Skipping airport security lines for only $85 bucks kind of seems like a no-brainer.
All that pre-boarding protocol, especially with kids in tow, can be such a hassle. There are shoes to remove, water bottles to empty, IDs to present. We strip ourselves and our tots of belts, jewelry and other accessories. Plus, there’s the laptop computer that has to come out of its case and be placed in a bin by itself!
Airport security measures are important, of course. But they can really be a hassle.
New programs, such as Global Entry, T.S.A. PreCheck and CLEAR, offer ways to bypass some of those airport time sucks. They’ll cost you, but when they work as advertised, you’ll hardly flinch at the price. Unfortunately, the programs come with some kinks, making them imperfect travel companions as yet. The New York Times Frugal Traveler, Seth Kugel, recently outlined the pros and cons of the various services, and we help break it down so that you can decide if one of them is right for your family, based on your travel style.
1. Global Entry: For $100, you go to an appointment where you essentially get cleared to skip immigration lines (no manual filling out of those in-flight forms either!), and you gain membership into the program for five years. At $20 a year, that’s a pretty sweet deal—until you consider that it’s $100 per person! There’s no family price at the moment, and as Kugel discovered, it doesn’t even always work. (His Global Entry was revoked with no explanation. And although the Customs and Border Protection says there’s only a one percent chance of this happening, it does happen.)
Bottom line: Unless your family travels internationally regularly, this one probably doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. You’re better off packing enough entertaining resources to keep your kids occupied if you do get stuck on a pesky line.
2. T.S.A. PreCheck: Included in Global Entry memembership or purchased for $85 on its own, this service allows you to walk straight through those metal detectors, shoes, belt and all! Keep your laptop contained in your carry-on, and make sure you don’t have liquids larger than the 3.4 ounce allowance, but aside from that, this option makes getting to the gate a breeze! Unfortunately, this one is not without its issues either. For starters, the T.S.A. reserves the right to send you through regular security just because. Plus, while growing, the program is not yet active everywhere. Only 118 airports have it, so depending on where you travel and how often, it might not make the most financial sense to plunk down almost a hundred dollars for each family member. At least not until the program has seen significant growth.
3. CLEAR: This technology-based service, which boasts a five minute or less trip through security, seems like a real gem. Once you’re enrolled (you do this by registering at a CLEAR enrollment center), you take your CLEAR card and visit the matching airport kiosk. Once your identity is verified, you’re jetted to the front of the security line via a separate lane. At $179 per person, it is on the pricier side, but the good news is that kids under 18 are fre