One of the questions people always ask me is: Do you have Global Entry? Why don't you get it?
It is no secret that having Global Entry is one of the keys to traveling like a boss. It allows for expedited customs lines and comes with pre-TSA which enables travelers to get through security lines without taking off shoes or removing laptops or liquids from your baggage. In short, it takes the hassle out of travel.
Well, I am pleased to say that after years of going without Global Entry, I finally made the plunge and applied. After considering the amount of times I travel abroad and the long customs lines I have endured, I decided it was worth it to get Global Entry. Here's everything you need to know about how to travel in and out of the USA like a boss.
First, you apply via the website where you enter all of your background information including your employment history. If you have any time not accounted for under an employer, you must list that time as well (such as self-employment, or freelance). The application costs $100.
Now it's time to wait. It takes a few days/weeks to get the approval for your application. Once approved, you can book your time-slot for an interview at the international airports listed on the site.
3. Interview Set Up
There were interview time-slots available at Long Beach, LAX, and San Diego - however it took me four months (yes! four months) to find a suitable time-slot after work. There were weekend times, but they filled up fast. So in conclusion- if you are going on a trip in the future and want Global Entry, get started on your application now.
I scheduled an interview at LAX for 7:30pm. The hardest part was enduring the traffic to get to the interview. Once I got to LAX, I walked over to the Customs Office located in Tom Bradley International terminal, where the interview takes place. Then the customs officials ask you a few simple questions, verify your identity, and take finger prints. They even took me into the interview sooner since I got to the airport earlier than planned. Then, boom - done.
After the interview, they provide you with a Global Entry number which can be used immediately to get you through customs and security lines faster. In a week, the official card came in the mail, which is all you need to show the customs and TSA agents while traveling.
Conclusion: The Global Entry process was a breeze, it just takes time.
So you might be asking... Is Global Entry for me? Consider these questions:
- Do you travel outside of the US frequently? If you do, Global Entry is a no brainer.
- Do you travel within the US frequently? You can apply for pre-TSA program which is a bit cheaper and helps to expedite the security lines only.
- Do your travel partners have Global Entry? This was the biggest consideration for me. I travel with fellow Global Entry members and frequently got held behind in the line since I didn't have Global Entry. If your travel partners do not have Global Entry, they will need to apply separately.
- Do you have to get back to work/school/connect to other flights etc immediately after you land? If you have to run right after your flight lands, you may not want to jeopardize additional hours waiting in line. As mentioned in my previous post, getting through the airport fast can enable you to see more on your trips.
- Do you travel with laptops and other items that cause delays? If so, check out Global Entry or pre-TSA.
- Do you travel mostly for business? If you do, you can potentially have your employer cover the cost or deduct the cost from taxes. Check with your tax professional and employer.
If you have any questions about this program or the process, comment below!
After spending 6 days in Bali, I learned that the island is deceivingly larger than you might think. I stayed in Seminyak which is very central, but it is still about two hours away from many excursions. Bali has over 4 million people (that's 3x the amount of Hawaii's entire population) on an island half the size of Hawaii's Big Island. Translation - there is a lot of traffic. But don't let that stop you.
Here is how to make the most of your trip:
For reference, here is a map of Bali. You will land in Denpasar (in red below), and the closest places to stay near the airport are Kuta and Seminyak (in blue below).
Stay a few days in each of these spots:
1. Seminyak - Central, quieter than Kuta, nice blend of relaxation and activity.
2. Uluwatu - Beaches, spas, temples with beach views. As mentioned in my previous post, Seminyak and Kuta beaches have high surf and the beaches are gritty (stray dogs, litter, glass, etc). If you want a beautiful relaxing/swimming beach, check these out:
3. Ubud - Famous for Balinese cultural sights, rice terraces, relaxation, and yoga.
Where are your favorite places to stay in Bali? Comment Below!
People ask me all this question all the time: How do you do it? How do you travel? Isn't it expensive? For many years, I thought the same thing. Then I learned how to hack the travel system. The truth is, with careful planning and the following hacks, travel is possible no matter what your budget. You must know how and when to buy for the best deals. So without further ado, here are my favorite hacks:
1. Take Advantage of Flash Sales
Usually around January, airlines start promoting travel flash sales. I sign up with Travelzoo, Airfarewatchdog, and individual airline carrier promotional emails so I can stay alert on upcoming deals. I'm talking emails that say "This is not a misprint- $300 to Tokyo". Airlines need to fill their aircraft, so these kind of deals can happen. In fact, I found my Iceland deal this way, and the fare was cheaper than a LAX>SFO trip. Flash sales don't last long, so act on them soon or they are gone. Also, make sure to read any fine print. Double check your dates, additional costs like taxes, and departing airports to make sure it all jives. So yes, you can really travel to interesting cities for less than a week's worth of lattes.
Example of a real email:
Sign up for credit cards and loyalty cards that give you perks with hotels and airlines. The Hyatt card grants you 2 free nights at a Hyatt when you meet their requirements. The Southwest card allows you to turn your spending into free travel. Check The Points Guy for more examples.
Aside from credit cards, use your Student ID, AARP card, Military card, AAA card, etc. These can give you significant savings at museums and stores while abroad.
