How to Get through Airport Security with Kids or a Baby

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Whether you’re a seasoned traveler or casual flyer, the airport security line can be daunting. Throw children into the mix and it’s even more intimidating — but it doesn’t have to be. Read on for everything you need to know about how to get through airport security with kids and a baby. We’ll tell you which liquids you can bring for your kids, whether you need to remove your kids’ shoes, and three helpful tips to make your TSA security line experience a cinch.
get through airport security with kids

Tips to get through airport security with kids

I was so nervous the first time I flew with my kids, then 2 and 4 years old. It was their first flight. The most important thing I did was before we even got to the airport. I talked to them in advance about what to expect and made it seem like a grown up thing they were going to do. Then when we were at the airport and getting into the line, I reminded them that this was the place they needed their very best ever behavior and that they were going to check our things, etc.

They did great for that first time through and the 20+ times they’ve been since. When my kids were 4 and 5 years old, they liked pushing the containers down the line — if it wasn’t too busy. When they were a little older, they even got their own “baskets” and helped me with my things. By the time they were 6 years old, they were pros, having flown so many times. My kids, probably like most, like to know what to expect, and then they will be fine. It’s important for the parents/guardians to stay calm too.

Which liquids can you carry on for your baby or young child?

You no doubt understand the TSA’s 3-1-1 rule: three ounce bottles of liquid in a one quart container, one per passenger. But what if you’re traveling with a baby or kids? Do the same travel regulations for liquids apply? The short answer: no. The following liquids for babies and young children are exempts from the 3-1-1 rule:

1. Medically necessary liquids and gels: This includes both over-the-counter and prescription medications for your infant. Bring the cough syrup you need, or the infant tylenol: these items do not have to be three ounces or smaller. Also included are gel-filled teething rings and other essential baby-related gear.

2. Baby food: This includes dry baby foods, jarred baby food, baby food pouches, and food stored in personal containers. However, you will need to declare it (see below).

3. Breastmilk and infant formula: And yes, formula can be already mixed and ready to go. What’s the quantity allowed? “Reasonable quantities,” says the TSA. Basically, this means whatever amount is necessary for your flight day (the rest can be in your checked luggage). Note: Even if you are not traveling with your child, breastmilk is considered ‘medically necessary’ and may be taken through security. Great news for working moms pumping on the go.

4. Juice or water for babies: This is where traveling with liquids gets tricky, because carrying water and juice for adult travelers is still not permitted. However, if the juice is intended for your infant or child, it’s a go. Again, be sure to declare it and be ready to explain who it’s for. You can keep juice in sippy cups or bottles, but will need to take the lid off.

A side note, I was successful at bringing two juice boxes for my little ones about two or three times out of the five or six times when I tried it. The employees saw the juice boxes and saw my kids and let it pass. But sometimes they didn’t and that was okay too as they were just doing their jobs.

None of the above items need to be stored in a one quart bag, but you do need to be ready to show them to TSA officers. Declare all these items when you arrive at the checkpoint, and expect to take the lid off of bottles of milk and possibly the lid off baby food jars. The above rules apply to “infants and small children” according to the TSA, so be prepared to deal with some gray area when it comes to whether a slightly older child warrants juice or milk. Do you have more questions? TSA’s website has answers.

get through airport security with kids

Traveling with children

What about the other aspects of the TSA screening children?

Families are finding it easier to fly with kids. Kids 12 and under are now exempt from taking off shoes in security, and TSA policy dictates families will no longer be separated. What you need to know about TSA screening for kids:

1. Kids may not need to go through the AIT (advanced imaging technology). Anyone deemed capable of holding still for the required five (or so) seconds in the AIT may be required to do so, but in our experience, most children are not directed there. This means you won’t be either. Again, you’ll deal with some gray area here.

2. You stay with your kids. Parents cannot go through AIT while holding a child or infant, and parents cannot be separated from children 12 and under, so it’s likely you won’t go through AIT either.

3. Kids 12 and under keep their shoes on. Yay! No more squeezing shoes back on toddler feet in a crowded security area!

Airport security with kids

TSA security tips for families:

1. Look for family lines. More and more airports are including family lanes at TSA security. What are the benefits? A more gracious staff, fewer impatient business travelers standing in line behind you, and more space to fold your stroller, help your kids, and organize your gear.

2. Be honest and be nice. Sounds simple, right? But security lines can be stressful, and it’s easy to forget that by explaining what you’re carrying with you and why to security agents in a nice way, you’ll almost always have a calmer, kinder experience.

3. Start preparing early. You’ll need to take infants and small children out of strollers, backpacks, and slings, so do that before it’s your turn in line. If you’re traveling solo and this is not possible, speak up: ask an agent for help, or at least inform them that you’ll be a bit slower than the average traveler.

There are lots of tips and advice for how to get through airport security with kids but I think the best tips are to let your children know what to expect (without getting too specific) and for you to stay as calm as possible. Traveling is stressful for everyone. Making it less stressful for your children is key.          photo credits:  brownpau,  StubbyFingers