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TSA Travel Tips Tuesday: Reducing Stress When Flying with Children

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Tuesday, June 04, 2013
Traveling With Kids Banner

As summer approaches, we typically see an increase in travelers with infants and children. Whether you’re an experienced frequent business traveler or an infrequent leisure traveler, here are some tips to help you navigate the security process with children of all ages. Using these tips and carefully preparing your children ahead of time can help you save time at the airport and get you through the screening process as quickly as possible.

Before You Leave for the Airport:

  • Check out and Download the My TSA App: Visit the Traveling with Children page on to help you prepare. You can also download the free My TSA iPhone, Android and mobile web app to get information anytime, anywhere. In the Guide on the app, you can check out the Traveling with Children page, get other packing tips and security information, and if you’re TSA Pre✓® eligible, you can find out what checkpoint to go to for expedited screening. Click here to find out how to download the app.
  • Both and the My TSA app have a “Can I Bring?” tool where you can type in an item and see if it is permitted in carry-on baggage, checked baggage or prohibited. To get the best use of the tool, keep your submission simple by not using brand names (type in baby formula, not Carnation baby formula) and don’t include numbers (like “two bottles of juice”).
  • Check any bag your child packed themselves: Of course your child means no harm, but sometimes they put things in their backpack or other bag that will alarm and lead to a secondary bag check, like a toy gun or a plastic toy hand grenade. (The toy grenade will actually shut down the checkpoint, and nobody wants that.) If your child is bringing a favorite toy or stuffed animal, be sure to tell them that it will have to go through the X-ray machine at the checkpoint so they won’t be upset later.
  • Don’t Forget the Liquids Rule when Packing Snacks: If you’re packing snacks for your kids,dried fruit, nuts, granola bars, cereals, crackers, pretzels and cookies are all good options, but please remember that drinks, yogurt, and other food and drink items fall under the TSA 3-1-1 rule for liquids, aerosols and gels in carry-ons. A recap of the rule is that you are allowed to bring containers of up to 3.4 fluid ounces, as long as they all fit in one quart-sized, clear zip-top bag. One bag is allowed per traveler. The easiest way to figure out if it’s a liquid, aerosol or gel is if you can pour it, pump it, squeeze it, spread it, smear it, spray it or spill it.Medically necessary liquids, such as baby formula, medications, and breast milk are allowed in larger quantities, but pack them in a way you can present them for inspection at the checkpoint.
  • If you don’t want to purchase a drink for your child after the checkpoint and can’t wait for the beverage service on the plane, you can bring an empty sippy cup or other cup and some single packets of powdered drink mix and fill the cup with water from a water fountain.

At the Security Checkpoint:

  • Kids Get to Keep Their Shoes On: TSA allows children 12 and younger to keep their shoes on during security screening.
  • Toys, Stuffed Animals and Blankets Go on the Belt: While you’re in line, remind children that their favorite items will have to pass through the X-ray machine and will only be away from them for a short time. Some parents tell their child that Teddy is getting his yearly check-up by going through the X-ray belt. However you choose to tell them, make sure your child knows they can’t walk through the metal detectors or AIT units with their toy.
  • Strollers, Baby Carriers, Booster Seats also go through X-ray - All child-related equipment that can fit through the X-ray machine should be put on the belt, including collapsible strollers, umbrella-strollers, baby carriers, car and booster seats, backpacks, and baby slings. Make sure your stroller folds easily so that you can collapse it before you put it on the belt and then re-open it as soon as you’ve completed screening. Also, be sure to check with your airline for any carry-on restrictions related to your equipment.
  • Baggies Go in the Bin: Be sure to have your zip-top bag with liquids, aerosols and gels handy, and pull it out of your carry-on bag or purse and put it in one of the bins on the X-ray machine belt. Be sure to declare any medically necessary liquids (breast milk, formula, medications, etc.) at the checkpoint, because they may require additional screening. Before you leave the checkpoint, check all of your bins to make sure you haven’t forgotten anything.
  • Most Electronics Can Stay in Carry-on Bags: If your child is bringing a portable gaming system or other personal electronic device to keep them entertained on the flight, you can leave it in their carry-on bag when going through the X-ray. If you’re taking a full-game console or a DVD player with you, that will have to come out of the bag and be put in a separate bin.
  • Security Officers are Available to Assist You: Many of our security officers are parents themselves and understand how stressful traveling with children and the security process can be. If you need help during the security process or your child becomes upset,security officers will help you get through the process and consult with you about the best way to relieve the child's concern.
  • If You’re TSA Pre✓® Eligible, so are Your Children: If your child is 12 or younger, he or she can also use the TSA Pre✓® expedited screening lane when traveling with you.

