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Airport Security with Kids ~ 9 Tips to Improve Your Family’s Flight Experience

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Almost everyone loves to travel, but no one likes going through airport security. (Sorry TSA!) These nine tips for airport security with kids will make your travels smoother so you can get to your destination with your sanity intact. Buckle your safety belt because your family's going to be all set for take off!

Follow airport security with kids tips

Follow these airport security tips to improve your family's flight experience (Photo credit: FamVeldman, Depositphotos.com)

1. Prepare to get carded.

If you’re headed out of the country, make sure EVERYONE — including baby — has a valid passport. It can take four to six weeks to obtain official documents, so plan ahead. Even when flying domestically, some airlines may require children to have identification for travel, such as a birth certificate. This is especially true if traveling with only one parent. Be sure to check with your airline prior to departure, or bring along ID just to be safe.

If traveling out of the country, every family member needs an up-to-date passport

If traveling out of the country, every family member needs an up-to-date passport (Photo credit: maxxyustas, Depositphotos.com)

2. Don't wrap presents.

Bringing gifts along for the holidays, a wedding or other celebration? Security officers may need to unwrap presents for control purposes, undoing all of your pretty bows and ribbons. If you need to be discreet or hide things from the kids in your travel group, hide presents in boxes or dark trash bags instead. Be prepared with a whopper of a distraction for the kiddos, too, should TSA need to take a peek! (Electronics, candy, or money come to mind…)

If bringing gifts in your carry-on, wait to wrap them after you arrive at your destination

If bringing gifts in your carry-on, wait to wrap them after you arrive at your destination (Photo credit: AntonMatyukha, Depositphotos.com)

3. Pack favorite snacks in your carry-on.

Airport security lines can be very long, especially during peak travel times near holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas. Keep kids happy by bringing along some favorite travel snacks, like fruit, granola bars or chocolate. Liquids and gels are limited to 3.4 ounces per container, packed into a single 1-quart bag per person. If you’re traveling with a child under the age of 2, you can bring more than this liquid limit in baby food, formula, milk, water and juice. Put these items in a separate clear plastic bag to show security.

Keep kids distracted with food at the airport

Keep kids distracted with food at the airport (Photo credit: Anna_Om, Depositphotos.com)

4. Arrive early for airport security with kids.

Be sure to arrive early for your flight, especially when traveling with kids. During the off-season, you should plan to arrive about two hours before a domestic flight and at least three hours before an international flight. Airports become a frenzy of activity during the holiday travel season, so you may need to show up even earlier depending on your travel dates.

 

5. Use the family screening line.

If traveling with a baby or young child, take advantage of special help in the Family Line at security. Don't fret about skipping ahead of other child-less passengers, either; if they could do it, they would! It will mean less stress for you and more time in the airport play area for your kids. Can't find a Family Line? Sweetly ask the friendliest looking TSA officer you can find if there is such a line; they just may wave you through.

The quicker you can get through airport security with kids, the more play airport play time your family will have

Some airports, like Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport, offer fun play areas for children (Photo credit: jingaiping, Depositphotos.com)

6. Avoid lugging liquids.

Buy bottles of wine, spirits or perfume at Duty Free stores post-security or after you arrive at your destination. Your carry-on bags are limited to tiny 3.4-ounce bottles and while you can pack larger sizes in your checked bags, glass bottle breakage is a distinct possibility. Your suitcases needn't be drenched in scotch or Chanel No. 5.

Hit up Duty Free rather than lugging heavy liquids onto your flight with kids

Hit up Duty Free rather than lugging heavy liquids onto your flight (Photo credit: photo_stella, Depositphotos.com)

7. Wear security-friendly clothing.

Avoid wearing large metal jewelry and clothing with metal buttons or snaps to avoid airport security snafus. Dress yourself and your kids comfortably with easily-removable outerwear, belts and shoes. If traveling to or from somewhere chilly — hats, mittens and winter gear needs to be taken off and placed in the security bins for screening. Pack them in carry-bags until needed. Kids under the age of 12 and adults over age 75 do not need to remove their shoes.

Adults must remove shoes during airport security but kids under 12 can keep them on

Adults must remove shoes during airport security but kids under 12 can keep them on (Photo credit: trekandshoot, Depositphotos.com)

8. Know how to handle bulky gear.

If you’re packing golf clubs, skis, snowboards or other bulky sports gear, check those items as special or fragile baggage. Check with your airline ahead of time about size, weight and packing restrictions to ensure a smooth check-in process.

Keep in mind that gear for kids like strollers and car seats can typically be gate checked for free. To avoid hauling heavy children's gear through the airport, consider purchasing a compact CARES Airplane Travel Harness and renting baby and toddler travel gear for delivery to your travel destination.

