Recently people have begun asking me an odd question. They want to know what travel related mobile app is my favorite? I say this is an odd question because I don’t use many travel apps. Well, I don’t use many travel apps other than those of airlines and hotels.
See, for as much as the travel industry has evolved over the past few years, mobile apps really haven’t kept up. There just aren’t that many great travel apps out there. I tried using Google Trips for a while but quickly grew tired of it. I’ve tried using a few others like Hopper, but I mostly like finding airfare on my own. So, it think it surprises people when I tell them that I don’t really have a favorite travel app.
That is, until I realized that Mobile Passport is in fact a travel app. Once I came to this realization I quickly changed my answer to “MOBILE PASSPORT!” Of all the travel apps on my phone Mobile Passport is the one I’ve recently been getting the most value from.
What Is Mobile Passport and How To Get It?
I’ve written about Mobile Passport in the past, but essentially Mobile Passport is just that; a mobile version of your passport. The best part is that there are no hoops to jump through or applications necessary. All you need to do is find the app in the app store and download it.
Once you download the app you have to create a quick profile and enter your passport information. The app even has a handy feature that lets you scan your passport to import your data. Once you add your passport information to the app you’re required to take a selfie and create a pin. That’s it.
Once the passport information is in the app it is secured by your pin. If you forget your pin all you need to do is delete your current passport and upload it again; which takes seconds. Newer versions of the app are Face ID and Touch ID compatible which mean you don’t even have to worry about remembering your pin.
Now, once you upload your passport to the app you’re done. There is no application or approval process unlike Global Entry or TSA PreCheck. Yes, I know, it sounds insane, but it’s true. All you need to do is download the app, scan your passport, create a pin, and your “signed up.”
How To Use Mobile Passport?
When arriving back in the US after an international trip all you need to do is launch the Mobile Passport app and follow the instructions.
You begin by telling the app if you are arriving by air or sea. Next, you select the travelers you are traveling with. Yes, you can add your whole family to one single person’s app.
Once you select the person(s) traveling, you then tell the app where you are arriving and on which flight or vessel. Most major airline international hubs are now represented in the app (notably Detroit is missing). Sea Ports are more limited, but hopefully for cruise ship enthusiasts that list will be expanding soon.
After selecting the traveler and the airport you must answer five very basic yes/no questions. These are the same questions you answer on those little blue forms that most of us throw away immediately when they are handed to you on a flight. In fact, if you use Mobile Passport you don’t need the little blue form anymore.
Finally, you submit your arrival information and the app provides a unique QR Code. The QR Code is valid for up to 4 hours and is your ticket through customs.
Clearing Customs With Mobile Passport
Once you’ve submitted your Mobile Passport questionnaire the app generates a QR code. The Mobile Passport app stores that QR code on your device for up to 4 hours.
When you arrive in the customs hall ask someone to direct you to the Mobile Passport line. It’s typically the line with no one in it.
Once in line all you have to do is scan the QR code and show the customs agent the photograph in the Mobile Passport app. The customs agent will then ask to see a hard copy of your passport for further verification.
Next the customs agent will direct you to proceed to the baggage claim area. Yes, again, it’s this easy.
My Recent Mobile Passport Experiences
In the past year I’ve been fortunate enough to use Mobile Passport at least a half-dozen times. During at least 3 of those times there were literally no other passengers in line. For those three times I walked straight up to the customs agent, scanned my QR code, and proceeded to baggage claim. The whole process took less than a minute.
For the times where there were other passengers in line I only had to wait a minute or two. Of all 6 or so times that I’ve used Mobile Passport upon arrival back into the United States it’s never taken more than 5 minutes to clear customs. Considering this is a completely free service, yes completely free, that’s astonishing!
Mobile Passport Easter Egg
Perhaps the most useful feature of Mobile Passport is that it stores your passport information. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve tried to book an international flight and not had my passport information. I rarely carry my physical passport with me because I’d hate to use it. So, if I found a great international airfare deal I’d have to run home and try to book the flights before the price changed.
Now, whenever I find a flight I want to book I simply launch the app and view my passport information. The app displays all of the required information you need to book an international flight. Note: On future versions do you mind including the Passport Issuance Date, you sometimes need that.
It is this feature that really makes Mobile Passport so amazing. I realize that I’m not typical when it comes to booking flights. I tend to book flights by the seat of my pants so it’s nice knowing that I always have my passport information with me in a secure app on my phone.
I get why more people don’t have Mobile Passport. For the first year or so it wasn’t well advertised. There were a few signs displayed in random areas within the airport, but not much else. However, now there are a lot better placed signs yet people still aren’t signing up in masses and I don’t get why!
When I landed in LAX two days ago there were literally Mobile Passport signs at every single gate we passed when walking toward the arrivals hall. From our gate to the arrivals hall you could have easily downloaded the app and entered your information in time to use the empty Mobile Passport lanes, but no one did it. I can only assume that most travelers must think that they “don’t qualify” as is often the case with travel related programs. However, that’s the great news, anyone with a valid US or Canadian passport qualifies for Mobile Passport.
So, as you can see, Mobile Passport is easily my favorite travel app on my phone. I hope this encourages you to give it a try on your next trip, you won’t be disappointed.
PS. If you have any issues with Mobile Passport shoot a note on Twitter to @mobpassport as they are extremely responsive and helpful.
This is not a paid endorsement, I just really love this app. But if the Mobile Passport guys wanna pay me, that’s cool too.