The Nine Mistakes That Millions of Air Travelers Make Every Day, Part One

This is not a post about obscure travel hacks.

This is not a post about how to game the system.

This is not a post about getting upgraded.

Instead, this is a post about the mistakes that millions of air travelers make every day.

If you are new to air travel, or if you just want to up your game, then read on to learn how to avoid the most common mistakes air travelers make.

Avoiding Air Travel Mistakes: Do The Paperwork!

Millions of air travelers don’t take the time before their trips to do the paperwork. This is an easily fixed mistake. Here’s how:

Part One: Get TSA PreCheck

The Bad News: Not getting TSA Precheck is a mistake.

The Good News: Fixing this mistake is easy.

Here’s how TSA describes the benefits: “Enjoy a smoother security screening process with
no need to remove shoes, laptops, 3-1-1 liquids, belts or light jackets.”

Still not convinced? Here’s how the TSA closes the deal:

“About 99% of TSA PreCheck® passengers wait less than 10 minutes.”

What? You’re too busy to apply for TSA PreCheck? C’mon, it is so easy—here are the instructions from the TSA website:

1. Apply Online

Select an enrollment provider with enrollment locations near you. Submit your TSA PreCheck application online in as little as 5 minutes.

2. Visit an Enrollment Location

Complete enrollment in 10 minutes at your chosen provider which includes fingerprinting, document and photo capture, and payment.

3. Get Your TSA PreCheck Number

Once approved, get your Known Traveler Number (KTN), add it to your airline reservations and start saving time in screening.

The cost? Typically, $85.

Part Two: Get Global Entry.

The Bad News: if you’re flying abroad then not getting Global Entry is a mistake.

The Good News: Fixing this mistake is easy.

Here’s an overview of Global Entry (this is from the Global Entry website, edited for length and clarity):

Global Entry is a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) program that allows expedited clearance for pre-approved, low-risk travelers upon arrival in the United States.

At airports, program members proceed to the Global Entry lanes where processing technology will be used to expedite the members by capturing a photo to verify their membership. Once the photo has been captured, the member will receive on-screen instructions and proceed to a CBP officer who will confirm that you have successfully completed the process.

Here are the benefits of Global Entry as described on the Global Entry site:

Less Waiting, Fewer Headaches, More Time, Better Experience

Here’s How it Works:

  • Apply Online. Submit the online application.
  • Enroll. Applicants who are conditionally approved can complete their interviews upon arrival into the United States at an Enrollment on Arrival location or by scheduling an appointment at an Enrollment Center.

If you are flying internationally into the US within the next 6 months we encourage you to complete your Global Entry enrollment at an Enrollment on Arrival (EoA) location as an alternative to scheduling an interview at an Enrollment Center.

Find a Global Entry EoA Location
Find an Enrollment Center

Here Are the Benefits

  • Reduced wait times with self-service kiosks or E-Gates using facial comparison technologies.
  • No paperwork to be filled out by upon entry.
  • Includes TSA PreCheck®

Global Entry program members can use Global Entry Customs Kiosks at more than 75 airports when returning to the U.S. from travel abroad.

How Long Does It take?

Application Processing Time: 4-6 months

What It Costs

$100. And you get TSA Precheck as a part of the deal.

If you expect to travel abroad, Global Entry is well worth it.

Recently, we arrived in Boston from Copenhagen at the same time as a Swiss flight arrived from Zurich. There were about six hundred passengers heading toward passport control when a CBP agent stopped everyone—all 600 of us—and told us to wait, that passport control was already full.

I raised my hand and asked: “What about Global Entry?”

“Come this way,” the agent said, and we walked into—and out of—passport control in minutes.


Part Three: Download Your Airline’s App & Join Your Airline’s Frequent Flyer Program

The Bad News: Not enrolling in your airline’s frequent flyer program and not downloading their app is a mistake.

The Good News: Fixing this mistake is easy.

If there are any problems with your flights—before, during, or even after your flight—you’re going to be glad you’ve got your airline’s app downloaded on your phone and that you’ve joined their frequent flyer program. 

Why? There are three reasons:

  • You will enter all of your information (name, age, gender, passport number, Known Traveler Number) once.
  • You will not stand in line.
  • You will not be stuck on hold.

If things go wrong, you’ll know your options right away because all of your options are right there on your phone. And you’ll be able to make your changes with a touch and a swipe.


As I said at the outset: this is not a post about obscure travel hacks, or about gaming the system, or getting upgraded. That stuff just doesn’t matter.

Air travel is not a game to be played. Instead, it’s a system with millions of moving parts. And that system works remarkably well. But it is a system, and as such, you are a very small part in that system. You need to know how the system can be optimized for you. And to do that, you need to avoid the mistakes that millions of air travelers make every day.

Part Two .

Part Three

Free Download

How To Choose A Summer Adventure For Your Child

Get first-hand insights into what you should look for when choosing the next summer travel adventure for your child.



    Tom Costley

    When Tom Costley founded Overland in 1984, he sought to create experiences for young people that were fun, where new friendships could grow, where natural beauty was embraced, where there were real and varied challenges, and where Overland’s students would achieve something of importance to them. Overland’s focus on small groups, carefully crafted trips, and superlative leadership has made it a leader in the summer camp world. Overland’s commitment to excellence in everything it does has led to its success: over the past four decades, Overland has served 40,000 students and 5,000 trip leaders. Tom writes about the outdoors and travel from Williamstown, Massachusetts.

Apply for Trip

Apply for trip

Info Sessions

info sessions