For some reason or another, you’re going to find yourself flying in this time of heightened security and travel restrictions. And you may be worried about negotiating the dreaded security line with your little ones in tow.
But there’s actually nothing to fear.
Though business travelers sometimes roll their eyes at my family when they see me in front of them in the security line, my four kids are so good at getting through quickly and efficiently that we never hold up the line.
Here’s what you need to know to be security savvy:
Getting Through Security With Babies
- If you bring a stroller, choose a small one: Strollers can be handy in airports for hanging diaper bags and older kids carry-ons but leave the bells-and-whistles stroller at home. Bring a simple umbrella stroller that’s easy to collapse. You’ll need to take the baby out of the stroller, fold it with one hand, and put it on the belt. You can only do this if you have one that folds easily.
- If you carry the baby in a carrier, be ready to take him out: The backpack or front pouch will have to go through security so make sure you can easily unsnap the baby to put the carrier on the belt.
- Don’t wear metal jewelry: You will carry the baby through security with you and the last thing you want is for the walk-through metal detector to go off. I always stash my jewelry and watch in my carry-on and put them on after security to avoid unnecessary delays.
- Liquids should be removal-ready: Bottled water is not allowed, but baby formula and breast milk may be carried in larger than 3.4 ounces (100 ml) quantities if you need it during travel. It must be removed from the carry-on bags for screening, but does not have to be in a zip-top bag (however, it might be easiest to grab it from a bag in an outer pocket you can easily reach). Gels and other liquids must also be removed. Best to pack these in your checked luggage instead of in your carry-on.
Getting Through Security With Toddlers
- Skip the shoelaces: Since you’ll have to take your shoes off and your toddler’s shoes off, it’s really important to wear shoes that come on and off easily. I’ve seen security lines bottlenecked because business folks have to untie their laces. It’s fun to breeze by them with the family and beat them to the gate!
- Play the airport security stuffy game: The more familiar your toddler and older children are with what will happen at security, the more secure they’ll feel at the airport. Practice with their favorite stuffed animals. Cut a metal detector out of a cardboard box and pick stuffed animals for them to act out as people. Have a stuffed animal be scared to walk through on her own and have another (the Mommy stuffy) reassure her. Your kids will love this game and when the time comes they’ll be old pros already.
- Arrive at the airport early: A lot of airports have great play spaces inside the terminals. Toddlers also love to watch airplanes take off and land. The extra time will keep the whole family relaxed as you go through security.
Getting Through Security With School-Aged Kids
- Pack (as) light (as you can): It’s tempting for school-age children to want to bring every toy, book and stuffed animal they own in a carry-on bag but don’t let them. Bring the minimum you need for the airplane so they can easily carry their own bag. Explain to them they will be responsible for taking it off the belt after it is X-rayed.
- Watch the Video: The TSA has a short online kid-to-kid video that explains to kids what to expect at security.
- Practice makes perfect: A fun game for older kids is to use a timer and see how long it takes them to get off their shoes, put a pretend carry-on on a counter, take out the “liquids,” push it along, gather it up and put their shoes back on. Play this several times to see if they can beat their record.
- For the most up-to-date information about security requirements when traveling with children, check the TSA Web site before you head to the airport.