Security Lines Are About to Get Shorter for US Passengers

By Maya Stanton, Lonely Planet writer
August 14, 2019
A sign reads "airport security" at an airport.
For some domestic travelers, airport security will soon become a whole lot easier.

Ninety-four per cent of people in the Transportation Security Administration’s PreCheck lanes clear the scanners in under five minutes, and now even more passengers are set to benefit from the agency’s expedited screening program. On Monday, the TSA added five international airlines to its roster of participating carriers: Austrian Airlines, Canada’s Swoop, PAL Express (Philippines Airlines), and the Mexico-based Viva Aerobus and Interjet.

Letting pre-approved fliers skip through security lines without the hassles of separating out their liquids, taking off their shoes, or pulling out their laptops, PreCheck is available for passengers on 72 domestic and international airlines, provided they’re US citizens, nationals, or permanent residents who’ve gotten the all-clear. (Members of the US Armed Forces are also eligible.) After being fingerprinted and passing a background check and an in-person interview, applicants pay US$85 for a five-year membership, gaining access to express lines on US departures and domestic connections after US returns. (For smoother reentry from overseas, Global Entry costs a little bit more, but it streamlines the customs process and includes PreCheck benefits, while SENTRI and NEXUS cover the Mexican and Canadian borders.)

With some 2.2 million passengers and crew members passing through TSA checkpoints daily, the agency recommends travelers arrive two hours early for domestic flights and three hours early for international—time that could be better spent on the ground, enjoying a destination, rather than waiting on line. Of course, PreCheck doesn’t completely guarantee expedited service either (the agency reserves the right to implement additional screening measures), but for many frequent fliers, the likelihood of an easier airport experience is worth the risk.

To learn more and to apply, visit

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Rick Steves’s Bold New Climate Commitment

When Rick Steves talks about the condition of the planet, people listen. The author of more than 50 travel guidebooks and host of a PBS travel series, Steves has witnessed firsthand the effects of climate change around the globe, from rising sea levels to extreme weather events to overall global warming. Introducing the Climate Smart Commitment Steves is now using his considerable platform to help slow the effects of climate change. His Climate Smart Commitment will donate $1 million annually to fund climate-smart agriculture, agroforestry, and conservation projects in underdeveloped countries, with a portion of the funding going to climate advocacy organizations in the U.S. The Climate Smart Commitment is noteworthy not only for its $1 million annual price tag but also for rejecting the conventional “carbon offset credits” approach that some businesses adopt, which often focus on funding clean energy projects in North America and Europe. Instead, Steves has chosen to work with organizations that are directly addressing climate change in developing countries, with an emphasis on projects that empower women to take leadership roles as they strengthen communities and help protect their environment. Addressing the Global Effects of Travel If Steves’s climate commitment sounds like an act of pure altruism, guess again. That $1 million annual investment is actually what Steves estimates he “owes” to the environment due to the carbon emissions created by the 30,000 travelers who take his European tours each year. "Right now, our goal is simple," Steves tells Budget Travel. "We aim to mitigate the carbon emissions created when people fly to Europe and back for a Rick Steves tour. Funds for meeting this goal will come straight from our profits." Scientists estimate that the carbon emissions from a single traveler on one of Steves’s tours requires $30 in careful investment to offset. “We don’t see this program as particularly heroic,” says Steves.“It’s simply ethical. We believe every business should bear the cost to the environment of their activities. That’s just honest accounting. We hope this program will inspire everyone who buys or sells tours to practice the same environmental ethic. This way, long after we are gone, our children will be able to enjoy the same happy travels we have.” What Every Traveler Can Do"Every flight or bus tour we take burns fossil fuels, and all travelers need to do their part to address this," Steves says. "Fortunately, there are lots of simple ways to curb your carbon footprint when traveling." Some suggestions, available at, include:Make sure your home isn't wasting energy while you're away — turn down the thermostat, unplug as many appliances as you can, and suspend print subscriptions. When possible, travel by train — rail travel is very energy efficient. And in Europe it's also generally fast, easy, and comfortable. If you rent a car, rent the most fuel-efficient option, and decline any free "upgrade" to a model that's bigger than you need. In cities, enjoy the thrill of getting around by bike if you can, and take advantage of Europe's fantastic public transportation rather than relying on taxis. (And remember that Europe's airports are all well-served by easy, frequent transit.) Before taking a bus tour, look into a bike or walking tour instead. Be conscious of your energy consumption in hotels. Turn off the lights and air-conditioning when you leave the room. (Many European hotel rooms help you do this already: The power turns on only when the key is in a slot.) On warm days, close the window shutters or curtains before you leave in the morning, and you won't need to blast the air-con when you return. Because room service generates needless laundry, I hang the "Do not disturb" sign on my door and reuse my towel. Most of Europe is flowing with great tap water, often available in fountains around towns and cities. By reusing a plastic water bottle or bringing your own refillable water bottle, you not only save money, but also avoid consuming bunches of plastic and reduce demand for water that's shipped overland in trucks and trains. Cut down on other wasteful consumption as much as possible. Travel habits prompt many of us to use disposable items much more often than we do at home, but you can reduce this with a little prep: Pack a lightweight shopping bag and keep it in your day bag, and bring a set of reusable picnic ware. Don't pick up brochures, maps, or other materials that you don't need to keep — consider taking photos of them instead. (The fewer brochures that get picked up at tourist offices, the fewer they'll print next year.) Avoid using the individually packaged, itsy-bitsy toiletries supplied by hotel rooms. A single bar of soap and squeeze bottle of shampoo from home can last an entire trip. Eat locally: Food that hasn't been trucked long distances is easier on the environment (and tastier). Picnic shop at farmers markets when you can, and avoid chain restaurants. Look for restaurants that use mainly local and organic ingredients (more likely with smaller family-run places; "bio" is shorthand for "organic" in many European languages). Patronize hotels and travel companies that promote and practice sustainable traveling practices. Notice how Europeans seem to live more while consuming less, and how they live as if their choices can shape a better future. And take home a little of that sensibility as a souvenir.(Tips courtesy