9. Apply for TSA Pre-check or Global Entry.

Have you applied for Global Entry or TSA Pre-check yet? If you're a U.S. resident who travels often, you should! Yes, you must pay a fee and jump through a few hoops (an extensive online form and in-person interview). But the payoff in terms of sailing through security is well worth it. Most U.S. airports and airlines recognize TSA Pre-check. This typically means no more shoe removal (no matter your age), no more removing laptops or liquids from your carry-on (though you'll still be subject to the same liquid limits), and much shorter screening lines. As a bonus, children under age 12 are granted Pre-check status when traveling with an Pre-check parent or guardian. Global Entry costs a bit more for the five-year membership, but enables travelers to whiz through customs when returning to the U.S.

TSA's goal is to respond to your application within two to three weeks. Global Entry can take longer. Even if you don't have time to apply before your next flight, you might want to apply for TSA Pre-check or Global Entry sooner rather than later so your family is all set in the future.

TSA Pre Check helps parents breeze through airport security with children

TSA Pre Check helps parents breeze through airport security with children (Photo credit: TeriVirbickis, Depositphotos.com)

Keep these airport security tips!

Be sure to save these tips for getting through airport security with kids. Just pin the image below to Pinterest. Go ahead and follow Travel Mamas on Pinterest while you're at it!

9 Sanity Saving Airport Security Tips for Travel with Kids

Rules may be subject to change. Please check with your carrier or the Transportation Security Administration’s website for the latest security information prior to departure.

The Travel Mamas' Guide to Flying with Children

For additional tips on flying with kids, download The Travel Mamas' Guide to Flying with Kids. It's free!

Do you dread going through airport security with kids? Share your airport security survival tips and questions below!

About Claudia Laroye, The Curious Travel Mama

Claudia Laroye lives in Vancouver, Canada, with her husband and two sons (ages 18 and 20). She started travelling at a very young age, and has never stopped. She’s had the fortune of visiting more than 20 countries on four continents, and has also lived abroad in Sweden. Claudia is passionate about family travel and about educating children through the travel experience. She is the author of the thetravellingmom.ca, and contributes to many online and print media publications. Connect with Claudia on Twitter as @travelling_mom.

Comments

  1. Thanks for the tips! I’ve been traveling with my family for years now, the children are now preteens. Once you get through the lines at the airport things seem to come together. (a bit stressful, especially these days). Love your blog!

    • Claudia Laroye, The Curious Travel Mama says:

      Thanks for your comment, Kathy! Have fun with your preteens, I certainly enjoyed traveling with mine at that age, as they’re so much more capable and responsible (most of the time). 😉

  2. I have a friend who sprayed half the bottle of her perfume in the airport because she doesn’t want leave it, it’s a Chanel, I think.. and there was a Chinese woman who drank a bottle of champagne (or was it a wine?) in front of airport officers to mock them. The didn’t let her in the plane because she was too drunk. 😀

  3. Luke Mitchell says:

    Global entry? That’s a new one to me! I have visitors who come here from the U.S. frequently and I wonder if they’re aware of this, I always end up hearing nightmare stories about the TSA lines and how terrible it gets over the holidays. Thanks for this great list, it’s perfect for the feeling of the season, helping people not feel so uptight and stressed out that they’re at each other’s throats.

  4. These are all really awesome tips. Flight security is as high as it’s ever been, so one misstep could ruin your entire trip.

  5. Great points. After my daughter got the old pat down because she had “fancy buttons” on her jeans, we always wear leggings to the airport now. No more pat downs and we usually get right through without any issues.

  6. Toni | Boulder Locavore says:

    These are really awesome tips! Just in time for holiday vacations!

  7. I’ve always wanted to do a destination Christmas, but I never thought about having wrapped presents and going through security. Maybe I could mail them ahead of time and hope they arrive in one piece!

    • Claudia Laroye, The Curious Travel Mama says:

      You could contact the hotel concierge ahead of arrival to arrange for gift-wrapping service, if you’re staying at resort property.

  8. I thought it’d be great to bring three kids on a plane by myself. Once we got through security, we did okay. These tips are great for making those stressful few minutes not define the whole trip. A quick folding stroller would have made life easier to get through the metal detector.

  9. We love to travel and these are really, really great tips that I would have never thought of! Especially wrapping the presents – I will keep this in mind for any of our future trips.

  10. So great to know! It’s very important to prepare for these things especially over the busy holiday months when its already so stressful!

  11. These are great tips. Airport security can be such a hassle. Being prepared is half the battle

  12. Kristine Nicole Alessandra says:

    Thanks for these tips. Traveling with kids can be stressful and going through airport security can trigger a tantrum. I agree with distracting them with food or electronics. That would definitely ease their anxiety of waiting in line.

  13. Global entry is soooo worth it! (Unless you are in Newark)! I never knew that there were family friendly screening lines, that is awesome!

  14. I just recently flew for the first time in years. The rules to follow can be daunting and quite confusing at times. I had to throw away a bottle of medicine because it was too big. Thank you for all the pointers!

  15. Jaonna Clute says:

    My daughter recently took a trip with her children that included several flights. She had planned well, but had not idea what to expect when trying to juggle all the bags she packed to keep from having to check or lose them and wrangle a two year old that was refusing to go any further. Good times.

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