Air travel can feel hostile nowadays, from nasty airline policies to disappearing basic amenities. Many don't have enough of a budget to do private jets or regular first-class flights, so we have to take care of our business travel comfortably within increasingly limited resources.
Here are some insights savvy travelers know.
Skip TSA Precheck and get Global Entry. TSA Precheck has gotten a ton of notoriety because it allows you to get through security without taking off your shoes, removing your laptop or doing a dozen other precautionary measures required in the traditional TSA line. Depending on the airport and the timing, it can shave significant minutes off of your waiting.
However, TSA Precheck only works in America. For the same price (currently about $100 for five years), you can do Global Entry and have the same fast track experience around the world - and it includes TSA Precheck in the package. Global Entry does require a short visit to a passport office, often in your closest major city, and fingerprinting to expedite any future travel through customs. The results are worth it, though: Global Entry helped me zoom through to a connection after a late flight from Colombia, bypassing a customs line about 100 people deep - and getting me home on time.
Credit cards give you elite benefits (and baggage). It is easy to focus on elite status on airlines, with their automatic upgrades and occasional first-class benefits. Getting elite status is also harder than ever: I enjoyed the highest status on one carrier years ago, but today the 150,000 mile a year requirements would make it nearly impossible for me to do again anytime soon.
Instead, it may be wiser to get a no-fee or low-fee official credit card from your favorite airline carrier. It often gives you the first bag free on every flight, adds bonus miles towards free trips and provides priority boarding right after the first-class paying customers. They also have the little-known perk of priority baggage, which means your bag will be one of the first off of the plane - perfect for getting you out of the airport quicker after you land.
Sit in the front or the back to get served early. First class can be lovely, as can the coach area right behind first class that airlines are now charging extra for. However, the very back of the plane often has one benefit equal to them both: You are the first to be served. On large planes, flight attendants will sometimes split the inflight food and beverage duties and simultaneously work from the end to the middle of the aisle.
In other words, the last row of coach will often be served at the same time as the first row of coach. If you aren't able to get in the front, then consider reserving a seat to the rear to get your refreshments early in the flight.
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