As summer approaches, we typically see an increase in travelers with infants and children. Whether you’re an experienced frequent business traveler or an infrequent leisure traveler, here are some tips to help you navigate the security process with children of all ages. Using these tips and carefully preparing your children ahead of time can help you save time at the airport and get you through the screening process as quickly as possible.
Before You Leave for the Airport:
- Check out TSA.gov and Download the My TSA App: Visit the Traveling with Children page on TSA.gov to help you prepare. You can also download the free My TSA iPhone, Android and mobile web app to get information anytime, anywhere. In the Guide on the app, you can check out the Traveling with Children page, get other packing tips and security information, and if you’re TSA Pre✓™ eligible, you can find out what checkpoint to go to for expedited screening. Click here to find out how to download the app.
- Both TSA.gov and the My TSA app have a “Can I Bring?” tool where you can type in an item and see if it is permitted in carry-on baggage, checked baggage or prohibited. To get the best use of the tool, keep your submission simple by not using brand names (type in baby formula, not Carnation baby formula) and don’t include numbers (like “two bottles of juice”).
- Check any bag your child packed themselves: Of course your child means no harm, but sometimes they put things in their backpack or other bag that will alarm and lead to a secondary bag check, like a toy gun or a plastic toy hand grenade. (The toy grenade will actually shut down the checkpoint, and nobody wants that.) If your child is bringing a favorite toy or stuffed animal, be sure to tell them that it will have to go through the X-ray machine at the checkpoint so they won’t be upset later.
- Don’t Forget the Liquids Rule when Packing Snacks: If you’re packing snacks for your kids, dried fruit, nuts, granola bars, cereals, crackers, pretzels and cookies are all good options, but please remember that drinks, yogurt, and other food and drink items fall under the TSA 3-1-1 rule for liquids, aerosols and gels in carry-ons. A recap of the rule is that you are allowed to bring containers of up to 3.4 fluid ounces, as long as they all fit in one quart-sized, clear zip-top bag. One bag is allowed per traveler. The easiest way to figure out if it’s a liquid, aerosol or gel is if you can pour it, pump it, squeeze it, spread it, smear it, spray it or spill it. Medically necessary liquids, such as baby formula, medications, and breast milk are allowed in larger quantities, but pack them in a way you can present them for inspection at the checkpoint.
- If you don’t want to purchase a drink for your child after the checkpoint and can’t wait for the beverage service on the plane, you can bring an empty sippy cup or other cup and some single packets of powdered drink mix and fill the cup with water from a water fountain.
At the Security Checkpoint:
- Kids Get to Keep Their Shoes On: TSA allows children 12 and younger to keep their shoes on during security screening.
- Toys, Stuffed Animals and Blankets Go on the Belt: While you’re in line, remind children that their favorite items will have to pass through the X-ray machine and will only be away from them for a short time. Some parents tell their child that Teddy is getting his yearly check-up by going through the X-ray belt. However you choose to tell them, make sure your child knows they can’t walk through the metal detectors or AIT units with their toy.
- Strollers, Baby Carriers, Booster Seats also go through X-ray –All child-related equipment that can fit through the X-ray machine should be put on the belt, including collapsible strollers, umbrella-strollers, baby carriers, car and booster seats, backpacks, and baby slings. Make sure your stroller folds easily so that you can collapse it before you put it on the belt and then re-open it as soon as you’ve completed screening. Also, be sure to check with your airline for any carry-on restrictions related to your equipment.
- Baggies Go in the Bin: Be sure to have your zip-top bag with liquids, aerosols and gels handy, and pull it out of your carry-on bag or purse and put it in one of the bins on the X-ray machine belt. Be sure to declare any medically necessary liquids (breast milk, formula, medications, etc.) at the checkpoint, because they may require additional screening. Before you leave the checkpoint, check all of your bins to make sure you haven’t forgotten anything.
- Most Electronics Can Stay in Carry-on Bags: If your child is bringing a portable gaming system or other personal electronic device to keep them entertained on the flight, you can leave it in their carry-on bag when going through the X-ray. If you’re taking a full-game console or a DVD player with you, that will have to come out of the bag and be put in a separate bin.
- Security Officers are Available to Assist You: Many of our security officers are parents themselves and understand how stressful traveling with children and the security process can be. If you need help during the security process or your child becomes upset, security officers will help you get through the process and consult with you about the best way to relieve the child's concern.
- If You’re TSA Pre✓™ Eligible, so are Your Children: If your child is 12 or younger, he or she can also use the TSA Pre✓™ expedited screening lane when traveling with you.
TSA Blog Team
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