Navigating Airport Security Lines with Babies and Toddlers

 In Airlines, Travel Tips

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. 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.


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.

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Showing 14 comments
  • Michele @ Malaysian Meanders

    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 a extra inspection, and after I got my shoes on, I realized that my kids had already left the TSA area without me.

  • Rebecca Hanson

    Wish we could print this and hand out to every person traveling alone with children. Tragic that some folk will always be a disorganized mess at this, let alone after they are on the plane.

    Have to admit, it took a couple disorganized flights before learning, but my kids became veteran travelers very young. not everyone travels as much as we have, but these are excellent travel tips, with or without children in tow. wish airline travel still had the cache of pre-9/11.

  • Steve

    Great tips Keryn! 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.

  • Mom

    As you know, I’m also veteran airline traveler and I still hate security lines, no matter how prepared! Let me underscore, that all valuables (laptop, money, passport)should be the first in and then out of the screening machine and the first thing into your hands. Unfortunately, there are those who are also waiting to snatch your valuables while you are distracted by little ones!

    • Going to have to disagree with you on this one mom. If I’m traveling with another adult this works well. One parent can go through security first to start grabbing stuff off the belt while the other stays back to continue feeding things through. If I am traveling by myself with the kids though I hold the most valuable till the end so that it is the last thing I push through. This way I can get through the metal detectors with the kids and it will just be coming out on the other side when I pass through instead of waiting there for a couple of minutes.

  • Kate

    Love these tips! Yes, could we please post this around airports everywhere? 🙂 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.

    • Good point Kate! I should clarify in the post that we do grab our stuff and move to a bench away from the belt. 10 people piled up trying to get to the belt definitely does not help and that’s how stuff gets left behind!

  • Average Traveller

    Back in the day I was an expert business traveller. I had a place in my carry on for things from each pocket that I could fill up while in line for security. I had the ‘dance’ perfectly choreographed and I was proud of the fact that I could breeze through the whole process while barely even slowing down from a brisk walking pace….. until the first time that I travelled with a 4 month old.

    Carrying my baby him held out in front of me as we went through the metal detector I could see in the agent’s reaction that we had set off the machine. I realized that I had left my keys in my pocket so took them out and dropped them in the little bowl. On the second try I realized that I still had my phone in my pocket. I don’t even remember what I had forgotten on the third try because all I can think of is the pat down, but it was almost worth it to see them do a diaper check. Luckily the pat downs were much less invasive back then.

  • harley @ travel ant

    Great tips and it is something that requires planning and thought, especially for frequent flyers as it can be quite a stressful ordeal on your own never mind with kids. As you have shown it is all about planning, organisation and preparation.

  • Alyson

    That just about sums it up. I would add, don’t wear combat type trousers with lots of pockets unless you want to be searched EVERY time, even as a Mummy. And make sure your child hasn’t packed his toy gun. It happened to me, took months to get the toy back, which gives me an idea for a post!

  • Robin

    My issue always is that my son wants to take off his shoes like mommy and daddy. And now daughter wants to do it too because she hears her brother. I tired warning them, talking to them, threatening and bribing. Nothing works on my headstrong children. I’ve now given up and let them take them off if they want to. A few times and the novelty wore off.

    Another point is in India, they split up women and men. An adult can take children under 6 with them (those as you imagine, the women guards are more used to this and handle it better) Warning a child helps with the seperate on, usually (unless they are particularly cranky that morning).

  • Karyn Allen

    That’s beautiful. love the boy