Airport Security: A Survival Guide for Parents
Before you and your baby even board the flight, you must run the gauntlet of TSA Security. This can be a daunting task indeed, what with all of the luggage, special items and carriers your little one requires in flight, and all the post-9/11 rules passengers must adhere to when going through security. Here’s a guide to help prevent the pre-flight security check from becoming the most overwhelming experience of the entire trip.
Try to pick your battles
It is tempting to get frustrated with your baby or toddler when they are causing a scene or being generally uncooperative in an already high-stress environment like the security checkpoint. Try to see things from their point of view- they are somewhere odd and confusing that they’ve never been before, full of weird beeping sounds, adults who sometimes sound like they’re yelling- and even their own parents are acting stressed out and rushed! Who wouldn’t throw a tantrum in that situation? Comforting, rather than scolding your little one might make all the difference and defuse the tantrum before it even begins. If stopping what you are doing in the security line to comfort your little son or daughter earns you the evil eye from a fellow traveler or a security agent, just remember that you’ll likely never see these people again, and that taking a couple extra seconds to reassure your little one can change the tone of the whole travel experience.
Make Blankie disappear stealthily
On a flight to Pennsylvania, my then-2 year old son had a complete meltdown when a security guard told me to put his blanket in one of the bins on the conveyor belt. Having to walk through the screening area without his Blankie for approximately 45 seconds turned my previously happy little traveler into a red-faced, sobbing ball of tears. Just a heads-up- the TSA agents will not allow even the tiniest passengers to bring their blankets, teddy bears, or other comforting toys through the scanners and insist that all items go on the conveyor belts. To minimize the fallout, simply take the lovey away seconds before walking through the scanner, and retrieve it on the other side before any of your other possessions, including your wallet and phone. Another method is to distract your tot with a snack before entering the security zone and then hiding the blankie while they’re not paying attention. On the upside, if your little one enjoys a pacifier, the good news is that they can keep those in their mouths for comfort the whole way through, so you don’t have to go through the ordeal of taking Binky away.
Disassemble the stroller while you’re still in line
Have one of those strollers with the baby car seat that clips inside? Don’t learn the hard way like I did- make sure you have that thing unclipped, folded and on the conveyor belt with the car seat flipped upside down before you even take off your shoes. Nothing will make fellow travelers give you the old stink-eye like having to wait for you to struggle with baby equipment. Having it done ahead of time will minimize stress and possibly give you a chance to surreptitiously separate baby from her blankie (see above).
Hand over all liquids immediately
This includes breast milk, water in baby bottles (for formula), and any medications you or baby might need in-flight. A TSA agent will test the liquids with special pH strips that determine that there is nothing harmful in the liquids without having to run the bottles through an X-ray. Taking a moment to turn over all of your liquids as you approach the conveyor belt can save you the time (and embarrassment) of being detained after all of your other carry-on items have gone through the conveyor belt.
This may actually be the most important advice of all. A smile can go a long way with other travelers, TSA agents, and even your own spouse and kids! Engaging someone with a smile and a positive attitude can disarm people and make them want to help you out. Just try to stay upbeat about the whole process and focus on the trip ahead with your young family.
When it’s your first time traveling as a family, it’s easy to get anxiety thinking about all the things that could go wrong. With a little knowledge, preparation, and the right tools we know you can get through it with your sanity intact.
Download Flying With Kids from the app store today to get started with your planning and preparation for a great flight and amazing trip.