But I won't do that - Travel Identity Programs

Travel requires a collection of documentation, but there is a list of things that a travel agent cannot do. These programs are provided by different governmental agencies and private parties. Here are some highlights. 

Passports or Passport Cards or Renewals and Visa - US Department of State

Pro tip: Avoid passport assistance companies - go direct to the US Dept of State website. Forms for renewals can be downloaded and then can be completed at many US Post offices where they will validate the form, your identity and collect the processing fees. 

Passport processing times are long. We submitted renewals in January 2023 from Texas and the first passport (of three) was returned in 60 days. The other two (for the kids) are still in processing. Cool insight: the new passports are very high tech. Your old passport will be returned a couple of weeks behind the new one. Personally, I am sad every time I go to a new country and they don't stamp my passport. 

US Dept of State
Travel.State.Gov - US Dept. of State

Trip Registration 

Some destinations required pre-trip registration - including document uploads (Covid Shot records are most common). I bumped into this while going to Hawaii during Covid, and the UK announced a similar process in February 2023. Pro Tip: Always check government pages for your travel destinations to understand the (frequently changing) rules for entry and exit.  

TSA Pre-Check - Transportation Security Administration

My husband and I use TSA Pre-Check at Austin Bergstrom airport (AUS). TSA-Precheck is available at more than 200 locations and the link provides a map of the US to see which locations are available. The service is widely used, and some applications have been created to show which TSA line is shortest. 

Global Entry - US Customs and Border Protection

We travelled a lot pre-COVID without Global Entry. As travel resumed, we noticed longer lines at Dallas Fort-Worth (DFW) getting much longer. Since larger planes are typical for overseas travel, it is difficult to avoid the lines in the customs area. 

Pro tip: submit the online application prior to an international trip, then complete the enrollment as you return - rather than trying to find an appointment. Global Entry Enrollment on Arrival program.  Make sure to look at the rules if you are travelling with minors. 

Note: Global Entry is tied to your Passport renewal date. If you get a new passport number you need to update Global Entry via your Trusted Traveler Program (TTP) account. Other changes to personal information - like name changes, my require an in-person visit. 


The Clear program has been a mixed-bag experience. It's not widely available, (Clear, Where We Are). In fact, Clear just launched their 50th airport in March of 2023. 

When we tried to use it at AUS the results were not as expected. First, my eye scan wouldn't register, so I used fingerprints to authenticate. Then, they march you in front of everyone standing in line - good for saving a lot of time, but also good for collecting a bit of scorn on high traffic days. The last couple of trips we simply checked the length of the TSA pre-check line and decided to skip Clear. 

Clear 50th Airport Announcement

Clear and TSA Pre-Check News (April 2023)

Breaking news from  "Points Guy" - TSA and Clear to Launch Single Application...
"It's like the lion laying down with the lamb because TSA PreCheck and Clear have had a contentious relationship at times," said Henry Harteveldt, an airline and travel industry analyst and president of Atmosphere Research. "TSA feels that Clear is cutting into some of its turf in terms of passenger screening, creating some tension with airports, but at the same time, Clear has shown that it understands biometrics and it can help improve the productivity of the airport passenger screening process."

Stand-alone Airfare 

Airlines do not provide commissions on stand-alone airfare. That's how they keep their prices competitive. So travel advisors will help you book for a fee. Pro Trip: flexible dates and departure time selection can save a lot of money. 

Travel using Credit Card Rewards Points

Credit card companies have specific Portals to allow you to book travel, including hotels, flights, and rental cars. Every card has different programs and no travel advisor has access to you specific points and portals. 

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