We’ve spent a LOT of time in airports with our 6 kiddos and have gone through security hundreds and hundreds of times. I remember how it felt a lot more stressful the first few times I went through, especially by myself with a baby, but it gets a lot easier with practice. So if it feels difficult or scary to you right now, that’s okay! Know that it will work out and both you and your kiddos will get better with practice.
Here are some of our best tips for helping making airport security with kids go smoothly. I hope these tips for how to get through airport security with a baby and kids are helpful, and feel free to drop any questions or other tips in the comments to help out other parents!
Kids (and adults!) tend to do best when there are clear expectations for behavior and also for what is going to happen. Even if you’ve gone through security before, have a quick conversation beforehand about what will be happening. Here are some suggestions for things to share:
- They’ll need to remove any backpacks and any big coats (and anything from pockets) but won’t need to remove shoes if they’re under 12
- Their items will go on a moving belt and through a box, but they’ll get them back on the other side
- They’ll need to dump out any water from water bottles in advance
- They need to stay close by but will likely need to walk through the security check without holding an adult’s hand (when both Dan and I are traveling together, we like to have one adult go first and one adult go last)
- They should keep their eyes and ears open for their stuff and for any directions
- They should try to hold any non-urgent questions until after the security check
Use TSA PreCheck and/or Check for A Family Line
Nothing is worse than waiting for ages in a queue and then trying to get kiddos to cooperate through the actual security check. Cut down on wait times by using a TSA PreCheck line (kids under 18 are allowed with an adult and don’t need their own membership) – we get our membership for free with our favorite travel credit card. It also means you don’t need to remove shoes, which is MUCH easier if you’re going through security with a baby. If PreCheck isn’t an option, ask if there’s a family lane. Even if one isn’t specifically marked, airports will often allow families through to the front.
Leave Anything Remotely Resembling a Weapon At Home
This includes toy guns, pocketknives and more. Have your kids check their stuff and then check again to make sure they don’t have anything that will get taken.
Feed Baby Before Getting in Line
You never know exactly how long security is going to take, and it can be stressful to have a baby screaming in hunger while standing and waiting. If possible, try to give baby a feed before hopping in line – a quick nursing/bottle session or a snack.
Separate Liquids in Advance
You definitely do not want to be fumbling through your bag looking for that little bottle of contact solution while standing at the security belt. Instead, gather all your liquids in a clear quart-sized zip top bag in advance so it’s easy to pull out the whole bag.
Pull Out Any Larger Liquids
Did you know you can actually take more liquids than typically allowed if you need them for your baby? You’re allowed to carry things like breast milk, formula, and liquid medications in as large quantities as you need, regardless of whether your baby is with you (and these things are not related to age of baby). Things like liquid food pouches are also generally allowed even for toddlers and older kiddos.
Water in quantities greater than 3.4oz is allowed for babies and usually other younger children in reasonable quantities, though that sometimes depends on the exact airport and agent helping. If it’s a container that can be filled (like a reusable bottle of water), they’ll typically open the bottle and hold a test strip over the top to test it. It only takes a minute or so and is very simple. To expedite the process, go ahead and pull out any of these items and give them a heads up that you have them for your baby so they’ll be aware before they go through.
This is not the time when you want the security sensor to beep because you have a metal bracket on your pants. Dress in soft, comfortable clothing without lots of metal parts (remember hair clips, too!). This is also helpful for getting a baby carrier on and off if needed.
Wear Slip On Shoes or Tie Laces Loosely to Easily Slip On & Off
In the event you’re in an airport where you do need to remove your shoes (many airports outside the US require this), it’s MUCH easier to have ones that slip on and off easily. Avoid needing to tie up laces if possible!
Sometimes, though, you really just do need those bulkier, more complicated shoes – when we’ve done winter travel, especially, I sometimes just need to wear my heavy, lace-up hiking boots on the flight. In those cases, I like to loosen my boots and retie the laces very loosely. That way, they stay contained so I don’t trip over them, but I can easily slip the boots off and back on until I get somewhere I can comfortably sit and retie them properly.
Keep Documents Contained
There’s so much going on at security that it’s easy to misplace items like passports and boarding passes, especially if you have more than one. We’ve used and loved this family passport holder for years – it makes it easy to keep everything contained and has an outside slot for boarding passes so they’re easily accessible. (We also have this less expensive one and it also works great.)
Use Comfortable & Easily Removable Bags
I far prefer using a backpack to a crossbody and usually even a small rolling suitcase when flying with a baby. It’s comfortable and easy to navigate, and leaves both my hands free. Here’s the backpack I really love using for travel – it’s 40L so plenty roomy for stuff for me and baby, but has been allowed on all flights I’ve taken, even ones that only allow a personal item. It’s technically a kids’ pack but it fits my frame perfectly and is cheaper than adult packs (I’m 5’4″).
I also REALLY love this diaper belt bag if I’m not carrying stuff for multiple kids – it’s plenty roomy for a couple diapers, passports, and snacks, and keeps everything easily accessible. It even has a wet wipes pocket and credit card slots. (You can use code PASSPORTFAM10 for 10% off your order.)
Wear Baby in a Carrier if Possible
Sometimes it makes more sense to have a stroller with you if your baby is older, you or baby don’t like the carrier, you need a stroller at your destination, etc. But if you can comfortably wear your baby through the airport, I find it much easier than needing to deal with a stroller through the security check.
Wait To Remove Baby from A Carrier
Speaking of carriers, you often will not need to remove baby from a soft-sided carrier before going through the security check. You can often leave baby on and then they’ll quickly swipe your hands on the other side to test them. Some airports, however, do require you to remove baby, so just be aware that it’s a possibility. (This is one reason I prefer a soft structured carrier to something like a wrap in airports – easier and faster to get on and off.)
Clear Out Your Stroller
There have been multiple times when we’ve tossed something in the bottom basket of the stroller and then totally forgotten about it until going through security. Not only does it take longer to check, but they’re at risk of falling out and/or breaking. Not worth the hassle! Try to remember to do a clean out in advance.
Be Prepared to Remove Electronics
While different airports have different rules around this, some require removal of all electronics from bags. I like to try to contain them in one bag as much as possible for this reason. Have a mental inventory of laptops, cameras, and even Kindles so you can easily pull them out to put in the tray.
Take Your Time
There’s no award for being the fastest one through security. It’s fine if you take longer and everyone else will survive just fine if you take a few extra minutes.. It’s better than forgetting something or feeling really stressed. Just be sure to get to the airport with enough extra time!
Ask For Help If You Need It
If you’re struggling to get your carry ons up on the moving belt or with folding your stroller or anything else, ask for help. People tend to be kind and helpful, especially when they know you have little ones in tow, and I’ve always found someone to help when needed. If someone doesn’t offer, don’t be afraid to ask!
IF YOU LIKED THIS POST WITH AIRPORT SECURITY TIPS WITH A BABY & KIDS, YOU MIGHT LIKE THESE POSTS TOO:
- 20+ Tips for Flying with a Toddler
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