Bring These Documents on Your Next Trip

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.

Student ID

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?

7 Comments

  1. Thanks Again – The reward program that has a monopolistic grasp, in a good way, over most airports, even tiny ones, in the U.S. There is no card to bring, but instead register your travel-related credit cards BEFORE you spend on parking, restaurants, and services at the airport. There is an app and an old-fashioned Web site. Don’t wait to do this when you are pressed for time while on the tarmac or in the gate area!

    Pocket File Folders – Old-fashioned and marked by location and filled with specific information and documents for wherever you travel frequently. The most valuable item in each is a transit pass. Whether or not it has any stored value left, even reloading an empty one often saves several dollars over buying a new one.

  2. The global entry card is new to me. I am enrolled and use it a lot, but never received a card so far. Heck, I didnt even know such a card exists.

    However there should be a TSA Pre card, then we can use all airlines, no matter if they are supporting TSA Pre or not. Yes most major US airlines support it already, but what if you try to fly from the US overseas, if the airline doesnt support TSA pre, you have to stick to regular security. And I dont get it why the airline has to be offering it as a service. You can even add your known traveler number right at the check-in counter and get still TSA pre. So its not that they have more time to check you out. Its just another bureaucracy

    1. Peter, I received my Global Entry card a couple of weeks after the interview. It’s not necessary to have on you in most cases, but in my case the kiosk malfunctioned right before printing the form for me, so the agents kept asking for it. I will keep bringing it with me in the future.

      As far as the TSA card, I’m not sure. I’ve always wondered how to get through the screening when flying on airlines that do not participate in the PreCheck program, which I have since getting Global Entry. Thanks for your comment!

  3. The global entry and passport cards also good backup iD if you lose a passport. They won’t likely get you through immigration but will help get you a new passport at the embassy. They are both waterproof and are good to take on shore excursions from cruise ships. These are also important doing Mexico and Canada border crossings.
    The other thing I do is scan all the cards and documents I’m taking on my trip. I store these on a cloud drive like Dropbox. That way if they get stolen I can call and cancel them, having all the phone numbers and account numbers. It also a good idea to have a backup credit card stored away from your other belongings in case of robbery, etc.
    Lounge access cards are important as you point out.

    1. Yes, these are great ideas also! I typically make a copy of my passport and stash it in a place separate from where I keep my actual passport, just in case.

  4. Those global entry kiosks malfunction a *LOT*. I’ve had it happen 3+ times in the last few years. Usually they’re just out of paper, but I’ve had one not be able to find me and my flight. I always have my NEXUS card with me (although nobody has ever asked to see it), and since there’s lots of free time on the plane I always fill out the customs form, even though it usually goes into a bin after the kiosk. But by having it filled in and available the global entry kiosk attendant just takes it and waves me through. No “normal” line ever. Or at least that’s my experience.

    I always have my priority pass card with me. Some places can’t use the app even now and have to write the number down. Having the card is just faster.

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