Airport Security

Skip the Airport Security Line with these Travel Essentials!

As a frequent traveler, time is of the essence for me. I HATE sitting in the airport for hours at a time waiting for a flight. I tend to not be that traveler that abides to the airports’ recommendations of arriving two/three hours before flights, whether it’s holiday season or not. A reason why we are informed to get to the airport on time is due to security checkpoint lines taking a long time. Well, part of the reason that I don’t stress over getting to the airport on time is because I breeze thru security in minutes. With these three essential travel programs, this will save you time, stress, and sanity.

CLEAR

Clear is fairly new to the airport family. I feel like I seen it pop up within the last two years as they slowly been rolled out to most major airports. A friend gave me her referral code during the Holidays 2018 and CLEAR changed my life!!! So what is CLEAR? CLEAR is an expedited security program that lets you cut the line. There is a separate lane entering the security checkpoint area that directs you to a CLEAR ambassador who then scans your biometrics (fingerprints or retina scan) and then you scan your boarding pass. BAM! You’re at the front of the line. Now if you have TSA Pre-Check, you cut EVERYONE. If you don’t have TSA Pre-Check, you cut the general security line (which is still awesome because we know how crowded and slow that line can be).

CLEAR costs $179 a year but some credit cards reimburse you for signing up for CLEAR and some airlines may offer it at a discount of $119. However, if you want a two month trial, here is my personal referral link for you to try it.

Pros of CLEAR:

  • I can breeze thru security in a matter of minutes
  • I don’t have to dig for my drivers license as it scans my biometrics (which you set up during registration for CLEAR)
  • It works in conjunction with all other airport security programs
  • They give you a warm “Welcome back” greeting every time. If you’re lucky, they will pass out mints or other little goodies too
  • They are also at some major sports arenas so if you go for a sporting game or concert, you can use CLEAR to skip the long lines and get to the fun faster
  • Hertz has announced their collaboration with CLEAR so renting a car can be done in a breeze since again…you don’t need to worry about drivers licenses. You can be in and out of rental facilities in minutes.
  • You can sign up anytime. Unlike other airport security programs where you can to go in for an appointment, no appointment is needed for CLEAR

Cons of CLEAR:

  • They are only at MAJOR airports. So if you fly in/out of regional or tiny airports, unfortunately you have to deal with just TSA Pre-Check
  • The price tag can take some by surprise, especially if you aren’t a frequent travel to take advantage of it.

TSA Pre-Check

TSA Pre-check is one of the popular and well known airport security programs. As you seen going thru security lines, TSA Pre-check allows you to keep on your shoes, not have to take out laptops, or take off belts/jackets. It saves so much time because you literally just place your items on the belt and walk thru the scanner.

How it works is really simple. You enroll online (link is here). Once you get your confirmation that your application has been received, you make an appointment for your background check. Your background check consists of a few questions and fingerprinting and then you will leave with your “Known Traveler Number”. That Known Traveler Number is what you use when booking your future flights to have TSA Pre-check added to your boarding pass. The cost for TSA Pre-check is $85 for five years but some loyalty programs offer reimbursements. Here is the link to see if you could qualify for that.

Pros of TSA Pre-Check:

  • You don’t have to take off your shoes, jacket, or belt
  • You don’t have to take your laptops out of your carry on bag
  • There is a separate line from general security, which tends to be shorter
  • Its available in over 200 airports

Cons of TSA Pre-Check:

  • With more travelers getting introduced to TSA Pre-check, the lines can be almost as long as the general security line
  • It’s not available in smaller airports. However, some smaller/regional airports may give you a “expedited security” card that you won’t have to take off belts, shoes, and jackets but you will have to take out your laptop

Global Entry

Global Entry is what will save you a tremendous amount of time when returning back into the United States from an international trip. However, I have experienced global entry in a few non-US airports as well. Using Global Entry shortens your time going thru customs. When you get off the plane, you walk towards the Global Entry line to the kiosks to scan your finger prints and boarding pass. Once you do that, you will answer a few questions about your trip (like if you are bringing any fruit/veggies into the US, have you touched livestock, etc). After you’re finished, you will get a paper print out to take to the ICE officers for processing. IT’S AMAZING!