TSA Blog Team

If you have a travel related issue or question that needs an immediate answer, you can contact us by clicking here.


Submitted by Anonymous on


Can you comment on the moderation policy here? It seems that the TSA blog likes to allow the first few "Go team, go team, rah rah rah!" posts to come in pretty quickly.

But as soon as the comments turn toward criticism of the TSA, the moderation slows to a snail's pace-- until the post is away from the front page of the blog, anyway. Then the critical comments get unleashed-- hey, nobody's looking at that point, right?

Relying on your delete-o-meter to prove your impartiality is disingenuous; you're still trying to unfairly steer the conversation away from criticisms by holding TSA-critical comments in the moderation queue for an inordinate amount of time.

I humbly suggest that posts be displayed with two distinct timestamps: the time and date of submission, and the time and date of moderator approval. That way we can see just how long it takes for comments to be approved.

Or maybe you could actually do your job by allowing the critical comments through at the same pace as your fan posts, and responding to the valid questions being asked of you by the TSA's critics. Can ya handle that, Bobby?

Submitted at approximately 1505 Central time, 4 June 2013.

Submitted by Anonymous on

How do we prepare our kids for the trauma they will face upon turning 13, knowing that their shoes go from innocent pieces of clothing to potentially lethal bombs?

And how do we explain to our teenagers who have traveled abroad that their shoes are perfectly fine overseas but somehow potential explosives on US soil?

Or is there no scientific evidence at all that shoes present any risk whatsoever?

[Screenshot taken. This post meets commenting guidelines.]

Submitted by Anonymous on

Good 3-1-1 reminder!

Submitted by Anonymous on

Hey TSA Team.

If this could be done inexpensively, could you guys get someone in media relations to whip up a kid-friendly video of what to expect when going to the airport? You could put it on YouTube, and parents about to travel with their kids could let them watch. Let them see - before leaving home - that Teddy gets to go through the X-ray, and maybe show what Teddy looks like when he goes through, and so on.

Submitted by Anonymous on

What is the scientific reason for not allowing brand name peanut butter or jelly in unopened jars with consumer seals intact in carry on luggage?

Submitted by Anonymous on

What happens when my 9 year old "Opts Out" of the body scanner?

Submitted by Anonymous on

For traveling _around_ kids, I suggest Nyquil, Earplugs, and a double Whiskey. I carry 5-10 pairs of foam ear-plugs in my carry-on bag so the passengers in my entire ROW on the aircraft can deal with the noise of the temper tantrum happening four to five rows back.

Submitted by Mike Wallette on

Wrong, Bob. In the post-9/11 era, the *only* way to reduce stress while traveling, thanks to you and your coworkers, is to avoid the airlines altogether. I refuse to be groped in order to exercise my right to travel.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Why are public criticisms addressing TSA employees' insulting comments on this blog and the TSA Blog Team's approval process not being posted? Inter-commenter comments are often approved, so there can't be a rules violation.

What is going on? And why are comments not being approved in general? Are you all on vacation?

Submitted by Wintermute on

Anonymous said...

What happens when my 9 year old "Opts Out" of the body scanner?

If a 9-year old is being directed to a body scanner, then a TSO doesn't know that kids 12 and under are supposed to no get either the strip search or the full grope... But that doesn't surprise me, as the TSA employs the otherwise unemployable to do this task.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Will breast milk have to go through x ray screening? And if so, is this safe?

Submitted by Anonymous on

I'm pretty sure my child is going to be a basketball star. HUGE feet, VERY tall. At 10, he can pass for 13 or 14 he's so tall.

His shoes are similarly sized.

See where I'm going with this? He's got shoes as large as his mother's. Yet his mother takes off her shoes, and he doesn't.

Why is the TSA basing the policy on the age of the kid, and not the size of the shoe?

Submitted by RB on

TSA Blog Team

Is there a new TSA Blog Team member? No introduction?


Seems once again that the DHS OIG is finding that TSA's SPOT program has no valid reason to exist. From FlyerTalk.

The Transportation Security Administration has little evidence that an airport passenger screening program, which some employees believe is a magnet for racial profiling and has cost taxpayers nearly one billion dollars, screens passengers objectively, according to a report by the inspector general for the Homeland Security Department. :Close Quote.

