HUGE line and those people are just speeding through??” That is TSA Pre-check. Not only do you get to “cut” the long lines, but you also don’t have to remove shoes, laptops, belts, or jackets, saving you precious minutes if you are running late.
Applying for TSA Pre-check is not as quick and easy as the lines you will be able to speed through once you have it, but it is well worth the trouble. First, you will need to fill out all of the forms online and then schedule an in-person meeting. Finding out if you qualify can take several weeks. The cost is $85.00 but some credit cards will reimburse you for the cost. For more info on TSA pre-check click here.
If you really want to save time on international flights you need Global Entry. Global Entry is available to US citizens and also to citizens of the Netherlands who are enrolled in FLUX and Korean Smart Entry Service members. Citizens of Germany, Panama, and Mexico may also apply for Global Entry. Canadian NEXUS members have Global Entry benefits but are not eligible to join.
In order to apply for Global Entry You will need to fill out the forms online and then schedule an in-person interview but if you are a frequent traveler this will save you hours of waiting in lines.
Global Entry is a program that allows faster clearance because you have been pre-approved as a low-risk traveler. You simply follow the signs for Global Entry Kiosks, scan your passport and fingerprint, and fill out the customs declaration form. An added benefit to Global Entry is that it includes TSA pre-check.
If you are thinking of applying for Global Entry or TSA pre-check, make sure to check with your credit card company. Some cards will reimburse you with a statement credit for the full amount of purchase.
Keep in mind that if you have Global Entry but your traveling companion does not they will not be allowed to go with you through the expedited process.
For more information about Global Entry click here
Similar to TSA pre-check this service offers you the chance to be pre-screened so that you can use expedited lines to get through TSA in a hurry. Unlike TSA pre-check CLEAR uses your biometrics (eye scan or fingerprints) to identify you and get you through security fast. Also, like Global Entry and TSA pre-check some credit card companies will reimburse you for the annual fee or offer you a discounted price. For more information on CLEAR click here. As of 1/2019 Clear is available at the following airports:
Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport
Austin–Bergstrom International Airport
Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport
Dallas Love Field Airport
Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport
Denver International Airport
Detroit Metro Airport
Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport
William P. Hobby Airport
George Bush Intercontinental Airport
McCarran International Airport
Los Angeles International Airport
Miami International Airport
Minneapolis−Saint Paul International Airport
Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport
Westchester County Airport
John F. Kennedy International Airport
Orlando International Airport
Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport
Salt Lake City
Salt Lake City International Airport
San Antonio International Airport
San Francisco Bay Area
San Francisco International Airport
Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport
Seattle-Tacoma International Airport
Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport
Dulles International Airport
Mobile Passport App
Officially authorized by U.S. Customs and Border Protection this app will let you speed through the customs lines. Simply download the app, upload your passport info, answer 5 questions, and you are ready to go. Once you are at the port of entry you will need to connect to Wi-Fi and submit your data. You will then receive a CBP receipt with a barcode that is valid for 4 hours. Follow the Mobile Passport signs and scan the barcode. I can tell you, this app has saved me hours of time I would have otherwise spent waiting in long customs lines. The only downside I can see in this is that it is currently only available in 25 US airports (and 3 cruise ports).
Available at the following airports as of 1/ 2019:
Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Houston Hobby, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, New York, Newark, Orlando, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, Portland, Raleigh Durham, Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose, Seattle, Tampa, Washington Dulles
Available at the following cruise ship ports as of 1/2019:
Fort Lauderdale, Miami, West Palm Beach
For more information about the Mobile Passport app click here.
In lieu of a travel visa, which can be a lengthy process, the US Customs and Border Protection offers an easier alternative for some countries to gain entrance. The Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) is an automated system used to determine the eligibility of visitors to travel to the United States under theVisa Waiver Program (VWP) and whether such travel poses any law enforcement or security risk.
You are eligible to apply for admission under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) if you:
- Intend to enter the United States for 90 days or less for business, pleasure or transit
- Have a valid passport lawfully issued to you by a Visa Waiver Program country
- Arrive via a Visa Waiver Program signatory carrier
- Have a return or onward ticket
- Travel does not terminate in contiguous territory or adjacent islands unless the traveler is a resident of one of those areas
- Are a citizen or national of one of the Visa Waiver Program countries listed below:
- Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brunei, Chile, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Republic of Malta, San Marino, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, United Kingdom
For more information on the ESTA program click here.
Even if you do not sign up for any of the above programs there are some things you can do to make your pre-boarding time go more smoothly. My favorite tips are below.
- Know your airline’s luggage requirements before going to the airport. How many carry-ons can you have? How many checked bags are allowed? What are the size and weight requirements?
- Weigh your luggage before you get to the airport. We have all seen people frantically trying to re-pack bags at the check-in counters because they just found out they are over the limit and will be charged a fee. Don’t be that guy.
- Research the TSA rules for carry on items before you go. Know what is allowed and what is not. What food can I bring? How should my liquids be packed? What items are restricted?
- Make sure to clean out that backpack or carry on bag before you start packing for the next trip. Check pockets and make sure nothing was left inside since you used it last. I have been behind people many times that have been stopped because they had items that they forgot were in the bag.
- Pay attention and know what will be expected of you when it is your turn. Do you need to remove all electronics or just your laptop? Can you leave your shoes on or do they need to be removed? Have you emptied your pockets? Does the belt stay on or come off? Just paying attention and being observant can save precious moments.
- Download an app such as GateGuru to get updates on wait times and updates on your flight. Gate Guru will keep you posted in real-time on any updates to your itinerary such as security wait times, flight delays, gate changes or layover time adjustments. Tapping the airport code will bring you to airport specific information, personalized based on your itinerary! Downloading your airlines’ app will also alert you to any changes to your booked flights.