I really shouldn’t be permitted to travel, based on the number of really stupid things I’ve done on the road. On past trips, I have shown up at the wrong hotel and tried to check in for a flight that wasn’t mine. I have gotten on trains heading away from my destination rather than towards it. And when it comes to driving and one-way streets…let’s just say, I can U-turn VERY quickly.
But recently, two things went right. Very right. And they shouldn’t have, considering it was the weekend of the lunar eclipse.
First, I registered with U.S. Customs for Global Entry clearance. I was hesitant. I really didn’t want the feds to have my fingerprints on file. Why? I felt it was the last shard of privacy I had squirreled away and I wasn’t comfortable giving the full monty. But the security lines at the airports grow longer, and my patience with families toting kids with juice boxes continues to grow shorter, so I took the plunge.
On the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website, the benefits for joining are listed as follows:
- No processing lines
- No paperwork
- Access to expedited entry benefits in other countries
- Available at major U.S. airports
- Reduced wait times
- TSA Pre✓® Eligibility
The process is simple. You complete an online application that includes personal information about you, your employment, and travel history, and then submit it for review along with a $100 non-refundable application fee. The process can take 4-6 weeks; I was cleared in 10 days.
Then you set up an appointment for an interview. They are conducted at major airports by federal agents. It takes about 10 minutes for the officer to repeat some of the questions on the application, to take your photograph and fingerprints, and to explain the use of the global entry kiosks.
I left the airport excited to try out my new status and now, having taken my first trip, I wish I’d done it sooner. I sailed through LaGuardia and Detroit Metro like a rock star. And I was able to get the application fee refunded; it’s one of the benefits offered by American Express. If you fly more than once a year, I recommend it. And, if you’re going to go through the application process, commit to the Global Entry clearance instead of TSA Pre✓®. It’s more expensive ($100 instead of $85), but comes with both domestic and international expedited clearances.
That was my first gold star. I gave myself a second one for booking my weekend stay at an airport hotel. I have never stayed at the airport. It seemed a bit seedy, with the hint of illicit comings and goings and loud jet noise to make it a less than desirable option for me. But my weekend in Detroit involved a late Friday night arrival and early Monday morning departure. The Westin attached to the Delta terminal had positive TripAdvisor reviews, so I took a chance. When my plane landed, I strolled down the concourse and into the lobby. Monday morning? Whoop. Reverse direction. It was a monumental pleasure not to have to deal with getting a cab or tracking down a rental car in the wee hours. For future short trips, this is my new must-do.
Taking a trip with the blood moon rising was pretty risky, considering my past travel misadventures. It would have made more sense to hole up in a bunker and await the end of days. But I rolled the dice and it was worth it. I have to check the astronomical calendar and see when the next potential apocalypse is due to try out some new, daring travel moves.