Passport stamps are just the best. There is nothing quite like the feeling of taking off bound for a new destination, or one you call home. The exact opposite of that feeling occurs when you land and sit in a customs/immigration line for what feels like a never ending twilight zone of eternity. Short of being a diplomat or international mega star, there are few guaranteed ways to avoid customs delays, there are however some helpful tips and tricks… 

a group of men in suits and ties

For US Bound Flights There is Actually A Tool….

Unbeknownst to me until just yesterday, the US Department of Homeland Security actually offers an immigration cue wait estimator. Who Knew?! The tool uses historical flight data to give a best estimate of wait times for your arrival airport. The data is based on recent data as well as wait time averages for your exact date range in years past. It could be well worth playing with the tool to find sweet spots before booking your flight. Simply visit THIS website, enter your terminal, date and arrival time and you should get a decent picture of what to expect. Of course things can always be hit or miss but we all like a hit.

a close up of a sign

Check Terminal Arrival Schedule Before Booking Flights..

I once landed directly after three flights from known drug trafficking countries. As I sat in a miserably long line I thought to myself, I should’ve picked a flight that landed at a less peak time or at least before those three flights. There is no such thing as “off peak” for a major airport, but each terminal certainly has its sweet spots. When booking a flight I highly suggest a google search showing the daily arrival schedule for your destination terminal. If you can find a slot where your plane would arrive first or just an off peak time in general, it could mean more hours exploring the city, less time standing in line. Here’s an example using JFK’s Terminal 4. 

signs in a building with blue carpet

Does Your Country Have A Trusted Traveler Program?

Many countries offer some form of expedited immigration screening for trusted travelers. The US offers Global Entry, Great Britain offers Registered Traveler and others have NEXUS, SENTRI, IRIS and so forth. As international relations expand, the benefits continue to reach citizens of more far reaching borders. Long story short, you should check it out. Global Entry users are now able to fast track through Australian immigration and there are many more similar opportunities. Don’t lose time by not inquiring. Your credit card might even be able to waive the fees for you!

a sign with white text and arrows

Does Your Destination Offer Purchase Of Fast Track?

Many countries have a Fast Track through immigration reserved for First and Business Class passengers. Even if you are not in First or Business, you can likely purchase some form of Fast Track to expedite your arrival. Global Airport Concierge is a leader in this field and can provide you with a free quote. Depending on your destination, it can be surprisingly affordable and you look like a baller.

a man in a green and yellow jersey pointing his arm

Put On Your Running Shoes…

When not in Business or First, my wife and I always chose a seat on the left side of the plane as close to the aircraft door as possible, we also bring our Nike’s. If you want to plan your perfect getaway a trip to SeatGuru can be just the ticket. If you’ve ever been on a flight with us, you may have seen our Road Runner like flash speed walk past you on the way to customs. That little power step can save hours in line if you hustle. There is nothing worse than being last off of a plane and last to the customs line. Burn some calories and get out of there faster. 

a group of police officers at an airport

It’s not a perfect rule but the smarter the traveler, the more opportunity for seamless travel. You don’t have to be rich to be smart and you don’t have to fly in Business Class to be first in line at customs, though it helps….

As always, We’re here to help:

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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