Global Victory at Derby Line
Beating the Crowds and the System in the Northeast Kingdom
A lifetime ago, I was a world traveler. I had premier travel
status and seamless travel sense that kept me up to date on every possible way
to minimize chafe and maximize opportunities while on the road. This summer,
while being mocked by former travel fellows for not having TSA PreCheck, I realized those days are long over. This feeling
of inadequacy built over subsequent trips, while standing in massive security
lines, wrestling my laptop in and out of my bag and walking barefoot through X-ray
machines. Determined to regain a small degree of travel cred, I resolved to get
my PreCheck ASAP.
While surfing the travel forums I discovered that Global Entry—the program that gives you the secret security handshake internationally—is only $15 more than TSA Pre Check and (usually) includes PreCheck. In an effort for redemption, I signed up for Global Entry, not only for myself but for my two kids. Never mind that I travel internationally pretty much never. Maybe Global Entry would inspire me.
After proceeding through all the clicks on the application,
each one demanding successively more commitment, I checked the final “Submit”
box to then be considered for conditional approval. A few days later, I got the
email. Great news! Approved! All of us! Now, we simply needed to schedule an
interview. Had I surfed a bit more, I might have discovered that scheduling the
Global Entry Interview is wayyyyy more daunting than scheduling a Pre Check
First of all, there are far fewer place you can go. Even the
passport command central in Portsmouth, NH doesn’t do it. Fortunately, our approvals came through just before
my kids and I would all be together on a weekday with time to kill in the
Portland, OR airport. Perfect. I tracked down the Global Entry office and went
to see if we could do a walk in. Generally, I find Oregonians very laid back
and polite. Generally. When the man in the office found out I had no
appointment he laughed at me. It was a somewhat sympathetic Portland laugh, but
a laugh. No, he assured me, there were no walk in appointments…ever. “People
plan entire trips around wherever they can get their Global Entry interviews,” he
explained, while sharing a knowing glance with the couple he escorted inside.
That brought about the second unforeseen Global Entry barrier—finding a time to interview. Sure enough, when I got home and tried to schedule an interview in Boston the soonest available appointment was in late spring 2017. Handy. Just to rub it in, TSA was running a lightly attended PreCheck event in the Portland Airport that day, so we could have gotten PreCheck wrapped up right there. BUT, once you commit to Global Entry you can’t take it back, and change over to TSA. Our only choice would have been to buy it additionally.
Oh the Places You'll Go...if you can just get there.
So now what? Even if I could schedule a joyride to a remote, available Global Entry appointment, what about the kids? Adding this to the list of things that have to be scheduled between school and sports was not happenin’. I clicked on each state and realized how few of them had availability. By the end of the list, and not feeling very lucky, I clicked on VT, and up popped Derby Line. Odd, for sure, and remote by any standard, but not a stretch if you live in the Upper Valley and frequent the Northeast Kingdom. I was able to schedule our three consecutive 15-minute interviews a mere six weeks hence. Shortly thereafter I got an email notifying me of expanded Global Entry times and scootched the interviews up an entire month.
When the day came, I jammed an hour and half north, scooping up the kids from school along the way. We parked right in front of the facility, another bonus of remoteness. Once inside, two appropriately serious yet totally friendly, bullet-proof vest-wearing agents helped us immediately at two separate stations. Our 45-minutes of scheduled interviews turned in to 12 minutes of astounding government efficiency. The agents explained that we could start using our “Trusted Traveler Number” immediately on flight reservations, and instructed us to activate our cards online once they arrived, likely within four weeks. Three days later our cards arrived, and two days after that I put mine to the test.
Officially, PreCheck is not guaranteed with Global Entry, but your chances of qualifying for it on any given domestic flight are greater than 75 percent. Frequent flyer forums put that likelihood even higher. I am happy to say that on my maiden voyage as a trusted traveler it worked like a charm. I will try not to be smug when going through security removing neither my shoes from my feet nor my lap-top from my bag. But, I may use the extra time inside security to make a little toast to Derby Line.
Learn more about Global Entry, apply online and get down with Derby Line at https://www.cbp.gov/travel/trusted-traveler-programs/global-entry/enrollment-centers/vermont.
For more answers, maps and helpful info, check out this comprehensive guide.