Airport Security with Kids

airport waiting

There is nothing some travelers dread more than going through airport security. This is not because they have something to hide. They just don’t like the hassle.

Let’s just throw a few kids into that mix.

You watch as the TSA agent looks at you like you’re a walking migraine. Fellow passengers that were unlucky enough to get behind you give you the stink eye because they equate you to the plague.

I’m here to tell you that I can get my kids and I through any security line faster than most business travelers.

Yes. It’s true.

How do I do it? Simple. I come prepared to move and move quickly.

What you need to know about your kids:

  • Shoes. Here in the USA kids are now allowed to wear their shoes through security. This has helped parents avoid hours (ok, minutes really) of precious time not having to grab their screaming toddler who does NOT want to take off his shoes.
  • Strollers. You cannot push your child in a stroller through the metal detectors in the USA, at least not in any airport I have seen. Get in line with your stroller ready to fold up and toss on the conveyor belt if possible.
  • Car seats. Babies can not go on the conveyor belt or through the metal detectors in a car seat. Plan accordingly so you baby is out and ready to walk through with you while their seat goes for a separate ride for a few minutes.
  • Baby Carriers. You can carry your infant in an ErgoBaby carrier or similar baby carrier through security. You will just have to step aside so an agent can swab your hands and test for chemicals. This should only delay you about 2 minutes, which for me is well worth it if I don’t have to wake up a sleeping baby or wrestle him back into the carrier once I am through.

What you need to know about your stuff:

  • Laptops. Have your laptop in your hands in line before you even get up to the belt. Some countries also make you take out Kindles and other tablets so have those ready as well.
  • Liquids. Like you laptop, have your liquids ready to go. Keep them at the top of your purse or another easily accessible bag that you don’t have to go digging through.
  • Shoes. Wear easy to slip on and off shoes whenever possible. Tying laces will only slow you down.
  • Belts and Jewelry. Pack your belt and any metal jewelry in one of your carry-ons to be put on after you are through security. This will save you precious minutes in line. Instead of trying to undress you can concentrate on stopping little legs from running ahead of you.

How I roll through security:

  1. Before I have even left the house I have my laptop and all liquids in one small, light weight, foldable tote bag.
  2. Ty is always strapped onto me. Dek is either in the umbrella stroller or holding my hand as we get into the security line.
  3. Once we are almost to the front of the security line Dek hops out of the stroller and I close it up, ready to go on the belt.
  4. When we are at the belt, I start grabbing bins
    1. Laptop in bin 1
    2. Liquids, coats and shoes in bin 2
    3. Purse in bin 3
  5. Stroller goes on the belt first so it is ready when I am on the other side to have stuff (or a child) thrown into it.
  6. All bins go onto the belt closely followed by my backpack, which will later hold my laptop
  7. After we walk through the metal detector I grab jackets and toss them in the stroller. I scoop up everything else and move us to a bench. Shoes get put back on, my laptop is popped into the back of my backpack where the case is waiting with open arms (or in this case zipper), and liquids get thrown into my purse.
Bonus tip: If my husband is flying with us I will go through the metal detectors first with the kids so I can start pulling stuff off the belt as it goes through inspection. Mike will push everything through and then bring up the rear to help me move our stuff to a bench to quickly reassemble.

Suddenly TSA agents are looking at me with a little respect. My fellow passengers jaws are still on the floor as they are rummaging around trying to find their laptop in their massive laptop bags.

Going through security does not have to be tough. With a little organization you really can breeze on through as if you didn’t have a few extra little hands to hold.

Keep your cool, stick to your plan and you won’t be dreading security lines anymore. You can just dread waiting at the gate and lining up to get on the plane now instead.

More tips and tricks from fellow travelers: 

Michele @ Malaysian Meanders says: Two more tips for when your kids get a little older:
1. Make sure that your child has not packed liquids in their backpacks unbeknownst to you. My boy once tried to sneak a bottle of ketchup through security.
2. Make sure your kids know where to wait after clearing security. My carry-on needed an extra inspection, and after I got my shoes on, I realized that my kids had already left the TSA area without me.

Steve @ More Kids than Suitcases says: Here’s another one for you when you’re traveling with all your kids electronics in one bag: iPads and kindles don’t have to come out of the bag when going through security (in the US), but they can’t be stacked on top of each other. Apparently the machine can only see through one or two of them, and after that you will get pulled aside to have your bag inspected. I used to keep all the electronics in one bag, but now we split them up and each child takes their own so we don’t get delayed.

Kate @ Wild Tales Of says: My biggest thing is after you get through the metal detector, grab your stuff, and get out of the way! This is not the area to put on shoes, and rearrange yourself.

Meagan @ Mini Globetrotters says: When your toddler is about to lose it because s/he doesn’t want to let go of their stuffed animal/lovey, explain that the security people like [insert animals name] so much, they want to take a picture of him!  For some reason, it seems to calm my little guy and make security guards less scary, knowing that they’re ‘taking pictures’ of our stuff!