"Please remove your shoes, belts, coats. Take out your laptops and place them in a bin." If you fly at all you are very familiar with this refrain at the TSA security checkpoints.
If you've done any flying for work recently, you know that the name of the game is speed. If I can pay for pre-boarding or a better class of service, so that I can have my bags stored quickly and efficiently, I'll do that gladly. However removing my laptop, 3-1-1 bags, belts, shoes and anything else does not help you get through security quickly.
I just got back from flying around the world. Literally. (You can check out photos from my #aroundtheworld trip on my Instagram). And let me tell you security in some of the 8 airports I flew through is not the same as in the US.
Security is not the same around the world
In Kathmandu, some guy who's not even wearing a uniform waves you through even though you set off the metal detector. He looks upset when you think about removing any metal objects you might have forgotten in your pockets.
However, in Doha, it's a whole different ballgame. The security after immigration is similar to the States, but there is a second screening at the gate, which is way more intrusive. I'm flying back home from filming in Vietnam and Nepal when I got to experience this screening. In other words, I'm traveling with two camera bags full of gear. Much of it electronic.
Remove all electronics, wait what?
"Please remove all electronics from your bags for a hand screening" I am told at the checkpoint.
They want all cameras (that's the DSLR cameras, GoPros, drones, …), laptop, hard drives, audio recorders, color meters, external viewfinders, lithium batteries, remotes, wireless transmitter, and receivers, … anything that's bigger than a cell phone and has electronic components.
All of those get sealed into a plastic bag after being inspected by hand and I am handed 6 or 7 bags of equipment that was now not protected in any way so that I can walk to the scanner and have these items rescanned.
I finally am able to talk them into helping me carry the gear to a table so that I can put it all back in its place in my ThinkTank bags.
"Hey," you think, "that doesn't sound like fun, but I only fly domestically in the US, so that's not gonna happen to me."
Not so fast!
Not so fast. In late July the TSA announced that it was running a pilot program in 10 airports, where all electronic gear bigger than a cell phone would have to be removed from carry-on baggage.
And trust me, you do not want to have to unpack and repack your fragile and expensive gear at a busy airport security checkpoint. (It took me almost half an hour in Qatar to get through the gate security checkpoint.)
Here's the solution
Fortunately, TSA gives us a solution. Here's what their press release says: "The stronger security measures do not apply to passengers enrolled in TSA Pre✓® who are using TSA Pre✓® lanes."
TSA Pre✓ is a program you apply for online. TSA does a background check on you, you come in for a 10-minute in-person appointment pay $85 for 5 years (that's less than $20 per year) and you never have to take your shoes off at the airport again. You can apply for TSA Pre✓ here.
But there is an even better option:
For an extra $3 per year ($15 bucks for 5 years), you can apply for Global Entry. It does everything you get with TSA pre✓, plus when you enter the US, you go through a very short biometric customs and immigration line that takes about 5 minutes to enter the country. Apply for Global Entry here.
Believe me, it's worth every single one of those three dollars.