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I initially resisted the idea of Global Entry—I wasn’t entirely sure what I’d be paying $100 for, and I’d already resigned myself to long lines at my home airport, JFK, for the rest of my life.

But as a travel editor, I was spurred to dig deeper. What exactly did the process entail? What were some not-so-evident benefits? Fast forward: I was approved for Global Entry last October, and I’ve never been happier with a purchase. Here’s what I learned.

First things first: Why Do I Need It?

Imagine a dream world in which you can skip the majority of the airport security line, keep your shoes and belt on, your liquids and laptop in your bag, and breeze right through. This is called TSA PreCheck, and you are automatically eligible when you pay $100 for Global Entry (if for some reason you only want TSA PreCheck, it’s available for $85). While I don’t recommend this for all travelers, I’ve consistently started arriving to the airport 20 minutes later when I’m flying an airline that participates in this program (more on this later), with absolutely no stress. Aside from this already great perk, you can expedite customs on your way back into the U.S. when flying internationally. Most major airports are equipped with Global Entry kiosks (and even during the holidays, at JFK, I’ve never had to wait more than five minutes for a kiosk). And you no longer have to fill out those blue customs forms. (Am I the only one that dreads contorting myself in my airplane seat to pull out my passport every time I have to fill one out on the plane?) 

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