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Today I am off for the night for a quick visit to the Pacific Northwest. It had been way too long since I visited that part of the country, and when a good United fare presented itself a couple months ago, I jumped. While I’m not 100% sure it will happen, I am going to make an attempt to hit 1K (top tier status) with United this year, so expect more short little quasi-mileage runs throughout the year. For me, the perfect timing is mid-week while my kiddo is in school when I can leave after she goes to school in the morning, and get back the following day by about the time she gets out of school. That seems to result in minimal family life disruption and yet still allows for some time to explore a different city. This trip met those criteria perfectly, and I can’t wait to report back about my brief jaunt to the Northwest. Here are a few things that this trip has reminded me so far:
Pre-Check is Amazing:
I have written about the wonders of Pre-Check before, but then hit a dry spell where I wasn’t hearing the magical three beeps for a while. That spell was broken this morning where a beep-beep-beep signaled me into a security line that was totally empty. I got to keep on my boots and jacket, leave my computer in my purse, and my liquids in my bag. I didn’t have to either go through the nude-o-scope or opt out for my complimentary TSA massage. I got to just go through the regular metal detector and completed my entire security process in under 60 seconds from start to finish. Frankly, this is the way security should be for low risk individuals, and I strongly encourage anyone who is eligible to pursue getting Pre-Check.
I got it by virtue of having Global Entry and then applying with United to have Pre-Check, but some elite flyers within the various programs also have it without Global Entry. If you fly frequently and don’t have Global Entry yet, I would recommend getting it to expedite your international returns and then you also will have the added benefit of Pre-Check on your domestic trips. Global Entry costs $100 and lasts five years, but you get it reimbursed if you have the Amex Platinum card.
The only downside of Pre-Check is you grow to dislike the regular security process that much more when you don’t get Pre-Check. Children 12 and younger can go through the Pre-Check line with their parent, so imagine how magical it would be to skip the regular security process with your young kids!
Check out my previous post on Pre-Check if you want more details. I can’t emphasize enough how great it is.
Always be Prepared for Turbulence:
We had some pretty nasty turbulence today out of Houston, and it was a good reminder to always be prepared for that reality of flying. For example, the flight attendants couldn’t start their service for at least an hour into the flight due to needing to remain in their seats, so if you boarded relying on the for a snack or drink for your kid you would be SOL for quite a while. The same is true for boarding with a child that may need to use the restroom. Always do that as the very last thing before boarding, and use a pull-up when traveling with any kids that may not be able to hold it if turbulence requires the seatbelt sign to remain on longer than normal. Of course, this sort of turbulence also reinforces that it is so much safer (and easier) for children of all ages to be in a carseat or harness as it would have been really stressful to hold an infant in my lap during those big bumps we experienced this morning.
Yep, Early Boarding Still Matters:
When I posted about United’s new boarding procedure, there were some comments wondering why it matters when you get on the plane, and some even said they like to be the very last one on the plane. Well if you don’t have any carry-on bags that need to go in the overhead bins then I see some logic in that, but otherwise you are setting yourself for a situation where you almost certainly have to check your bag. That not only absolutely increases the amount of time you have to hang around your arrival airport, but it also increases the chances that your bag will take a separate trip from you altogether.
Thanks to having some friends who are United elite flyers that had upgrades that were going to expire at the end of this month, my trip was in first class today. Even in first class, the last one to board up-front still had a bunch of trouble finding overhead bin space, and had to get the crew involved to make a place for their bag. So, when you board does matter, and this is even more true if you have a bunch of stuff for your kids to schlep on board.
Speaking of United’s new boarding procedure, I saw this boarding arrangement at gate C-40 in Houston. It indeed feels very Southwest to me. That isn’t inherently a bad thing, but I’m not sure it is the best solution for a carrier like United either. I guess time will tell.