Long Lines, Begone! Timed Reservations in Travel

by  Christine Wei | Jan 22, 2014
Airport security
Airport security / martince2/iStock

No matter where you're traveling, there’s nothing like a long line to put a damper on your vacation. Which is why we were happy to learn about SecurXpress, a reservation system for security lines that’s being tested at Montréal, Canada's international airport. After passengers submit their flight and contact info online, they receive a text with an arrival time. Then, when they get to the airport, they can head straight to security and skip the line. Not bad. This free service is available for all domestic and select international routes, and each reservation covers up to five travelers.

While it’ll take some time for other airports to adopt the system – clearance rules make it especially tricky for flights in and out of the U.S. – ticketed reservations aimed at slashing wait times aren't new. Here’s a quick look at similar systems that are helping travelers avoid the wait...

Amusement Parks
Perhaps the most obvious example of a timed reservations system is Disney's FastPass. With this system, ticket holders can make reservations for a one-hour window wherein they can skip the main line at specific rides. (The SecurXpress creators are comparing their system to this.) And after a deluge of visitors began descending upon the new attraction, Ripley’s Aquarium in Toronto also implemented timed tickets for general entry in an attempt to stagger the crowds.

Attractions with a View
Not surprisingly, popular observation decks with limited space also offer timed tickets – some mandatory, and some as a solution to long lines. Unlike Disney’s FastPass, which is necessarily more complicated because of the multitude of rides within the parks, many of these attractions allow you to make timed reservations online. Visitors who want to ride up the Burj Khalifa in Dubai or the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, for example, are required to purchase tickets ahead of time, whereas you can reserve in advance, or line up onsite at the Eiffel Tower in Paris or the Rockefeller Center in New York for timed tickets.

Tip: If you’re thinking of reserving specific times and dates for these attractions, purchase tickets closer to your visit while keeping an eye on the weather forecast. There’s no point in an elevated view on a cloudy day.

Museums and Government Sites
Many of Washington, D.C.'s museums are free, which makes timed tickets a logical option. They're required for tours beyond the visitor center at the Capitol and recommended for general entry, guided tours, and special exhibits at the popular National Archives Museum. For other highly trafficked museums, timed entrance only kicks in during the spring and summer. Timed passes are required at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum from March through August, for example, and online advance reservations are available for a $1 fee.

This strategy for busy seasons isn't just limited to attractions in D.C.. Like the Holocaust Memorial, Philadelphia's Independence Hall also implements a staggered entry system from March through December. And for some sites, like the 9/11 Memorial in NYC, printing out your timed passes beforehand will save time.

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