Global Entry or TSA Pre-Check, Your Choice

You may have read my previous blog, where I reported that TSA recently eliminated free TSA Pre-Check that frequent fliers were receiving. We REALLY loved TSA pre-check, so we knew it was time to officially apply for that. The following airlines offer TSA Pre-Check, and here’s how you apply at a location near you:

  • Air Canada
  • Alaska Airlines
  • American Airlines/US Airways
  • Delta Air Lines
  • Hawaiian Airlines
  • JetBlue Airways
  • OneJet
  • Southwest Airlines
  • Sun Country
  • United Airlines
  • Virgin America
  • West Jet

Since we’re booked with friends on the Globus Greek Island Hopper Tour in 2016 (you should come with us), it just made sense to apply for 20151012_132453Global Entry, which offers expedited customs clearance upon reentering the country, as well as TSA Pre-Check. Friends of ours who traveled with us to Costa Rica already had their Global Entry cards then. We were off the plane in line for customs well ahead of them, but they cleared customs, were seated at an airport bar saving seats for us, with their first drinks in hand by the time we caught up with them.

About a month ago, we applied for Global Entry online at this website. We had to list past addresses, employment, and more, and then pay the $100 fee, which is non-refundable. After about one week, we were notified that our application had been conditionally approved and to schedule an interview at a Global Entry Enrollment Center. We knew Little Rock did not have one, so we would have to travel to a center, and the closest ones to us are in Memphis and Dallas. Fortunately, we were traveling to Washington, DC, for the American Express Learning Forum and Travel Conference and a visit with our daughter who lives there now, which included lots of sightseeing. So, we scheduled an appointment in the Ronald Reagan Building, 1300 Pennsylvania Ave NW, just a few blocks from the White House.

We walked in early for our appointment, but they immediately called us in. After answering a few basic questions and an explanation of how Global Entry works, we walked out with our Known Traveler number, and my Global Entry card arrived at our home just a couple days later. I entered the Known Traveler number in our Southwest Airline flight home from Washington, DC, and sure enough, we had TSA Pre-Check on that return flight.

So, if you just fly domestically, TSA Pre-Check may be enough for you. If you travel or hope to travel internationally, might as well apply for Global Entry now.


Does Your Passport Expire in 2016?

The US PasspWIN_20150917_10_51_08_Proort office is reminding us that they issued lots of passports in 2006, because that was the year the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative went into affect. That means a large number of US citizens will need to renew their passports in 2016. If that’s you, you can expect delays in your renewal. I highly recommend starting your renewal early in the year, allowing plenty of time to get it back before your next trip.

The US is also phasing out adding pages to existing passports. That just puts the US in line with what the rest of the world is already doing. Be sure you ask for the 52-page book, which is the largest they offer, because that gives you more space for stamps over the 28-page book. Once your passport pages are full, you’ll now have to renew your passport. Happy travels, and remember to give me a call when you’re ready to travel.

No More Free Passes to TSA Pre-Check

WIN_20150917_10_51_08_ProJust like many of you, we’ve been enjoying TSA Pre-Check on our domestic flights the past few years. No need to remove your laptop from your carry-on, and I can walk through the security line with your shoes and jackets on. TSA quietly ended the free passes this week, and now the only folks with TSA Pre-Check are those who have applied, paid the application fee, and completed the in-person interview.

If you’re ready to apply, there’s two different programs to consider. If you only travel domestically, TSA Pre-Check is exactly what you need. If you travel or hope to travel internationally, you need to apply for Global Entry, which also includes TSA Pre-Check.

Here’s the link to apply for TSA-Pre-Check, and here’s the link to apply for Global Entry. Complete your application and pay your fee. After you’ve passed that check, you’ll be invited to set an appointment for your in-person interview. Many of you may have to travel to another city for your interview, like we did. You can plan your interview for a day and time you’ll be visiting that city anyway, if you like.

Both these clearances last for five years, so I’d suggest you get your clearance today if you love to travel as much as I do. And, remember, I should be your first call for all your vacation travels if you value your time.

A Bermudaful Day with Somerset Bridge Water Sports!

2015-04-12 18.18.38 We’re just back from our second visit to Bermuda, and everyone needs to visit Bermuda at least once, and that probably won’t be enough for you. You can enjoy Bermuda’s beaches on your own with no problems, and public transportation, which includes ferry and bus, allows you to explore the entire island affordably. This time, we decided it was time to enjoy some watersports, so we joined our friends for a Jet Ski Adventure with Somerset Bridge Watersports. And, we saved a little money with their Early Bird Special at 8:15 am. What a great way to begin a day in Bermuda!

My husband, Roger, is an old pro with jet skis, and he loves speed, so I was thrilled to ride as his passenger. This was a beautiful morning, and the cool breeze and the spray of the water kept us both smiling. Our tour guide, Harry challenged us to catch him, and Roger gave it his best. I was hanging on, having a ball, laughing because it felt like my body was going to take flight a lot of the time. Wow, what a great ride. Bermuda’s coastline was beautiful from the water, and I’m only sorry our tour was over before we made it to David Bowie’s Bermuda home.

The pinnacle of our ride was feeding the fish at the wreck of the Vixen. The fish swarmed as we tossed bread in the water, what an amazing sight. Harry invited 2015-04-12 17.20.12us to jump into the frenzy, and Roger jumped right in. I stayed on the jet ski, laughing watching those fish frenzy around him. This was so much fun! Here’s the details of our ride:

Taxis were waiting in the port area to take us anywhere, so our group of seven jumped in a van for the short ride to Somerset Bridge. The taxi driver headed inside with us, because Somerset Bridge Watersports pays for your taxi ride to their facility. And, we all settled in to complete our paperwork for the ride. We sure would have loved some coffee while we did this, so that’s a little suggestion for their early bird business.

