This entry in the series of travel mistakes is about documents to bring with you on a trip. I’m not talking about passports or immunization records—I hope you already know to make sure you have those things with you before heading out the door. I’m talking about not forgetting to bring IDs and cards that make your travel experiences smoother and sometimes cheaper.
I cannot name all the tourist attractions I’ve gotten a discounted entry price for with my (long expired) student ID. Many places offer this discount, and nobody checks if you’re enrolled in classes currently. From the Metropolitan Museum in New York City to the Acropolis in Athens, I’ve been able to save a few bucks by simply having this document in my wallet. Interestingly enough, the fact that I’m 19 in my picture hasn’t raised any questions, yet.
Priority Pass Card
The first time I tried to use my Priority Pass, I’d forgotten to put the physical card in my wallet. My boyfriend and I were passing through Toronto Pearson International Airport on our way to Europe last summer, and we had some time to kill. I saw a lounge that offered access to Platinum Card from American Express holders, so I decided to give it a go and stop by for a drink or two.
Upon checking in, the hostess said I couldn’t bring a guest with me for free, but if either of us had Priority Pass, she could allow a guest at no charge. I had signed up for Priority Pass before the trip and could access my member number through email. However, she said she had to either scan the physical card or a QR code in the phone app, which I hadn’t downloaded. It took me what seemed like forever to download the app, which then took even longer to update all the lounge information. By the time it was done, we had to be at our gate for boarding. All this could have been avoided had I simply put the membership card in my wallet.
Global Entry Card
I’ve written about Global Entry and how to apply for it. Since then, I’ve used it a couple of times, and it’s worth every penny! Not to mention, I get TSA PreCheck as an added bonus.
To use TSA PreCheck, you simply add a Known Traveler Number to your frequent-flyer program before booking a ticket, and voilá, the magical TSA PreCheck line appears on a boarding pass.
Using Global Entry is a bit more complicated than that. Upon arriving at an airport with Global Entry kiosks, you bypass the immigration line, go straight to the kiosk, scan your passport, verify fingerprints, and the machine spits out a printed receipt you’re supposed to give to an agent in a separate, much shorter, line. Nobody scans or looks at your Global Entry card typically.
Upon returning from my most recent trip to Kazakhstan, I was going through customs at the John F. Kennedy International Airport. I chose a kiosk, did everything I was supposed to, and instead of printing my immigration form, the machine suddenly flashed “Out of Service.” I tried another kiosk, but because I had gone through the process already, it told me to see an agent. A nearby agent told me I had to fill out one of those blue forms flight attendants gave out on the plane, but of course I never got the form because I didn’t have a need for one. I didn’t bring my Global Entry card with me, either, which complicated things in this case.
I asked a few different agents for the form, and neither of them had any! I find it strange that immigration agents have no immigration forms… Finally, an agent found me a form that was in French. I filled it out and was placed at the front of the immigration line where another agent asked if I had my Global Entry card with me. I again explained that I didn’t anticipate the kiosk to malfunction, and he said I should always have the card on me for this exact reason. Live and learn I guess.
What kind of documents/IDs/cards do you wish you brought with you on your travels and didn’t?