Airport Security Bins May Get Cleaner

Although Budget Travel has always strived to inspire and empower travelers, every so often a decidedly uninspiring and disempowering headline really grabs our audience’s attention. Last September, “Airport Security Bins Are Dirtier Than Toilet Seats” was a surprise hit, maybe because the ghastly headline required no further explanation. A New Hope But there’s hope on the horizon. Microban International (specializing in antimicrobial and odor control technologies) and Security Point Media (specializing in transforming airport security screening checkpoints) have formed a partnership to treat airport security trays with built-in antimicrobial technology that inhibits the growth of bacteria. The treated trays will be deployed at the network of airports currently served by Security Point Media, which includes Los Angeles, New York City, Houston, and other major hubs, by the end of the summer. Security Bins Affect 2 Million Travelers Per Day For decades, Microban has developed antimicrobial solutions for restaurants, hospitals, schools, and other environments with “high-touch” surfaces. (Translation: Surfaces touched by lots of hands all day long, raising the risk of spreading disease germs.) "With more than two million travelers passing through U.S. airports on a daily basis, there is a great opportunity to support the Security Point Media mission,” says Michael Ruby, Vice President of Microban. “We are confident the addition of Microban technology to SPM's SecureTray will be well-received by airport operators and the general population alike."


NYC Theater: The Museum of Broadway Is Coming to Times Square

The Museum of Broadway is set to launch in the heart of New York City’s theater district next year, offering visitors a behind-the-scenes look at some of the city’s greatest shows and musicals of all time. The “Great White Way” The part of Broadway between 42nd and 53rd streets – including Times Square – is considered the home of American theater. Known as the Theater District or the Great White Way thanks to its blinding neon billboards, this famous stretch of street attracts millions of people to theater shows every year. Broadway is one of the major draws in New York City and this past season, attendance was up 9.5%, according to Broadway League. A New Pop-Up Museum Next year a pop-up museum will showcase why its appeal is so enduring. Visitors will be taken on a journey from the birth of Broadway up to the present day through a variety of immersive exhibits. Open to visitors of all ages, the Museum of Broadway will focus on three main components: the evolution of the theater district from Lower Manhattan to Times Square in the 1800s, the making of a Broadway show, and landmark blockbusters that defined eras of Broadway. It will also showcase actual costumes, props and scenery used in famous Broadway shows. “We are excited to welcome the new Museum of Broadway to Times Square in 2020. No visit to New York City is complete without seeing a Broadway show, and now with this new pop-up museum, visitors can further immerse themselves in the history and legacy of one of our City’s most iconic draws,” said NYC & Company President and CEO Fred Dixon. Opening in April The Museum of Broadway will be presented by three-time Tony-nominated producer Julie Boardman and marketing executive Diane Nicoletti. It’s scheduled to run from April through December 2020.


TSA Workers Are Moving to the Southwest Border. Will Airport Security Be Affected?

CNN reports that the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) plans to send up to 175 law enforcement officials and up to “400 people from Security Ops” to the Southwest border to assist with immigration duties, according to an internal email obtained by CNN. TSA May Face Depleted Resources According to the CNN report, TSA acknowledges that the “immediate need” at the border presents “some risk” of depleted aviation security. The effort will not involve TSA’s airport screeners—the most visible part of the TSA’s daily activities—but will involve employees who work in behind-the-scenes security roles, including monitoring airport security lines, conducting airport sweeps, and working with local and state law enforcement officials. Will Your Travel Experience Be Affected? Because the move of TSA workers to the border will not initially involve uniformed screeners, chances are most travelers will not immediately experience longer lines or wait times at airport security. However, the effect on behind-the-scenes security initiatives—arguably as crucial to TSA’s mission as routine screening—remains to be seen. TALK TO US: If you experience longer-than-usual wait times at airport security, please share your stories in the comments below. This story is evolving, and Budget Travel will continue to follow developments that may have a direct impact on air travelers.