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Surviving Airport Security

Surviving Airport Security
June 30
13:28 2017

The unavoidable proceeding of going through airport security is about as pleasurable as a trip to the dentist’s office, and sometimes takes just as long. There are the techniques that have become ingrained in most travelers: Get that laptop out of your bag before you get to the scanners; throw out that water bottle before an agent tells you to. But the seasoned traveler has some next-level tricks. Here is a list of pointers to help keep you sailing through security as efficiently as possible, and with minimal stress:

Monitor Wait Times

It’s an inexact science, but there are a couple of ways at least to try to approximate how long the airport line will be. One is with the dedicated phone app (available for Android and iOS) by the Transportation Security Administration, which is also available for a web browser. Simply add the airport in question and you are able to see wait times as they are reported by fellow travelers. (If no one has reported wait times, or if they are reported incorrectly, there unfortunately isn’t much you can do about that.) Another app, called MiFlight, tries to predict wait times through crowdsourcing and offers airport maps.

‘Trusted Traveler’ Programs

This is the big one. By signing up for one of the Customs and Border Protection’s “trusted traveler” programs, you will have access to faster screening lines and reduced wait times. But which program is right for you? T.S.A. PreCheck ($85 for five years) allows for quicker screenings at T.S.A. checkpoints (giving you access to the special PreCheck line and granting you permission to keep your shoes on, among other things) after a background check and in-person appointment at one of its enrollment centers.

Global Entry costs a little more, $100 for five years, but travelers get access to PreCheck and receive expedited entry into the United States when returning from abroad.

You are probably less likely to use the Nexus and Sentri programs, but they are useful for travelers who often go between the United States and Canada or make land crossings into the United States from Mexico (citizens and permanent residents who belong to these programs also have access to PreCheck). Nexus grants you access to dedicated kiosks when flying into certain Canadian airports. And dedicated Sentri lanes at the United States-Mexico border make crossing easier by foot and by car.

The Clear program is significantly more expensive ($179 annually, though there is a discount for Delta SkyMiles members) but promises an enhanced security experience by not requiring members to have their IDs — verification of identity is done biometrically. Keep in mind that members still have to go through physical security screening just like everyone else — they just get to skip the line. The Clear program is available at about 20 airports; PreCheck is used at around 180.

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