Would TSA like to comment on why TSA continues to fund (with taxpayer monies) an expensive program that adds nothing to security?

A recent revelation tells us that TSA screeners have a term when they forcibly strike a persons genitals during a pat down. The term is reported to be "Splitting the Uprights". The first question has to be if TSA Rub Downs require the fondling of peoples genitals. The second is how can TSA screeners commit these assaults on innocent travelers and not be subject to criminal complaints.

Comment TSA?

Submitted by Anonymous on

Why is shoe removal still required? The rest of the world no longer requires it. It makes even less sense when someone age 13 or 74 has to remove their shoes, but someone 12 or 75 does not.

Submitted by Anonymous on

I prepare my kids for flying by telling them that if anyone ever touches them inappropriately that they will yell as loudly as possible "this person is touching me inappropriately!" while kicking, screaming, biting, fighting, or doing whatever it takes to make the criminal assaulter back off while drawing attention from nearby good samaritans who will intervene.

This is good advice for your kids of any age, whether they are young, teenagers, or in their fifties.

Submitted by RB on

Exactly what does it cost taxpayers for the TSA Blog to exist?

We know there are computers, servers, office space with utilities, maintenance and such for those spaces, and of course the manpower, both that of the bloggers time and legal staffing of these articles plus any other expenses.

So tell us TSA just how much is this PR blog costing America?

Is this just another case like we are seeing over at IRS where our tax monies are being squandered by government?

Submitted by Anonymous on

I'm waiting for Bob's post in reaction to the DHS Inspector General audit of the SPOT program. The audit report concluded that "TSA cannot ensure that passengers at United States airports are screened objectively, show that
the program is cost-effective, or reasonably justify the program's expansion."

Bob is probably writing the post right now, entitled "SPOT Program Better Than Ever!"

Submitted by RB on

I see from the TSA Delete-O-Meter that TSA is not posting almost 40% of all comments that are submitted to the blog.

Why not put those unacceptable comments in there own thread and let the public see exactly what is being censored.

Surely TSA has nothing to hide about its massive free speech censorship operation.

Submitted by Anonymous on

I'm disappointed that the TSA is not allowing knives onboard planes. Why can't people bring 2" long, 1/2" wide pocket knives onboard a plane? I guess terrorists will just stick with a pair of 4" scissors (basically two knives hinged together) or 12" knitting needles that are allowed onboard. They can also take the metal steak knives that are given out in restaurants post security or given out with first class meals.

Nobody is taking over a plane anymore with a knife or boxcutter. They won't be able to get into the cockpit and the other passengers will beat them senseless.

I don't agree with a lot of TSA policies, but I felt the new knife policy was a step in the right direction. I'm disappointed to see that the TSA caved into the pressure and reversed their decision.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Hey Bob,

Bummer about the TSA folding on lifting the knife ban.

That was one thing the TSA wanted to do that I supported.

Submitted by RB on

So I can bring a sharp pair of scissors "Scissors - metal with pointed tips and blades shorter than 4 inches are allowed" on the airplane but I cannot bring my small "Old Timer", with the longest blade being just under two inches, on the airplane.

If TSA screening rules made any sense perhaps the public would have some faith in other aspects of TSA's Security Theater but you guys aren't even working at it.

TSA FAIL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Submitted by Anonymous on

Are we ever going to see any sort of commentary about your agency's continued persecution of John Brennan, or is it just going to be more fluff about stuff that we already know and stuff that your agency is constantly mocked for enforcing?

Submitted by Anonymous on

I prepare my children for the checkpoint by telling them that we have to pass through an area where the people in charge pretend to be police, and sometimes they like to be mean to people and rub them all over their bodies. I say, this probably won't happen to us, but if we run into any problems with the pretend police, we will cancel our trip rather than let them do yucky things to us. I also say, if we do have any problems, it's just fine if you freak out and cry -- in fact it will help our situation.

Submitted by Anonymous on

The best advice for families traveling with children..."Stay away from the TSA."

Submitted by Anonymous on

Why wasn't my comment about “Can I Bring?” posted?

It's valuable info, I think, to report that TSA's web site does not have info about civil rights and liberty.

Submitted by @SkyWayManAz on

Anonymous said...

"It's valuable info, I think, to report that TSA's web site does not have info about civil rights and liberty."