Global Entry costs $100 for five years but guess what?! IT INCLUDES TSA PRE-CHECK!! So for $15 more for 5 years, you get two for one. Therefore, global entry is similar to the process that I discussed for signing up for TSA Pre-check. However, they will ask a bit more questions about international travel.

Pros of Global Entry:

  • It saves SO much time after a long international flight. I think I spent no more than 10 mins getting thru global entry
  • It includes TSA Pre-check so its a two for one deal essentially
  • You’ll get a plastic card that you can keep on you to reference your Known Traveler Number at anytime (therefore, come camera ready at your enrollment appointment. My picture is hideous)

Cons of Global Entry:

  • Setting up an enrollment appointment to obtain Global Entry (and TSA Pre-Check for that matter) can take months. When I signed up, I think the next available appointment was 5 weeks out.
  • Your enrollment appointments have to be done at an airport (or in DC I did mine at the DC Enrollment Center in the Ronald Reagan building)

Mobile Passport

I personally have never used mobile passport since I have global entry but I have heard from a number of people that have used it and even downloaded it while standing in the US customs line returning from an international trip. As you can see in the picture, its an app that you download to your phone. You set up your passport, answer a few question, and submit to CBP. From there, you get a receipt. So pretty much, its like global entry on your phone. The only con to Mobile Passport is that it doesn’t allow you to cut the line but it still saves time once you get to the front of the line. A pro of Mobile Passport is that it’s FREE. For more information on mobile passport, visit the US Customs and Border Protection site here.

Elite Status with Airlines

There are a few ways that you could fall into the category of elite status with airlines. Elite status can let you cut security lines as well (but remember if you don’t have TSA Pre-check, you have to abide to airline security rules). Also, when booking airline tickets, you can purchase priority access at rates based at the time of booking.

  1. If you rack up enough points with an airline(s), you could qualify for elite status with that respective airline.
  2. If you are a cardholder of particular airlines, you could qualify for elite status.
  3. If you fly first class, you could qualify for elite status.

Sooooo, I hope you see why all three (CLEAR, Pre Check, and Global Entry) are essentially beneficially to your travels and why I cap for ALL three programs. Elite Status is a nice perk if you fly first class or chose to fly first class. If you have additional questions about any of these programs, comment below!

Budget Airlines

My Journey on flying Spirit Airlines

What are your thoughts on Spirit Airline?!

-Everyone

Oh the million dollar question…what do I think of Spirit Airlines? I get questions about my thoughts on Spirit Airlines and whether one should take it so I figured why not share my personal experience on it so here you go!

A little background information on Spirit…Spirit Airlines is a a la carte, low cost carrier that flies throughout the US, Central America, and Caribbean.

What do you mean by a la carte? Well the reason why 95% of the time Spirit flights are DRASTICALLY cheaper than other airlines, it’s because you’re pretty much just paying for the fare. That’s it! Everything else you typically expect on a flight is what you pay for. So heads up….don’t expect airplane cookies and pretzels and non-alcoholic drinks for FREE. If you want them, you will have to purchase them. Credit cards only. Click here for the link to the description and prices of food and drink on board.

Are Spirit flights comfortable?

Ok so the first thing you will notice when you get on a Spirit flight is how small the seats are. The way they design their planes have the seats pretty tight BUT the aisle is wider than other carriers and the airplane restroom are way more spacious that other carriers than I fly with. I’m bite size…so the small seats don’t bother me per say. However, if you are tall, you will HATE it. Also, the seats have very little cushion so don’t expect a nice comfy seat. If you are tall or prefer more seat cushion, pay more for the big seat, which are the first few rows of the plane.

Would you recommend them for long flights?

Personally, I would not recommend Spirit for long flights. I only fly Spirit from BWI to ATL and back. That’s it! Since its an a la carte airline, I prefer the small things like snacks, comfy seats, etc that other carriers provide. However, Spirit prices are enticing so do what’s best for you. A small tip that will help you save more money that Spirit already does is that if you buy the flight at the airport, you save on the online booking fee cost. My last flight to ATL for the 4th of July is a witness to that. I saved $40 just by booking at the airport because you skip the online booking fee. *Also* I never flow them international. I have a few friends that have and had horror stories so I wouldn’t do it but again…it’s all a gamble. The price is tempting but really build that into your vacation window.

How does the bag policy work?