3. Use Alternatives For Hotels
The biggest expense outside of airfare is lodging, but it doesn't have to be. If you stay at a hotel, book early. As an alternative, try budget hotels, hostels, couchsurfing, and AirBnB which can be cheaper. As you travel, make friends so you can possibly stay with them and visa-versa. Weigh the distance of your accommodation to the city with the price. If it's too far from the city, you may spend more on transit and be better off staying in the city center.
4. Travel Off Season
You don't need to take "summer" vacation in summer. You will get the cheapest airfare when you go to a place during its off season. I'm talking Bali during rainy season, Hawaii in winter, Italy in December. Guess when everyone is not in Hawaii? January! Hence cheap hotels and airfare. It's half the cost for the same beautiful place, only with less people and a chance of showers.
5. Use Alternatives to Taxis
Taxis will be your next biggest expense. So don't take them! Take public transit, walk, or use car sharing services. Uberpool is a great option because you split the fare with other riders. Weigh how much you will need transit and see if renting a car is cheaper.
6. Accumulate Airline/Hotel Points
I have one particular airline that I travel with all the time. I make a lot of sacrifices to travel this carrier, but it's worth it because I get points and am able to use the lounge (ahem, free food/beverages). Those points translate to free airplane rides and upgrades. If you stick with one hotel/airline you will get more perks. When it comes to hotels, make sure you book one with free breakfast and wifi.
7. Cut food expenses
First off, don't eat at tourist restaurants. Ask locals (not the concierge) for restaurant recommendations. Check out TripAdvisor which is always a great resource. Also, instead of dining out, check out the local supermarkets. Some countries have convenient stores with yummy take-away food.
Another great way to save on food is by enjoying the "free" food at the airport lounge (another reason to gather points), or at your hotel membership lounge. I stay at one particular hotel, which has a lounge stocked with "free" food and beverages which I take advantage of throughout my trip.
8. Enjoy "free" things.
Free walking tours (like the one I took in Munich - shown above), free museum days, free hikes, parks, observation decks can be found in almost every city. See if the city has free events or parades while you are in town. Sometimes you might be in luck. In Oaxaca and Cuzco, I stumbled upon a wedding parade and soccer festival. These events are a great way to experience the culture.
9. Consider Alternatives to Tours
English speaking tours can run you a bill in some countries. One way to get around that is by taking tours in the most common language. For example, I took the Spanish speaking tour in Mexico which was about 1/10 the price of the English speaking tour. The price for the English speaking tour was expensive because demand was very low (we were some of the only English speakers there). The Spanish speaking tour gave me a chance to practice my Spanish and also learn from the domestic traveler's point of view. Plus, I used the tour as my transportation.
Another alternative is to do DIY tours. Try downloading a city guide from GPSmyCity and do your own walking tour, like this one in Havana. Since it's downloaded to your phone, it works without a data plan. Chances are, people have been to the city before there are great guides already out there!
10. Don't go to extremely expensive places
There are those places that are notorious for being expensive. Some examples: SF, NYC, Norway, Switzerland. The prices will make you scream (see above). For example, average AirBnB's in San Francisco will run you over $250 per night. If you go to these places, know that your budget will be destroyed. Try commuting into these places from nearby towns, do a day trip, go off season, or stay with friends instead.
11. Take red eye flights
You might not like this one, but it will save you money. Save yourself one hotel night and sleep on the plane. Late night flights are often cheaper. Of course, bring these essentials to make the trip more comfortable. Then wake up in a new city and hit ground running. Make sure the accommodation and public transit is available when you get there because otherwise you could negate your savings.
12. Use Air Travel Aggregators
Sites like Skyscanner help you see which days, times, airports, and destinations are cheapest. The key is to be flexible and sign up for email alerts. For example, if you want to go to LAX>CDG, it may be cheaper to book one way flights, or to take connecting flights, or perhaps fly into another airport entirely. See if other lesser known airports can get you there cheaper. Look at the monthly schedule for the airline and see which day/time is cheapest. If you are flexible on destinations, search by destination on Google Flights to see which location is cheapest.
13. Use budget airlines (with caution)
Norwegian got me to Europe for about $400. That's less than most domestic flights. Other carriers with cheap fares include WOW airlines, Air Asia, Southwest, Volaris etc. Make sure you follow their baggage restrictions because they will charge you (as spoken from experience). Also, know that they probably won't give you a meal, so bring food. With these airlines, you get what you pay for. I have had a mixed bag of experiences with budget airlines. One particular budget airline hit me up with so many baggage costs that it negated my savings. My conclusion is to proceed with caution - you may be better off with your usual carrier and generating rewards points.
14. Do Day Trips
How can you cut out one of the biggest expenses of travel (ahem, hotels)? Do a day trip! For example, if you live within a one hour flight from a place, consider flying in for the day and returning that evening rather than staying for the entire weekend. This can pay off for those expensive cities I mentioned above, like SF and NYC.
15. Use layovers to your advantage
You won't believe this, but many airlines have free (yes, really free) layover city tours for airport travelers. This can enable you to see a new country or city without spending a dime. Check Turkish Airlines, Singapore Airlines, and Eva Air for more info! Tourism boards also sometimes have tour programs to showcase their city (like Taiwan for example). Before visiting a city, google search to see if there are any of these programs in the place you are visiting.
I hope these hacks helped show you that travel is possible. There are so many more ways to save, hack and budget. Comment below on your favorite travel saving hacks.
Published Travel Articles
Welcome to Run The Atlas!
We are two adventurous young professionals who turned our passion for travel into a blog to help others travel more.