Travel Tips

The Perks of TSA PreCheck

If you fly a few times per year and want to skip the long airport lines, this is for you.

Imagine getting to arrive at the airport later, breeze through the security line and not have to spend time removing your jacket and shoes. This is your reality when you have TSA PreCheck.  Here’s what you need to know to see if it’s right for you.

What is TSA PreCheck?

It's a program that allows low-risk travelers to enjoy shorter wait times and better service at airport security checkpoints. Eligible travelers skip the long line and instead ease through security without having to remove shoes, belts, liquids or laptops from carry-ons. Wait times are typically under 5 minutes and most U.S. airport locations offer PreCheck for domestic and international travel.  

So, what's the catch? There is a cost to participate: $85 for a 5-year membership. There's also the option of adding Global Entry for $15 which allows you to expedite international customs when traveling back to the U.S. 

Our Experience - Is it Worth it?

Justin started using TSA PreCheck in June.

"I never would have guessed how efficient and awesome this service would be.  At first I was reluctant to pay the $85 but I fly about once per month and almost missed a flight because of long lines.

My first time using it was at Midway airport. I walked up without waiting and put my bag on the conveyor belt. I proceeded to walk through the metal detector without taking anything off. The whole process took literally less than a minute.

I now arrive to the airport about 20 minutes later than I normally would, which is especially helpful in my home airport of busy Atlanta. The only time I've noticed PreCheck to take a little longer is when security picks passengers at random to go through the PreCheck line. They seem to "know the drill" of no shoes, belts etc, so they remove them even though it isn't necessary.

I also opted for Global Entry, which I used recently traveling to the Dominican Republic. I simply checked in at the kiosk - scanned my passport, answered 5 questions that were all 'no', it took my picture and I was done. I also got to skip filling out a customs card and waiting in the immigration and customs queues when I returned to the U.S."

How to Apply

You can apply online directly through TSA: www.tsa.gov/precheck. (PreCheck gets you expedited airport security for $85. Global Entry gets you expedited immigration and PreCheck for $100.)

An online application takes about five minutes. You’ll then schedule a ten-minute appointment at any of the 380+ enrollment centers. The appointment will be in-person and includes a background check and fingerprinting.  Once approved you can immediately start using PreCheck and are good to go for the next five years.

How to Find a Cheap Flight

Although the days of $39 one-way flights seem to be behind us, there are still ways to save when booking airfare. Often times, flights can be one of the most expensive (and stressful!) parts of a trip so finding a deal is not only important, it can be the determining factor in going at all.  When searching, your time is also worth something so we compiled this list to save you time so you can book comfortably and feel good about it.

Here are our 6 tried and true tips based on a decade of travel and hundreds of flights flown around the world.

1.  Be Flexible with When You Travel

If you're looking to go to Mexico over spring break or Europe in the middle of summer, you're going to see higher rates. Same with weekends - they tend to be pricier since the demand is greater, so consider a weekday flight when possible. Also, those early morning and late night flights aren't most people's first choice so discounted rates can be found then.  Cheaper flights are offered when fewer people want to travel. Changing your schedule by just one day can mean hundreds of dollars in savings.

When possible, book the flight first, even before accommodations. This way, you'll know you have a good deal on the airfare and can budget more accurately for the remainder of the trip. There are many great resources for getting a quick visual of prices for a whole month. Consider Google Flights, Travelocity or Orbitz. You can easily compare what days are cheapest for your specific route.

2.  Avoid Cookies in Your Web Browser

Have you noticed after web searching several times for a flight, the price seems to go up? It's not in your head, flight prices can actually increase when a particular route is repeatedly searched based on the cookies in your browser. The site is enticing you to book as quickly as possible. Avoid this by changing your browser to private browsing mode or incognito. Just follow these steps:

When using Google Chrome & Safari: Hit Command or CTRL, Shift, “N”.  For an older version of Safari, click "Safari" in the menu bar, then "Private Browsing".

When using Mozilla Firefox & Internet Explorer: Hit Command or CTRL, Shift, “P”.

This will ensure you aren't 'remembered' while searching and can avoid seeing inflated fares.

3.  Use Budget Airlines

This may seem obvious but often times budget airline flights don't show up on searches like Priceline, Kayak and Expedia. Many offer significantly reduced fares and sales, we just need to go directly to the airline website for rates. In the U.S., consider Southwest, Frontier, JetBlue, and Allegiant.

When flying internationally, we've found Europe's EasyJet and RyanAir to be great options for price and service. For a complete list of airlines, see Low-Cost Airlines by Continent.  When booking, confirm if checked baggage is included or if there are add-ons, so you aren't surprised by hidden fees. Also, you may want to double check the arrival destination for your trip's convenience. For example, a "North Paris" airport may require a separate transfer into the city itself.  Those additional costs may add up, making your deal a not-so-great deal after all.

4.  Book Multiple Legs of a Trip

For longer and direct flights, it's worth checking to see if separate bookings can save you money. This can mean purchasing legs of your trip separately or even using different carriers to get you from point A to B.  This can mean not flying direct even though it's an option. You can also find a return flight to be cheaper when booked on its own rather than with a round-trip fare.

