Has anyone else seen the incredible summer travel crowds at the airports? Landed at LAX on a Tuesday night, one of the least busy travel days, and it was so crowded, cars were at a practical stand still trying to pick up passengers, there were so many people waiting for their bags and waiting on the curb for someone to pick them up.
Now imagine that same scenario in…duh duh duh duuuuh… U.S. Customs. After a long long long international flight, you are met with even longer lines before you can go home.
This spring wait times at US Customs at certain airports doubled due to many factors….international flights increasing, while at the same time Congress is paying for fewer agents working; also, sequestration cuts forced lay offs. According to the Wall St Journal, three-hour lines at U.S. Customs checkpoints have caused so many missed connections that Miami International Airport has set up cots for overnight stays.
There are some things you can do – If you are traveling with children, by all means ask the first airport official you see if families can go to the front of the customs line. I have yet to see this happen in the United States, but it is worth a try! In in some foreign countries, make sure you ask because I have been ushered to the front of the lines. After all, who wants to hear loud kids for two hours while waiting to be screened?
Make sure you warn your kids in advance about possible lines, and bring something to keep them occupied while in line. Make sure they go to the bathroom before they leave the plane – if you are traveling single with kids, you don’t want to have to leave the line you’ve been waiting in for 45 minutes to go to the restroom.
Also, another option for U.S. citizens is to enroll in the trusted traveler program called Global Entry. Apply online with some personal information for a criminal-background check. Once cleared on that, you can schedule an interview at an office where you get asked about your travel history and whether you’ve ever been arrested, and are fingerprinted. You pay $100 for five years membership.
Once accepted, you bypass all the lines and go straight to a kiosk that reads your passport and scans your fingerprints. After answering customs declaration questions on the computerized screen, the machine prints a receipt and you’re on your way. Right now it is only at selected airports, including some international airports like Auckland, New Zealand. http://www.globalentry.gov/
If none of those are options, here is a list of airports and the worst time to enter customs according to the Wall Street Journal
Miami North Terminal between 1 PM and 2PM …. Miami South terminal between 5Pm and 6PM… San Francisco Terminal A between 1PM and 2PM..and JFK Delta and American terminals between 3 PM and 4PM.
Here is the full list: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323734304578541432566205480.html?mod=e2tw#articleTabs%3Dinteractive