I've questioned this before on here and it is interesting that nowhere on the TSA site does it state what our rights as travelers are. There are a lot of links to different things, some of them dead links. Nothing really organized and straight forward. There are prominent links for TSA employee civil rights. While that is important for any employer to be transparent about I think it says something about the agency's priorities.

Submitted by JRod on

I am taking my 13 and 15 year old children to their TSA GOES interview. What document can I use that proves where they live? There is no utility bill in their name. thank you.

Submitted by Paul Koppel on

Travelling with your kids might be stressful. Prepare your kids before the trip, tell the do's and don't in the trip. Plan ahead before the trip and carry some stuff like coloring books, favorite doll for your kid. Plan some surprise for your kids or for whole family, this can reduce your stress. Have fun during your travel and try to manage yourstress.

Submitted by Alex on

interesting post....

Submitted by John on

Nobody is taking over a plane anymore with a knife or boxcutter. They won't be able to get into the cockpit and the other passengers will beat them senseless.

Submitted by School Smarts on

Yes indeed travelling with a child is very stressful. We travel often as my husband works out of town and its so hard with a restless toddler especially at the security check when everything comes off. The worst is having to take the shoes off of my toddler. Recently when we flew I was told my son could keep his shoes on, not sure what has changed but having check in lines especially for families with children would help.

Submitted by Competitive Edge on

well everything related to kids is stressful because the attachment of their parents to the kids is big... the rules are there with a purpose. can you see the positive aspects?

Submitted by Frank Jane on

The best advice for families traveling with children. You also will need a combo of stroller and carseat for your trip!

Submitted by Anonymous on

If you can't control your child, pack them with the check-ins, please...

Submitted by Unknown on

Can you pack unopened cereal in your checked bags going to Europe?

Submitted by Meg Learner on

Travelling with children CAN be very stressful, especially if a child has special needs of any kind or is very young. Carrying a small bag of new items that will engage the child's attention is helpful. I used to have colouring books and pencils, playing cards (children's type) like "snap" and matching pictures. Remember whatever you bring has to be light, fit into something you can carry on and not too fiddly to play with in a waiting area or on the plane. You can also download and print out stories from the internet, which may be lighter than bringing books.

Submitted by Easy Baby Tote on

I am planning to travel from Brazil to the US this month and it is good to know the rules regarding a traveling with kids. I am super nervous about how our 9 month old will handle the experience. On top of that my wife is sure to bring everything including the kitchen sink. I am curious to know if anyone has done a month long trip with a youngin traveling about the country and if so, to comment on the best strollers to bring on a month long trip like this.

Ann Royston

Submitted by Turkish Grand Bazaar on

The best advice for families traveling with children..."Stay away from the TSA." :) This is a Grand mistake my friend.. :))

Submitted by Elle on

So my child doesn’t eat pre made baby food, it has to be fresh. Could I bring fruits and vegetables that I would have to mush into baby food on the plane?

Submitted by Sandi C on

Even my 8 year old knows that there was once a bad guy who tried to blow up a plane with a bomb in his shoes. Surely that can be explained to a teenager. It's not traumatic if you present it properly. And as far as different rules in different countries.....that's self explanatory. Every country has different laws, this is no different.

Submitted by Farrah on

Can you please advise on traveling with actual food for your baby?? Ie. cooked organic pancakes, organic mac n cheese, organic fruits, etc. I don't want to be forced to rely on airport food to feed them.

Submitted by John-ATL on

My wife receives priority checkpoint access when she flies. In Atlanta this week, she was travelling with our 9 and 17 year old children. TSA refused access to the priority line for the children as PRIORITY CHECKPOINT was not printed on their boarding passes. I am talking to Delta and they don't understand why the children would not be able to accompany the parent. This is done for PreCheck every day.

Submitted by Andrea on

Can you list approved car seats for airplane travel please, for infants and toddlers? Or can you tell parents what description/features to look for when shopping for car sests for airplane travel?
Thank You.

Submitted by Seriously?? on

I seriously doubt a 13 year old will be traumatized from having to take their shoes off if u expalin to them it is for everyone's safety I think they will be just fine

Submitted by Cfranco on

Your 9 year old wouldn’t go through the body scanner, they’re eligible for the walk through metal detector screening

Submitted by Anonymous on

Do gummy fruit snacks have to be in a liquids bag or can they be in a carry on?

Submitted by Darth Vader on

This whole page seems to be out of date --