Travel essentials: Things we won’t leave home without

TSA PreCheck or Global Entry?

Join one of Homeland Security’s trusted traveler programs to make getting through airport security checkpoints largely hassle-free.  Both of the major programs require you to begin with an online application. If you clear this background check you are required to attend an in-person interview that includes fingerprinting.

TSA PreCheck is the best $85 that I ever spent on travel. The five-year pass let’s you speed through security with shorter lines (most of the time) with no requirement to remove laptops, liquids, shoes, belts or light jackets.

For $15 more you can enroll in U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Global Entry program. You get the benefit of expedited security screening, PLUS when you arrive back in the United States from a foreign country you skip the long (often hours) lines at customs and immigration by clearing customs at kiosks where you scan your passport, fingerprints and customs declaration. When I got TSA PreCheck there was not a Global Entry location accessible for me to do the required interview and screening. But new intake centers have since opened up, so I intend to get Global Entry before going across the pond later this year.

Pro tip: Not all airports offer TSA PreCheck and sometimes the PreCheck lines are closed at participating airports. And trusted travelers still are subject to random enhanced examination. So have your liquids and laptop accessible. And dress as if you might have to shed shoes, coats, etc.

Your airline tickets must clearly state TSA PreCheck or you will not be allowed expedited screening. This requires you to enter your trusted traveler number when making ticket reservations.

Cash. Lots of it

I used to travel with two credits cards. Until I was in Death Valley with little cash and no ATM access, and within hours I was notified that both cards had been hacked and were cancelled.

That led to an awkward checkout at our hotel and a couple of hours on the phone with credit card companies to get new cards sent overnight to our next destination. It created a bit of a crisis for our hotel bill, gas and meals. I had cash, but not enough.

I now carry extra cash, preferring to pay cash whenever possible and have backup cash should a multiple card hack occur. Don’t wait to get your cash at the airport ATM. I did this once and the machine was out of order when I arrived. I do split the cash up and keep it in different places so it’s not all in my wallet. I also avoid pulling out big wads of cash in public.