With security lines at airports getting longer, and no relief in sight, enrolling in things like TSA Pre-Check and Global Entry seem more and more tempting. It is so important to be able to quickly navigate any given airport these days.
When it came time to enroll in one of these programs, we weighed our options carefully. Our verdict on the best choice may surprise you!
TSA Pre-Check vs. Global Entry
Several years ago (January 2016) our travel frequency was climbing. We knew it was time to look at enrolling in a frequent traveler program. We spent some time weighing the options between TSA Pre-Check and Global Entry. After some comparisons and looking at our own travel style, we decided that Global Entry was the way to go. Especially since we were traveling internationally a bit more. For only $15 more per person, you got the benefits of TSA Pre-Check, plus all the other perks that the Global Entry program offers. We fly in and out of the US a handful of times each year, so we’re no stranger to the horrible TSA security lines as well as long customs/immigration lines at major airports.
We submitted our Global Entry program applications, paid our $100 per person fees, and waited to hear back on our approvals. This took a little bit of time, but the wait wasn’t unreasonable. As soon as we heard back, we started looking for centers so we could set up our GOES in-person screening appointments. One would think this would be an easy process, but it certainly wasn’t for us.
There were a few challenges we faced moving forward with Global Entry once approved. One of the reasons it hasn’t been easy is because there are no Global Entry screening locations anywhere in our state of residence. But we are in major airports several times throughout the year… surely we could find an available appointment somewhere! Not so much…
Another other reason this has been difficult is due to a lack of available appointments. While I’m sure this has to do with the increased popularity of the program and decreased staffing, I can say for sure it hasn’t been for a lack of trying on our parts! Based on our planned travels at that point, we tried scheduling appointments at the following airports (sometimes multiple times) to no avail:
- Denver International Airport
- Salt Lake City International Airport
- Washington-Dulles International Airport
- Reagan International Airport
- McCarran International Airport (Las Vegas)
- Baltimore International Airport
- Sky Harbor International Airport (Phoenix)
- Portland International Airport
- SeaTac International Airport
- Washington Enrollment Center
- Miami International Airport
- Ft. Lauderdale/Hollywood Airport
You would think that passing through these major airports, we would be able to get a 15-minute appointment! Also, in our attempts to find a screening center, I called the CBP Global Entry Headquarters in Washington, D.C. seeking assistance in scheduling our appointment. I sat on hold for over 45 minutes only to be told that because I can’t find any available appointments that work with my flight schedules, to just pick a random screening appointment and cancel it later so we won’t be out our $200 application fees.
Later, I contacted Customs and Border Patrol again and was told to try walking into a screening center. After that piece of advice, I called a few screening centers to see if they would accept walk-in appointments and was treated very rudely over the phone by staff. They do not like walk-ins. I’ve even looked for appointments which may worked with our tentative travel plans as far out as January 2017 with no luck thanks to black-outs on available appointments.
Global Entry is great for people who live near major airports who can easily swing by at the drop of a hat. For those of us who don’t have that ability, Global Entry simply doesn’t seem to be worth it. After all our attempts, our next option was to drive to another state for an appointment, which we elected not to do. If you are thinking of Global Entry and don’t live in close proximity to a screening center (generally major airports), TSA Pre-Check might be the better time-saving option for you.
Choosing TSA Pre-Check
After so much hassle with Global Entry, we decided to go with TSA Pre-Check. The application was easy and there was a screening center in our community with ample availability. We scheduled our screening appointments and were out the door in less than an hour. For us, this was a better option. It has made airport travel much easier too. Here are the things we like about it:
- We save time at the airport
- There is usually a designated lane for TSA Pre-Check members
- We don’t have to remove our jackets, shoes, 3-1-1 liquids bag, electronics, etc.
- Since the screening lines are shorter, its usually a bit less of a cattle drive
We have also found when traveling internationally, many major airports are utilizing the Mobile Passport App, which makes entry a breeze. Sometimes, we actually make it through Customs and Immigration faster than some of the Global Entry travelers.
Add TSA Pre-Check To Your Ticket
Ensure you include your Known Traveler Number on each airline reservation. This will add the logo to your boarding pass, which will allow you the expedited screening opportunity. If you forget to do this at the time of booking, you can usually contact the airline in advance, and they can assist. Failure to do so in advance means you have to go through the regular line.
Renewing TSA Pre-Check
TSA Pre-Check is good for four years. When ours was up for renewal, we received a voicemail 10 days prior to the expiration date, but nothing else. Be sure to mark your calendars! We followed the instructions to renew online and paid the fees. Processing time takes a few extra days so make sure to plan wisely.
Having an expedited option like TSA Pre-Check or Global entry makes flying one step easier. We are all about getting through airports, as well as other entry points, as smoothly and quickly as possible. This is just one more thing you can do to ease some stress and enjoy your next trip!