With the kickoff of the summer travel season, I thought I’d talk a little about traveling with the little crumb-snatchers.
Reduce the Stress for Kids: Let’s face it, checkpoints seem like busy and noisy places to children (and some adults too) and the prime place for a potential meltdown. By knowing the procedures and taking a few tips, we can’t guarantee you’ll prevent a meltdown, but you’ll have a better shot at gliding through the hoop with only net. If your child is old enough to understand, talk to them and let them know what to expect. Explain what the checkpoint is for and what they’re going to have to do. For some children, getting an idea of what the security checkpoint is helps to reduce stress and apprehension.
We Can’t Hold Your Child: Our officers would love to help you out and hold your child, but for liability reasons, they’re not allowed. If your hands are full and an officer doesn’t offer to help (most do), let them know that you need some help and they’ll help you through the checkpoint.
Children 12 and Under: Children 12 and under can leave their shoes, light jackets and headwear on during screening.
We Have To Screen Blankies, Etc.: If your child has a favorite toy or blanket that they never let go of, explain to them in advance that it’s going to have to take a trip through the X-ray tunnel and they’ll get it right back. (You may wonder why we have to screen such innocent items? Because people will try to hide prohibited items or weapons in them - we once found a gun hidden inside of a teddy bear.)
Don’t Send Your Kids Through the X-ray: I know the unwritten parenting rule of never waking a sleeping baby, but our officers can’t allow you to put your infant in their infant carrier through the X-ray to let them continue their nap. Yes, we’ve been asked many times, and no, you can’t.
We Will Not Separate You From Your Children (even if you want us to): If your child has to undergo secondary screening, you will go with your child. This may require you to be screened as well, but this works out, because the child gets to see it happen to you and that it’s no big deal. You can also request a private screening if you don’t want your child to be screened in public. We will not ask you to do anything that will separate you from your child or children.
Baby Formula, Breast Milk, Medicines & Juice: Medications, baby formula and food, breast milk, and juice are allowed in reasonable quantities exceeding 3.4 ounces (100ml) and are not required to be in the zip-top bag. Declare these items for inspection at the checkpoint. Click here to learn more about 3-1-1.
Snack Time!: Kids love their snacks. Food items that are in the form of a liquid or gel are generally not permitted however, items such as cakes, bread, donuts, ham sandwiches, etc. are all permitted. Here is a list of items that are prohibited at the checkpoint ... Creamy dips and spreads (cheeses, peanut butter, jams and salad dressings, jams, jellies, maple syrup, and soups).
Double Check Your Child’s Bag: Your child might want to take their toy gun or sword in their carry-on bag and think nothing of it. In the X-ray, toy hand grenades, guns and knives can look just like the real thing, and will hold you up at the checkpoint. To be safe, you might double check your child’s carry-on to make sure none of these items are in there.
Children with Disabilities: If your child has a disability or medical condition, please read our separate section on traveling with Children with Disabilities.
ID Questions: If your child is younger than 18, they are not required to have ID to travel. They’ll just need their boarding pass.
Advanced Imaging Technology: Just as with adults, Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT) screening is optional for all passengers, including children. If you would prefer, you may request alternate screening for your children, which could include a pat-down.
There are many expert travelers out there in the blogosphere that have some great advice. Seek it out for many more great tips from some travel hardened road warriors. For example, check out Jet with Kids.
TSA Blog Team