Get Global Entry (or Nexus, if you’re a Canadian).
When I last wrote about Global Entry, I praised it because it makes clearing immigration and customs a breeze when coming back to the US. I can literally get off the plane and be in a car going home within 10 minutes of landing.
But Global Entry has become so much more valuable to me ever since members of Customs and Border Patrol’s Trusted Traveler programs became eligible for TSA PreCheck. This makes domestic travel so much easier, in addition to the international travel benefits. (If you’re unfamiliar with TSA PreCheck, it essentially makes airport security like what it was before 9/11. Shoes stay on, no need to remove anything from your bag, and you just need to walk through a metal detector.)
While lines can be longish at busy airports (at SFO and IAD, I’ve seen the TSA PreCheck line be longer than the normal security line), the line moves extremely quickly since people don’t need to place their items in separate bins and get groped. In addition, ever since I included my Trusted Traveler number on my flight bookings, I’ve received TSA PreCheck every time I’ve been eligible. And now, for many airlines, you can see on your boarding pass if you got TSA PreCheck for that flight, so know that you don’t need to leave much time for clearing security.
With this added benefit, Global Entry is definitely worth the $100 application fee. Heck, I’d pay for it even if it were $100 per year.
I think getting Global Entry is the single best thing a traveler can do to make the air travel experience more pleasant. Sure, being United Global Services or American Concierge Key probably makes it better too, but getting Global Entry is much more practical for the average traveler, and it can save you from so much of the pain that people associate with air travel today (namely, the TSA).