Written By: Jen Pieson
Spring has officially sprung (although it’s been a bit difficult to tell, with all of the recent snow!) and before we know it, summer will be here. There are a lot of ways to be proactive about making sure your summer travel plans run smoothly. Plan ahead by managing some of the financial planning aspects of travel now, so when it’s time for vacation you can relax and live in the moment. (And take lots of pictures! We love to see pictures.)
TSA PreCheck – The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) created this special program to allow members to move more quickly through airports while experiencing fewer inconveniences. If you are a frequent flyer, this program may be a great addition for you. PreCheck is a 5-year program with an $85 membership fee. Once a member, your wait times will almost surely be less than those of non-members (the TSA website claims that “In March 2018, 93% of TSA PreCheck passengers waited less than 5 minutes.”). In addition, members do NOT need to remove shoes, laptops, 3-1-1 liquids, belts or light jackets. Parents with PreCheck may bring children aged 12 and younger with them in the PreCheck lane; travelers 13 and older must apply for themselves or go through standard security lanes.
To enroll in TSA Pre-Check, your first step is to submit an online application (which takes about five minutes) through the official tsa.gov website. Then schedule an in-person appointment at an enrollment center (there are almost 400 enrollment centers to choose from). That appointment will last about ten minutes and includes a background check and fingerprinting. That’s it!
Make the Most of Your Cash Back – Are you optimizing your credit card’s features? If you’re not familiar with the benefits your card(s) may offer, or if you haven’t taken a close look at them recently, now is a great time to do so. Lots of credit cards offer extra points for purchases related to travel, and some have annual credits to use toward airline fees (or even Uber credits!). One travel card will reimburse you for signing up for TSA PreCheck, effectively making the program free for an individual. See this article for more details about credit cards that are great for travel.
Passports – There are two types of passports available to US citizens – a Passport Card (valid only for return to the U.S. by land or sea [not for air travel] from Canada, Mexico, Bermuda, and the Caribbean) and a Passport Book (valid for all international travel). An adult (anyone 16 or older) will pay $30 for the Card or $110 for the Book, plus (for first-time applicants), a $35 Execution Fee. Passports for children are currently $80 for the Book and $15 for the Card, also with a $35 Execution Fee. Passports are valid for 10 years (if you were 16 or older when the passport was issued) or 5 years (if you were 15 or younger when it was issued).
The reason to think about passports now instead of later is that there are hefty fees to expedite processing and shipping. The typical passport process will take 4 to 6 weeks, but expediting the process (~8 days to 3 weeks) is an additional $60, and expediting shipping (from Priority Mail, which is free, to Express Mail) is another $15.89. Get the ball rolling now, so your passport is in hand before you need it!
One more reason it may be time to get passports for your family: soon, your driver’s license may not be enough identification to get you onto an airplane. the Federal Government passed the REAL ID Act in 2005, requiring that states upgrade driver’s licenses to meet certain security standards. Not every state has changed their practices to meet this new standard; in fact, many have not. However, all states and territories that are not yet compliant have filed extensions (except American Samoa) through October 10, 2018. After that, if your state has not adopted the Real ID act (and there have been no further extensions), you will probably need a passport book to board any flight, domestic or international. For more information about the current status of states that are compliant with the REAL ID Act, click here.
Travel safely this summer, and please let your financial strategist know if you have any questions about this material, or if there’s any other way we can help you prepare for your upcoming vacations!