5.  Consider When is Cheapest to Book

Many studies have been done to determine the best time to book, ranging from months out to just weeks before departure.  In reality, airlines often don’t actively start monitoring domestic flight prices until about three months before departure and about six months out for international departures.  It's then that price cutting typically starts. So, you can plan to start your search within those parameters without feeling like you've missed out on a good rate. But don't book too close to your departure - when you find a price that you are comfortable with you should take it. There's nothing like waiting too long only to find out the best rates have passed.

In regards to what days of the week is better for cheap fares, here's a good rule of thumb. Try to avoid booking flights on a Friday unless you know it's a deal.  Studies have shown that airlines may start price hikes then as leisure travelers search heavily on the weekend. 

You may have heard Tuesdays offer the cheapest rates and although there are conflicting theories, this could be due to airline executives reviewing weekend sales and trying to offload remaining seats starting on Tuesdays. Early weekdays may be a good booking time, however, keep in mind that other studies reveal that most business travel bookings happen during the week so rates may fluctuate to maximize airline profits. Overall, consider that when you travel is often more cost-saving than when you book.

6. Buddy Passes

This may not apply to you today, but it is worth knowing in case you have or may someday have friends in the airline industry. Employees of airlines often receive a handful of flight passes that they can willfully give to family and friends. These passes allow travelers to fill empty seats on aircrafts for a fraction of the flight cost. This can include flying anywhere in the world so long as the flight isn't full and you are willing to have a flexible schedule as flights can fill at the last minute. Wouldn't it be nice if we all knew a buddy in the industry!

Follow these steps and be on your way to happier bookings. At the end of the day, you want to feel good about your purchase, so monitor flights occasionally, book when comfortable and move on to the more exciting parts of your trip!

How to Stay Fit on Work Trips

We've all been there. Work travel takes over and our health and fitness take a backseat. Being on the road welcomes the hustle and bustle of moving through airports, eating meals on the go, and often less time for working out. But don’t let your fitness goals take a back seat. Just remember these go-to-tips for staying fit - we made it super easy for you, they all start with "W"!

1. Water

    Drink lots of water. Traveling can cause dehydration for several reasons, most commonly when flying due to the lack of humidity in the cabin air.  Also, work functions often provide plenty of caffeinated drinks like coffee and sodas. Try to opt for water, or at least rotate several glasses in during the day. Your body will thank you for it!

    2. Wake Up Early

      Sleeping in may feel better in the moment, but rise 30 minutes earlier and you’ll be glad you did. Use the hotel’s fitness center or do a quick workout in your room. Studies have proven that working out gives you more energy and makes you more conscientious about your food choices throughout the day. Here’s a short and sweet 10-minute workout you can even do in your room. Remember to stretch for a few minutes before and after.

      • 1 minute of walking in place with high knees
      • 1 minute of squats
      • 1 minute of jumping jacks
      • 1 minute of push-ups
      • 1 minute plank

      Repeat this sequence, and feel more energized for your day!

        3. Watch Your Portions

          Buffets and culinary stations are a popular option at hotels and work functions.  It may be tempting to try every dish and pile your plate high, but try to stay conscious of how hungry you actually are. Seek out healthier selections like proteins, whole grains, salads, vegetables and fruits. You’ll feel better about your choices while sitting through your next meeting, and even more so when you’re back home.

          4. Walk

            Work conferences and meetings may leave you stuck sitting most of the day. Choose to walk when you can – take the stairs next to the escalator, stairwell instead of elevator, and step outside for some fresh air when you have a break. If you have the option to go off-property for a meal, opt for walking instead of a taxi or shuttle if it’s within a mile or so.

            So the next time you’re traveling for work, remember the 4 W’s to a healthier, happier you!

            How to Travel When You Don't Speak the Language

            There's something a little nerve-racking about traveling to a foreign country, especially if you don’t speak the language. You may find yourself surrounded by directional signs, unable to read a word or symbol on them.  Locals will be speaking and telling stories and it might as well be Gibberish. But don’t let that stop you from exploring the places you want to see! Here are a few ways to make communicating with locals and getting through a foreign country simple and fun.

            1.    Act It Out

            You’d be surprised at how much you can communicate just by using non-verbals like hand gestures, facial expressions, pointing and miming.  Need a restroom? Crossing your legs with a confused look is pretty universal. Looking for a taxi? Mime it out. Or if all else fails, shout, "Does anyone speak English?" Just kidding. (Although that did work for us once in China!)

            We use nonverbal communication all the time, often without realizing it. When traveling through a foreign place, it just becomes more noticeable (because you need to rely on it more!). You’ll realize that when your brain can’t understand the language, the signs and sounds move to the background and communicating on a simply human level become more obvious. Plus, throughout our travels we’ve learned that locals everywhere are often kind and willing to help.

            2.     Get a Translation App

            There are plenty of great resources out there for translating your English instantly. If you’re needing to translate a restaurant menu, travel guide, or train station sign, using an app will surely simplify the situation.

            An easy to use, free option is GoogleTranslate, which gives you a written translation for anything you speak, photograph or draw on your touch screen. It includes 90 languages, 38 of which offer voice translations (at last count).  Other translation apps with various bells & whistles, and price tags include iTranslate, Waygo and TripLingo.

            3.       Show What You Want

            Snag one of these shirts and simply point out what you need to a local nearby! You can find these online and we’ll soon be offering a smaller, new and improved version in the SDA store.

            Regardless of where you want to travel, don't let a language barrier hold you back from experiencing some incredible places.