The Real Deals for Travel

Personal Writings

           Marble Falls      I travel a lot and a lot of people are getting ready to travel this summer from all reports.  Yeah, it might be more crowded in airports and on the highways, but, generally, travel is a good thing, opening your eyes to new experiences, other cultures, and great people, as well as reminding you of the value of home when you return.  Anyway, that’s my two-cent opinion, and I’ve lived by it.  When mi companera and I tally the pluses and minuses of our parental abilities with our two wonderful children, on the plus side we firmly plant having done a good job of taking them on the road all over North America and putting them in the air, whenever we could cover the fares.  Let’s keep this positive and ignore the minus sides.

In a service to readers, the Wall Street Journal, like most papers these days, recently ran a story on ten tips for travel in airports this summer, where airlines are hoping for crowds.  Good for them!  For what it’s worth, their tips include:

  • They suggest you download the airline’s app. This is sort of a gratuitous suggestion, since the airlines will pound you with encouragements and reminders to do this once you make your reservation.
  • They suggest getting a look at the airport map before you go there. Good luck with that, since most of them are unintelligible.  They did warn about public transit and Newark’s new terminals, where I’m flying soon, so I’ll file that away.
  • They suggest taking snacks and an empty water bottle to save a few dollars, which sounds smart until you realize that you’ve packed, so tightly you can hardly fit a newspaper in your bag.
  • They suggest that you tag your own bag at the kiosk, but I would suggest that you figure out a way to pack your bags and bring them as carry-ons saving both time and in many cases money.
  • They suggest you check how long it takes to walk to the gate, which is a solid suggestion, but mine would be to double-check the number of your gate when you pass security. I can’t tell you how often the gates change, and, furthermore, walk down there first before stopping to get any other business done, so you’re squared away.  Yes, someone will watch your bag, and you can return the favor later and make a friend.

OK, it turns out that I keep amending their advice, so maybe this wasn’t quite the wonderful public service that I had advertised.  I should have known because their first suggestion was just about totally wrong.  They recommended getting a jump on the line with TSA PreCheck, which “costs $78 for five years” or “Clear is $189 for an annual membership.”

There are two great deals offered to Americans by our federal government.  One of them is Global Entry, which costs $100 for five years.  With Global Entry, you automatically get TSA PreCheck, once you qualify, and for that extra $22, you are fast tracked through customs whenever you happen to leave the country and come home.  Even if you only take one foreign jaunt in five years, that’s a bargain.  Why the government ever allowed Clear in airports is beyond me, because it’s a privatization rip-off and allows people to break in line ahead of PreCheck.  It is unbelievable to me that TSA allows them to cut in line, and, as you might guess, I don’t allow it and make a stink regularly about this issue.

Finally, you’re wondering what the other great deal is from the United States government to its citizens who are also sometimes travelers.  Answer:  it’s the lifetime and annual passes to parks and rec sites.

The $80.00 lifetime and $20 Annual Senior Passes provide admittance to more than 2,000 recreation sites managed by six Federal agencies, with up to 100% of the proceeds being used to improve and enhance visitor recreation services.

You can’t beat that with a stick.  So, see America first, if you are already here, but get yourself in the air soon on a cheap flight and put your arms around this big old world while you can.

Just saying.