Who's in for Global Entry?? Me!! Me!!

I'd never really given Global Entry much thought.  It was something I'd read occasionally on a travel blog.  Or something in an article somewhere.  But it wasn't ever a plan in my brain.  I mean, sure, my foreign travel has increased more than I'd expected over the last two or three years (or so).  But Global Entry was for people who traveled waaaaaay more than I did.  Right??

What is Global Entry, you might ask??  Well...it's basically a Fast Pass (to coin a Disney term...as I tend to do) through Customs and Immigration.  Instead of standing behind a lady paying more attention to her cell phone in the Customs line - something YOU ARE NOT ALLOWED TO USE IN LINE, you skip the line with the non-Global Entry chumps and use a kiosk to enter your basic Customs info.  It's supposed to be a speedy process.  And if you have a tight connection, a speedy process pays for itself.  (Here's where I should be linking to my post for flying back to Chicago after the trip to Europe last year.  Which I just realize I never did finish.  Whoops.  Let's just say a tight layover plus going through Customs and Immigration in Dublin made for a very, very stressed me.)

Adele was the first person who brought up the idea.  I think it came up in conversation about her renewing her passport and that we both should get Global Entry if we decide to take another foreign trip together.  Hah!!  If.  Like going on a foreign trip together isn't going to ever happen again.  Excuse me while I pause for hysterical laughter.

*snort*

I mean seriously, you guys, the conversations we have about travel ideas would curl your freaking toes.

Michelle made a mention of it after I think, her solo trip to Madrid.  While I don't completely remember the specifics (other than "I think I'm going to apply for Global Entry"), it was something that jogged the memory of the conversation with Adele.  The more I talked about it with Michelle, and the more she went through the process on her own, the more the idea was knocking around in my brain.  But it still didn't totally make a dent.

Elias and I were in the middle of a discussion about our European trip this summer.  My brain must have been slower than my mouth, because in the middle of planning, I blurted out, "We should get Global Entry."

Well...decision made.

Step #1 - Applying for Global Entry

It was a Sunday.  I was still recovering from a herniated disc, so I wasn't jumping out of bed to hit the gym.  Really, the only good thing about having a herniated disc...you have a built in excuse to miss a Spinning class.  Every Spinning class.  But I had it in my mind that if we were going to do Global Entry, we needed to get it done sooner rather than later.  Why not on a Sunday morning??  I texted Elias.  It was go time.

The application was easy enough.  The Global Entry website walks you through the process.  You first have to come up with a username and password.  Honestly, the password was the hardest part.  You had to use numbers and letters and capitals AND punctuations.  I think I had to try this one a few times before I could come up with a password that would actually work.  I'd like to blame it on a Sunday morning, but I'd have had problems no matter when I tried this out.

Once you are able to create the username, you start entering your information.  It all pretty much comes from your passport.  One of the fun parts was to list the countries you've visited over the last five years.  Seeing the countries I've visited all listed out in one place was pretty dang cool.

The last part of the process was to pay your $100 non-refundable fee.  Then, we wait.

Fast forward exactly one week later.  Sunday morning, I got an early e-mail.  My application had been conditionally approved.  I had to set up an in-person interview.  I frantically texted Elias to watch out for e-mails.  Since I had done my application first, mine was approved first.  His...well, I got his text about an hour later.  We were both pretty jazzed this was happening.

Step #2 - Interview Time

On Saturday morning, two weeks later, Elias and I piled in the car with his mom and his baby brother in tow.  We were headed to O'Hare.  Terminal 5.  Michelle had just gone through the Global Entry process, so I kind of knew what to expect, but...not really.  I always budget an hour to get to ORD, but dang if we didn't make it in super early.  And we were already running early.  After a quick pit stop, Elias and I went into the Global Entry Room (to the left of McDonalds on the Arrival level) and gave our names to the front desk.  We had 45 minutes or so to wait, so Joanna and Evan went for some fries.  No big deal.  Until 30 minutes earlier than expected, they call my name.

I told the officer that Elias and I were family members and asked if we could both go in together.  No problem.  But then I said his mom was out getting fries with his little brother.  The officer was cool.  He said he'd wait for me to get them.  So I did.

Joanna had to come because Elias isn't quite 18 yet.  He needed a parent or guardian to basically be cool about him getting Global Entry.  Which was great in theory.  Except ultimately...no one asked for her info.  Well...whoops...

We were both asked a few questions - birthday, address, any travel in Canada/Mexico (the questionnaire was specific to countries except for Canada and Mexico).  Things like that.  The officer asked me about my visit to Russia ("Why did you go there??"  "Because there was an opportunity.").  After a few minutes, a picture was taken for the membership card.  And electronic fingerprints were taken.

Once all of the formalities were over, the officer explained what all we had gotten ourselves into.  Not only would we be able to get through customs quickly - we don't have to fill out a customs form and now get to go through a quicker line, but we also are now able to go into the TSA Pre-Check lines for Domestic travel.  This part was new to me.  Probably because I didn't really read all of the items on the Global Entry site.  But this is GREAT news!!  Not only do we get to go through a different line (which is helpful since my Gold Status on American Airlines is ending in five days...Priority lines are fantastic), but we get to keep our shoes and coats on.  Oh. Yeah.  Elias did chuckle as I did a bit of a fist pump when the officer told us this news.

Other interesting notes - you can't use your membership number on previously purchased tickets for the TSA Pre-Check.  The membership is good for five years.  And if your passport expires before your membership does, you can update your membership with your new passport.  The two are not tied together with their expiration dates.

As we packed everyone up in the car, Elias said he had already gotten an e-mail with his Global Entry membership number.  All we had to do was to add that number to our American Airlines profile and we were good to go.  We'd get our official paperwork in the mail in a few weeks.  But as of today (well...yesterday) we are officially able to book our summer flight to Europe.  Oh, yeah.  Now the fun can really begin.

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