Traveling as a family can be an exciting time as you get away from the same old routine and have the chance to create new memories. But it also comes with its fair share of challenges, especially when it comes to navigating airport security.
To make the airport security screening process go as smoothly as possible, here are 7 tips to follow that will make your life easier, from knowing all about the screening procedures for babies and kids to if TSA PreCheck is worth getting.
Table of Contents
1. Familiarize Yourself With the Screening Procedures
Before you get to the airport, it would be wise to familiarize yourself with the specific screening procedures for children and infants
- Children who are 13 and older undergo the TSA’s standard screening procedures.
- Children who are 12 and under can leave their light jackets, shoes and headwear on during the screening process.
- Infants must be carried through in your arms or in a sling/carrier through the walk-through metal detector
- All belonging of all travelers, regardless of age, must be screened, including toys, strollers, carriers, car seats, backpacks etc.
- Baby formula, breast milk, toddler drinks, and baby food are all considered medically necessary liquids, so the 3-1-1 rule doesn’t apply (these can be brought in quantities greater than 3.4oz/100ml).
2. Arrive at the Airport Early
When traveling with kids and babies, it is crucial to get to the airport early to give yourself extra time to go through the screening process and minimize stress.
For domestic flights, aim to arrive at least 2 hours before your departure time, and at least 3 hours before for international flights.
Before you leave, make sure that you have al the required documents your family needs with you and easily accessible, including passports, ID (kids don’t need ID to fly domestically), and boarding passes.
3. Wear the Right Clothing
When flying, it’s always a good idea to wear comfortable clothes, as we all know how uncomfortable air travel can be.
Despite being comfortable, clothing should also be easy to remove without excessive buttons, zippers, or snaps.
This applies to everyone traveling, and you should avoid wearing bulky jewelry when going through airport security, too.
4. Use the TSA Family Screening Lines
The TSA’s family screening lines are specifically designed for families to go through, which can definitely speed up the screening process.
They offer several advantages, including shorter wait times and a more relaxed atmosphere, as the other travelers in the queue know what it is like to travel as a family with babies and young kids.
If available, you should definitely opt for a dedicated family screening line.
5. Ensure Your Items Are Easy to Access
As all items and belonging need to be screened, make sure that they are readily accessible.
Make sure all your liquids, including formula, breast milk, and baby food, are placed in a clear, resealable bag and kept separate from other items in your carry-on bag for easy access.
Pack any toys, electronics, and other items that may need to be screened separately in an easily accessible compartment of your carry-on bag, too.
If you are planning on bringing a stroller or carrier, make sure that you can easily collapse it or fold it for screening.
For small items, such as pacifiers, baby wipes, and diaper creams, consider using clear plastic bags or pouches for better organization, and for easy inspection.
6. Apply for TSA Pre-Check
TSA Pre-check ensures expedited screening because the lines aren’t as long, there is no need to remove shoes, belts, and light jackets, and you can keep electronic devices and liquids in your carry-on bag.
Previously, the TSA only allowed children 12 years or younger to go through TSA Pre-check free of charge, but this has recently changed to allow all children under the age of 18 to go through for free.
In our opinion, with these changes, if you travel with your family more than just a couple of times a year, TSA Pre-check is well worth the price.
According to the TSA, wait times for TSA PreCheck lanes are under 10 minutes, compared to under 30 minutes for standard lanes.
Obtaining PreCheck is straightforward, though does require an in-person TSA PreCheck interview.
7. Don’t Hesitate to Communicate and Seek Assistance
If you have any concerns or need clarification on something, it’s better to ask before the screening process starts to avoid delays. TSA officers are there to help you, after all.
If your child has a medical condition or special needs, make sure that you inform a TSA officer before screening begins, so they know how to best accommodate your child and relieve any concerns you might have.
Ella Dunham, a Freelance Travel Journalist and Marketing Manager, boasts an impressive career spanning eight years in the travel and tourism sectors.
Honored as one of "30 Under 30" by TTG Media (the world’s very first weekly travel trade newspaper), a "Tour Operator Travel Guru" and "Legend Award" winner, Ella is also a Fellow of the Institute of Travel, a Member of the Association of Women Travel Executives, has completed over 250 travel modules, and hosts travel-focused segments on national radio shows where she provides insights on travel regulations and destinations.
Ella has visited over 40 countries (with 10 more planned this year).