Quit complaining about Customs and get Global Entry. I did, and it's great.
Customs is a gigantic (but necessary) pain in the ass. On one flight home from London a few years ago, I waited in line at Chicago's O'Hare Airport for nearly two hours just for the pleasure of having a government agent inspect my passport and person. I do not consider any part of the experience a good time.
Suffice it to say the prospect of skipping out on all that excites me.
I signed up for Global Entry in June. If you don't know what Global Entry is, you either don't know how what a Google is or you didn't read this article we wrote for you about what the hell Global Entry is. The TL;DR version: Global Entry lets pre-approved flyers skip out on the Customs and Border Protection line and inspection when returning to the United States on international flights.
My first experience with Global Entry came last week on a flight to New York from Barcelona, Spain. After an eight hours in coach (no, I don't automatically fly first class because I'm a travel editor), the last thing I needed was a two-hour line. Thankfully, Global Entry worked like a magic wand. Except it's not magic, unless you consider filling out Internet forms magic. If that's the case, I'd like to sell you some magic.
I didn't know what to expect at JFK, aside from what I'd read about Global Entry, and the fact that JFK is Terminal 7 of hell. After disembarking my plane, I followed the herd and walked for eons until reaching Customs alongside my irksome fellow passengers. But on the tail-end of the stroll, the lines divided into three lanes: Foreigners, American citizens, and the express lane on the left for crew, diplomats, and Global Entry.
Few designations make you feel as elite as being lumped in with diplomats. Except when Danny Glover's around, of course.
From there, I turned the corner to find a bank of about 10 Global Entry kiosks. The kiosk process was simple: I slid in my passport face-down, then scanned the fingerprints on my right hand. I took a step back from the machine to snap a photo, which was then printed out on a receipt.
I grabbed the receipt and was confused about where to go next. In fact, I was almost done. Total time elapsed at Customs so far: 30 seconds.
Nobody tackled me as I strolled past the Customs agents to baggage claim. And not getting tackled is great, as Marvin Harrison could vouch for after that game against the Broncos in 2004.
After retrieving my suitcase, I entered the final portion of Customs, where most people hand over that form they fill out on the airplane that declares if they're carrying in excess of $10,000 cash, weird plants, or farm animals. I had nothing to declare but my genius for purchasing Global Entry, so I headed to the separate line (to the right), while all the plebs went to the left.
Two crew members went in front of me. Then I handed my receipt to the CBP agent, who stamped it. That was it.
Had I not checked a bag -- an admittedly amateur move -- I'd have been out of Customs and baggage claim in about two minutes.
I do not work for Customs and Border Patrol (thank God), nor do they pay me anything for advocating. But I will say this without hesitation: Global Entry is worth your $100 if you fly internationally even once a year, and it's good for five years. Getting TSA Precheck for domestic flights is just an added bonus.
Wouldn't you pay $20 to make a headache go away? Well, you can. And you should.