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No amount of snacks will stop the tantrums and glares from strangers witnessing them when kids are done. Done traveling, done waiting in the customs line, done keeping their hands to themselves. Yes, unfortunately, we speak from inexperienced experience.
So, when our family rolled into our driveway, 40 LOS ANGELES miles away from LAX, less than an hour after our international flight had touched down after our family trip, it was a miracle worth relishing and replicating. This is how we did it.
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Get Global Entry
As a family that travels frequently, we had to figure out how to minimize the hassle and maximize the fun. Since the tragedies of 9/11 increased the whole security thing at airports, going through TSA has become a drawn-out, inconvenient experience.
Global Entry advantages come into play when a family returns from an international trip. Those without Global Entry hustle through the airport terminal to try and get to the customs queue before the rest of the plane (and all the other arriving flights) fill up the lanes. Moving fast with small children doesn’t happen unless there’s dragging or carrying involved. Our family would usually lose those races and be at the tail end of the line for hours, with all the other families observing how well-behaved their children were compared to ours melting down on the airport floor.
Global Entry card holders have their own, much shorter lane reserved for them at customs. These days, Global Entry passengers don’t even have to wait. At LAX, there are camera stations set up before the line of TSA guards stationed in their square cubicles. Arrivals stand in front of the camera; it takes their picture and automatically displays their identity information on the screen! No more forms to fill out! The guard then welcomes family travelers back as they whizz by his desk. The whole process takes less than a minute!
TSA PreCheck Perks
Obtaining a Global Entry card was the best thing we’ve ever done to minimize airport hassles. With it, on our way out of town, we also qualify for the TSA PreCheck line. No more taking off our shoes on a cold TSA floor while shuffling through a radiation booth. No more taking out the camera, the iPad, or the computer from a tightly packed backpack as passengers standing behind start poking their trays against ours with gentle throat clears as incentive to speed things along. Then repeating the process for the minis. No more hastily trying to reassemble what had been carefully constructed at home.
If an approved adult is traveling with minors, the children will get complimentary access. This used to happen with Global Entry too, but no longer. If kids don’t have Global Entry, then the adult must wait with them in the regular customs line, which defeats the whole purpose of getting Global Entry.
How To Get Global Entry
Fill out an online form and pay $100 to get conditionally approved. Upon publication, the wait time for approval is 4-6 months. Once a family traveler has that, they must schedule an interview in a customs office where they do a deep dive into their criminal history, including all the times they forgot to plug their meter and got parking citations. After approval, card carriers can walk through a regular metal detector with their shoes on like dignified human beings and skip the crazy line that seems to accumulate every time the flight is close to departure, and you’re nowhere near the gate.
Global Entry is valid for family travel by air, land, and sea for five years. TSA PreCheck is available as a stand-alone product for those who don’t travel internationally and is good for air travel only. There is a $78 charge for this.
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How To Get Global Entry and TSA PreCheck Faster and for Free
We opted to get Global Entry for our kids too.
Since the wait for a Global Entry field interview can take months, there’s a way to get it faster. If family travelers have filled out the online form and have received their conditional approval, they can go to the TSA kiosk located in the baggage claim area in some airports (like LAX) after their return from an international flight for an onsite interview. We did this for my son. It took about an hour to get through the line. It was late in the day and probably around quitting time, so the personnel tried to discourage everyone from waiting by telling us each person would take about 10-15 minutes for their interview. There were about 20 of us waiting. I timed them, and each interview lasted between 4 to 5 minutes. It was much faster than having to go to Long Beach for the official interview (like I did). Even though we were tired and wanted to go home, it was worth it.
CLEAR is another program that expedites the whole travel security process. It’s a private program that is way faster to obtain but costs $189 annually. Travelers also have to be over 18 years old to use it.
CLEAR provides travelers with the same benefits as the Global Traveler and TSA PreCheck programs. Application is also online, but applicants must then visit one of the CLEAR airport booths for an eye or fingerprint scan to use to identify them for future family trips. Obtaining this type of clearance goes faster than getting approved for Global Enter because you only upload documents, and the background check is done in-house.
The Parking Spot – Best Private Parking Service
Once we were out of the airport, we walked to the second floor of LAX, where private parking shuttles circle the terminals, and spyed the one for The Parking Spot, where we parked our car.
Within minutes of disembarking from our plane, we handed our luggage to the shuttle driver, who took our valet parking ticket. While he drove us to the lot, the driver called in our ticket number, and when we got off the shuttle 10 minutes later, our car was right there waiting for us.
Another attendant came to the shuttle to whisk a few of our suitcases to our vehicle, popped open the trunk, and set everything inside. This was about 15-20 minutes after getting off our airplane.
The Parking Spot Shuttle Ride
Parking near the airport instead of taking a taxi or ride-share is usually more cost effective for our family because we live so far away from the airport in a city with unpredictable traffic. Uber, Lyft and taxis can run up to $150 each way in Los Angeles. Before discovering The Parking Spot, I’d scour the internet for deals on parking lots. We’ve used many different parking services and stood waiting to be picked up by their shuttles for what seemed like obscene lengths of time. As we waited, multiple bright yellow shuttles with big black polka dots drove by as we waited. And waited.
When we finally joined the party, we got into one of those yellow shuttles hosted by The Parking Spot. We discovered thick, padded, upholstered seats in an interior that was equally as pleasant as the exterior. Everything felt organized and at ease, which helped us parents either decompress or focus on the trip ahead.
After the Parking Spot invited us to try their service and we discovered how much more efficient and relaxing this way of transportation could be, we can’t go back. We are now officially spoiled and arrive back home much faster than we ever thought possible.
Parking Spot Locations
There are 38 Parking Spot locations in 22 cities all across the United States. Los Angeles International Airport boasts two, one on Sepulveda Blvd. a few minutes away from the airport but closer to the freeway, and one on Century Blvd., which really is just down the street from the airport. Shuttles run constantly. I’ve never had to wait longer than a few minutes and that’s only because one pulled away as I arrived outside. There are self-park covered and uncovered parking options in all lots, and some locations have additional amenities like valet parking and soft-hands car wash, each of which is detailed in the individual location profiles.
The Parking Spot Rates
The rates are the same per day at the Sepulveda and Century lots and there’s only a .50c difference per day for pre-pay or pick-up pay. However, the Sepulveda lot does not have valet parking and let me tell you, if your family is traveling for only a few days or a week, it’s 100% worth it for the $20 extra over covered self-park.
How To Reserve Space At The Parking Spot
Hop on the website or download the app to select your travel dates. Choose between Covered or Uncovered Self-Parking or the premium and most convenient Valet Parking (if available in your area). Then select between paying in advance or after picking up your car. There’s a discount for paying right after making your reservation, but the problem with that is if your plans change, you can’t get a refund.
For instance, once I lost my keys as I was loading my car and in a panic finally had to call a ride service to make my flight. I tried canceling my reservation on the way but could not.
You can do everything from the app, including using the QR code to enter after making your reservation and exit when you pay. And if, god forbid, you come out and don’t see a shuttle, you can click on the app to see where they are.
Travelers have a variety of services from which they could choose while they are away experiencing their vacations or business trips. The Parking Spot provides hand car washes or complete details. When making a reservation online or through the app, the last screen will display the optional services and price points for each. We’ve never ordered one of these, but it’s available for the busy parent who wants to be efficient with their time.
In hindsight, it seems easy. Avoid the line, get a reliable ride and be home before the kids realize how tired they are. It’s the easiest way to be a travel hero.
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