With Spirit being an a la carte airline, that includes how they handle bag fees. When booking, Spirits will ask if you want to purchase bags for your flight. Heads up!! This is the cheapest opportunity for you to do so. Once you book the flight, you miss out on that cheaper price. So if you know you aren’t about that backpack/small tote travel life, then definitely purchase bags. It is cheaper to pay for a checked bag than a carry on bag…odd right? Also, yes most airlines allow you to bring a carry on bag for Spirit but for Spirit that is not the case. You get one personal item and one bag that is to meet their requirements. Don’t try to finesse the system because if you’re bag is larger than what you didn’t pay for, they will charge you. I seen them do this before. The picture to the left is my go to travel bag with Spirit and its the free option. So ultimately, just make sure that you’re personal item does not have wheels, a handle (like a rolling suitcase), and its not massive and you should be good to go.

Spirit Airlines Bag Fees

Words of Caution

So Spirit is known for flight delays and cancellations. Its facts…most people that have flown with Spirit can attest to that. I am a true witness to that as well. So when it comes to taking Spirit on a trip somewhere, pad your trip for room in case this happens to you.If you’re flying Spirit to a wedding on a Saturday afternoon and your ETA is to land at 10am for a 1pm wedding, that’s too risky. I will say there have been times I flown Spirit and my flight was on time and we even landed early so late/cancelled flights isn’t always the case. I also never experienced a cancelled flight so I can’t relate on that horror. When checking a bag at the airport, get to the airport early. They aren’t like Delta or Southwest and have a lot of staff helping to load the bags.

In conclusion

For me, Spirit is NOT BAD. Spirit has saved me on last minute flights and saving money on trips. However, since I only fly Spirit home to Atlanta, I’m never mad when things don’t go as smooth. The key about Spirit is understanding ALL of their policies from printing your boarding pass to policies on seating and luggage, to snacks on the plane, and to any other additional/unexpected charges. Feel free to message me for any additional questions or advice!! Safe travels if you decide to book with Spirit!

Travel Resources

You Don’t Have to be Rich to Travel Well

How do you travel so often and so cheap?!

I can’t even count on the amount of times I would get that question. However, I am happy to share! I want everyone to experience traveling around the world and knowing that it won’t break the bank either! I enjoy being a budget traveler. Honestly, I do anything I can in life to save money. Therefore, I do whatever I can to cut costs on all my trips (but still have a really enjoyable vacation too). Here are some of my personal travel tips when it comes to saving money on vacation:

  1. Let travel search engines do the work for you! Most times, I never have a set destination where I want to go. I always tell people, I travel anywhere that is cheap based off flight deals. Years ago, there was a time where airlines kept having flight glitches (not sure if you all remember the MAJOR flight glitch to Dubai on Christmas Day for $198 but yea…moments like that REALLY had me traveling all over the world). I am part of two group chat that just drop flight deals all day, I follow @secretflying on twitter which shares flight deal as they come, I signed up for daily emails with AirFareWatchDog and I’m part of a number of travel groups on Facebook that share flight deals.
  2. Google Flights is CLUTCH! Google Flights lets you search by departing and arriving airport and the calendar allows you to see the price of flights for the entire month(s). Its so helpful when you have a flexible schedule to see if its better to fly the day before or after based on price. Also, it shows all airlines and their prices with the exception of Southwest. You have to go to Southwest’s site directly. A lot of people ask me what site I use to book trips and Google Flights is ALWAYS my go-to site.
  3. Book now, plan later! Most times, where there is a REALLY cheap flight deal you have to book quickly. You get 24 hours to cancel a flight so you have at least a day to decide if that trip is indeed something you can take or you will need to cancel. It’s best to have quick booking travel buddies to decide on a date and book too if you don’t want to go on a solo trip.
  4. Budget monthly. For larger and more expensive trips, it helps if your trip is months out in which you can book something each month. For example, if its January and you have a trip in June, you can book the flight in January, book the hotel in February, book the car rental in March, book excursions in April, and leave May to cover any outstanding items needed for your trip. By the time June rolls around, your entire trip is paid for and all you need is spending money.
  5. Utilize hotel, flight, and car rental points! That helps to save money on trips. It’s even better when you can share hotel points with your travel crew to help lower the cost of the trip.

If you have any questions on how to get the most bang for your buck when it comes to traveling, shoot on over to my contact page and send me a message. I would be happy to hear from you!