Upgrading my travel game: 3 perks I’m finally investing in for 2022

Jan 16, 2022

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I’ve always been a “basics” traveler at heart. Even though working for TPG has certainly opened up opportunities for experiences like flying in first class, my personal travels look very different. I don’t have any ultra-premium credit cards to give me lounge access, I always fly economy, I almost never check bags and I’ve never really considered applying for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck.

In 2022, however, that is going to change.

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This year, I’ve finally decided to invest in travel perks, including lounge access, Clear and Global Entry. Up until now, I was convinced I didn’t need those things to have a positive travel experience. While they are luxuries that no one has to have to travel, I’ve started traveling more, so adding a few perks to my repertoire will save me both time and frustration in the long term.

Here are the travel perks I’m investing in for 2022 and beyond.

Lounge access

Fun fact: My first time stepping foot inside an airport lounge was in 2021, when TPG reporter Chris Dong used his Citi® / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard® to guest me into the Admirals Club in Miami (MIA) while on a work trip.

Getting some work done at the lounge (and grabbing some much-needed coffee and food after an early morning flight) was significantly better than hanging out at a gate, but that experience alone wasn’t enough to convince me that I needed regular lounge access. Two subsequent visits to Amex Centurion Lounges thanks to coworkers on other work-related trips also didn’t sway me to invest in it. No, it wasn’t until an incident on my recent flight home to Arkansas for the holidays that I was convinced lounge access was something worth having for work and personal travel.

View of the dining room in AA's Flagship First lounge at JFK
(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

I’d booked an early morning flight out of New York City’s LaGuardia Airport (LGA) to hopefully limit the chance of any delays with a short layover in Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT) to connect to Little Rock’s Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport (LIT). The dream of a stress-free morning flying home ended promptly when our flight’s pilot came on the intercom to let us know that a maintenance issue was going to cause a delay. That delay forced me to miss my connection, and the only other flight I was able to secure was almost eight hours after my original connection.

Thankfully, I had a friend in Charlotte who was able to pick me up from the airport for lunch and a few hours of couch surfing to save me from hanging out at the airport all day. If I had been forced to stay there, a credit card with lounge access would have been a life (and back) saver.

With staffing shortages still causing flight cancellations and delays, plus the fact that I now live in a city where winter weather is another potential issue to contend with, surprise changes to flight plans are inevitable for me this year. Lounge access won’t prevent me from having delays or cancellations, but it would make long layovers a much more pleasant experience.

Related: Here’s what to do if your flight is delayed or canceled

TSA PreCheck and Global Entry

For anyone who is not familiar, TSA PreCheck and Global Entry are both trusted traveler programs that can expedite certain security processes at airports in the U.S. — the former makes the TSA security checkpoint process faster, while the latter simplifies the process of going through U.S. customs when you return from an international flight. (Read all about both in our guide here.)

I know, I know — I really shouldn’t have waited this long to apply for one of these programs. But between not having a card that offered the application fee benefit, the lack of traveling the past two years and the fact that I’ve previously lived in places where going through TSA PreCheck saved minimal (if any) time, it just never seemed like it was worth the hassle.

Close-up of a passport with Global Entry card showing
(Photo by Arne Beruldsen/Shutterstock)

However, I did move to busier New York City and apply for the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card (which offers TSA PreCheck or Global Entry application fee reimbursement as a benefit) in 2021, so there really is no reason why I shouldn’t apply.

With any luck (and help from my COVID-19 vaccine and booster shot), I’ll be visiting more international destinations this year, so having Global Entry (and as a result, TSA PreCheck) will be a game-changer.

Clear

Along the same vein as TSA PreCheck, Clear offers a faster way to get through security. While it isn’t available at every airport and doesn’t let you completely avoid security (you still have to go through the checkpoint), it can help save you time when lines are backed up. Paired with TSA PreCheck, it can significantly streamline the security process.

Clear kiosks at the airport
(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

In all fairness, I was recently gifted a one-year membership to try out Clear, so the initial investment required to join was waived. However, now that I’ve actually used it a couple of times, I already know I’ll re-up my membership in the coming years. When the security lines are backed up with travelers waiting to verify their identity before entering TSA checkpoints, Clear can save a ton of time. Less time in security lines means more time spent enjoying the lounge access benefits I talked about earlier.

Bottom line

Sometimes getting value out of perks like these can feel like you need to head somewhere exotic every weekend, but I’m beginning to realize that isn’t the case. In 2021, most of the trips I took were to Disney World or other domestic destinations — trips that, looking back, could have had fewer headaches if some of these perks (particularly lounge access) were in my back pocket.

My strategy for obtaining lounge access this year is yet to be seen. I may splurge on The Platinum Card® from American Express (see rates and fees) for its unparalleled lounge access (and its myriad of other perks, of course), or I may consider applying for a cobranded card that gets me access to a specific airline’s lounges. Regardless of how I decide to go about it, I do know that this is the year I’m making it happen.

So, here’s to safe travels later in 2022 — you can find me raising my glass from an airport lounge bar instead of a cramped seat next to my gate.

Featured photo by Wyatt Smith/The Points Guy. 

For rates and fees of the Amex Platinum, please click here.

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