After our paperwork was completed, we headed inside for our safety briefing, and to store our belongings in their facility. The ride is fast, so anything that’s not secured tightly to you needs to be left behind, including sunglasses and hat. My hat was the only loss on our trip, so I replaced it with a Bermuda hat shortly after this excursion. And, we all donned our life jackets, before boarding the jetskis.

2015-04-12 16.26.27Bermuda had some damage from Hurricane Gonzalo last year, so Somerset Bridge Watersports has all new jet skis as a result. We all boarded our jet skis, ready to head out in our water tour of Bermuda.

Our tour guide, Harry, told us, Speed is our friend, and the jet skis were so much easier to handle at speeds above 40. The gals in our group had no problem handling the jet skis, and we only had one couple in our group who didn’t fare well, because the wife kept telling the hubby to slow down, when he really needed to go faster to get better control.

Once our ride was over, we waited outside Somerset for a while, laughing and sharing our jetski stories, until we realized that no taxis were coming down there, so we all strolled out to the main road, where a taxi quickly pulled over to take us back to the port.

I absolutely recommend Somerset Bridge Watersports for all your water fun in Bermuda, whether you want to kayak, jet ski, ski and/or snorkel, or rent a boat. Tell them I sent you!


My Vacation Reading … on our Bermuda Cruise!

I never had an iPod, because I’m not that into music. I love all music, so whatever is playing will usually please me. My Kindle on the other hand … I absolutely love the convenience of reading on my Kindle, especially as we travel on vacation without having to carry an extra bag with all my reading. I love to read.

trainAs I’m planning to leave on our vacations, I always ask my Facebook and Twitter friends for book recommendations, and they always come through for me. So, as I traveled home this time, I decided it was time to give back, with my own review of what I read during my travels. I loaded more books on my Kindle than I read, so if you don’t see the book you recommended here, it may just mean I haven’t read it yet. Here’s what I did read:

The Girl on the Train, Paula Hawkins – The person who recommended this book to me said, that if I liked Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, I would like this book, too. Gone Girl was recommended by someone for my travels last year, so I eagerly added this to my Kindle selection. When I finished reading this book, I was sad and disappointed. Granted, this book had lots of twists and turns, but I felt little to no compassion for the characters, and I believe the author missed the mark in building character depth that would draw me in. I dragged myself through chapter after chapter of this book, believing at some point, I would really care about any of these characters. I never did, and I regret this purchase. However, some of you may have really enjoyed it, so feel free to defend this book. 2 stars, a plot filled with sad useless characters.

Defending Jacob, William Landay – Wow, what a story. And, unlike The Girl on the Train above, I cared so deeply about these characters, I jacobalmost cried at the end. The story about a teen charged for a murder that his deputy assistant prosecutor dad was investigator, and how this family handles the trial and aftermath, within a community they have loved. 4 ½ stars, great plot, love the characters, could not put this book down until the end.

What Alice Forgot, Liane Moriarty – Imagine you had an accident, lost the last 10 years of your memory. For me, that would mean my son would alicestill be living at home without joining the Marines, and my daughter would still be home without moving to live in Washington, DC. We would be living in our Jacksonville, Arkansas home, attending a different church from the one we attend now. And, I would not be a travel agent yet. This is exactly what happens to Alice … she loses ten years of her life, and her last memories were being happily married and pregnant with their first child. She doesn’t remember her three children, and she has no clue why she and her husband are in the process of getting a divorce. This was just a fun book, with people just like you and me, who can be both delightful and incredibly annoying, depending on the moment. 4 stars, a feel-good easy-to-read story, somewhat predictable, but it made me smile!

One Lavender Ribbon, Heather Burch – Adrienne Carter relocates to Florida following a bitter divorce, and finds a bundle of letters tied with a lavender ribbon in the Victorian home she purchases to restore. She begins to read the letters and feels compelled to find the person these belong to, and a beautiful story evolves in relationships from both the past and current days. This was another easy read, not a deep story, and sometimes the writer got bogged down in Adrienne’s insecurities from her divorce. 3 stars, just because it made me smile.

The Giver, Lois Lowry – This book turned out to be a series of four, and once I’d read the first book, I had to quickly download the next three books, The Messenger, Gathering Blue, and The Son. I’ve only read the first and second books, and the story feels incomplete without the others, so I can’t give you a complete review on this book yet, but I enjoyed the first book enough to invest in the other three. The story is about a future society that shuns and discards the weak and broken, living in a literally colorless world, and each additional book reveals additional details about this future world. I’m enjoying the book, and I’ll return to update this review when I’ve completed the last two books. So far … 4 stars for an interesting plot, great characters, and interesting writing that draws me into their fictional society.

My secret pleasure is those easy to read fictional stories about the Amish. I added several of those to my Kindle, because they’re a really quick read on planes or while waiting for flight connections. I’m not reviewing those, because the stories are predictable, but I love the characters. Let me know if you’d like to know some of my favorite authors of these kinds of books.

So, what have you read recently? Let me know if you agree or disagree with my thoughts. And, a great big thank you to each one of you who offer your recommendations each trip. I’m leaving for Costa Rica in a couple of months, so I’m going to need some more books. What do you recommend?