Safe and Serene at Airport Security

by Jessica on April 27, 2011

My chronological experiences as a traveling parent read like a history book of increased airport security. Because my first child was born about nine months before the September 11th attacks, my travels with children have been subjected to greater and greater security measures with each passing year. In my mind, I can attach certain increases in security to different trips with kids of different ages.

For example, I had one infant in a sling when it was decided that parents could no longer carry their children through security without extra screening. It was that same year with a slightly older baby that I was subjected to extra screening because I had packed a baby spork in my carry on. Then, I had two toddlers when we all (even babies wearing flip flops) had to remove our shoes to pass through security. I had two preschoolers and an infant when liquids were banned from flights. One of my best airport memories is passing through security and being forced to pour the juice from their sippy cups while they wailed inconsolably. Good times.

Now, I have four kids at various ages and stages and whether we agree or not, we have become pros at removing our shoes, unpacking our laptops, and all the other prescribed security measures. With some trial and error we have developed a system that works for us to get us through security as quickly and efficiently with as little screaming as possible.

1. Relax and be patient. I’m putting this first because it took me too many years to learn this lesson. I was a bundle of nerves as we neared the security line, and not without reason. Getting kids through security is hard, especially because all the people around you are cranky and in a hurry. I let myself feed into this frenzy and cause myself and my kids more harm than good. Once I finally learned to relax, it was easier for everyone.

2. Speaking of being in a hurry, don’t be. Give yourself plenty of time. If you notice that someone behind you seems to be in a hurry, offer to let them go ahead of you or suggest that they might want to pick a different line. Do not feel badly if the people in line behind you seem impatient. They can easily move to another line if they do not want to wait behind your family.

3. Arrange your luggage for security while you wait in line. Jackets come off and can easily be tied to backpack straps. Shoes come off and are placed inside the bag. Unload all your luggage from the stroller, but leave the baby in the stroller until the end.

4. Pack empty sippy cups, as well as any baby bottles (which can contain liquid) on the exterior pockets of your bag or backpack. If security sees a container inside your bags, they will likely begin rummaging through your bags to find the cup and make sure it is empty.

5. Put your kids in security friendly clothes. Slip on shoes and clothes without huge belt buckles are a must.

6. Have a plan for who will handle what as you enter the line. In our family, Dad holds all passports and tickets and shows them to the agent upon entering the line. After that tickets/passports go into his pockets, so they are easily accessible as needed. Further on, Dad takes care of loading all carry-on items onto the belt and Mom takes care of the kids.

7. Prepare your kids for the security process. Make sure they know that all their items will have to go on the belt and that they will have to walk through the metal detector alone. Practice at home if necessary and try to make your kids feel positively about the security process.

8. Warn older kids that it is not funny to joke about bombs or weapons. I have instructed my kids that they are not allowed to even mention those words during security screenings. (I actually ask them not to talk at all, but that’s different).

9. Work out a system for passing through the metal detector. This seems to be the point where normally well behaved children go limp and refuse to move or some other infuriating behavior. If you are flying with another adult, you can work together to make this safe and easy for everyone.

10. Think about safety. Because security is a place where your attention can be divided, it is easier for a child to slip away. To keep everyone safe and accounted for, here’s what we do. Dad does all the lifting and loading onto the conveyor belt, starting with the stroller. Then he passes through the metal detector and I send the older kids through to him one at a time. The older kids know to proceed to the nearest bench to sit and wait for their shoes. At this point the stroller has passed through the metal detector and he sets it up and ready for the baby or toddler. Once the stroller is ready, I allow the toddlers to walk through and Dad picks them up and secures them in the stroller. Finally, I pass through and together we begin passing out backpacks and getting our shoes.

11. Ask for help. Almost all security personnel will help you if need help and ask. I have found it most beneficial to say “What is your suggestion?” whenever I encounter a situation that is difficult. Security personnel would like for things to run according to the textbook, but kids often throw the book right out the window. Assure security personnel that you are happy to cooperate, but have to operate with your child’s needs and safety in mind. Almost always, they will find a way to help.

{ 3 comments }

lovedlikethechurch.com April 27, 2011 at 9:30 pm

I've only flown with my girls twice. But both times were pretty flawless (for traveling and especially traveling with kids). My 3 yo did freeze going through the check point, but the security personnel were nice about handling the situation.

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myanmamomma January 25, 2012 at 11:08 pm

Great tips! We've taken many flights with our youngsters, and I think the tip about staying calm and not allowing the frenzy to get to you is one of the best and hardest things to do.
The metal detector – once our dd (she was 3 at the time, and our then-baby ds was either strapped to me or in the stroller, I can't remember now) threw herself down inside the metal detector and pitched a fit!   Thankfully, it wasn't too crowded, and we were in another country where the culture lends itself to being less ruffled by such antics by a young child. I was encouraged with smiles to just go pick her up and we all made it just fine.
I still have to give myself a pep talk at the beginning of every line that we will all make it through just fine. I try to consciously keep my voice calm and soft and slow for the sake of keeping us all calm and happy, and I try to take lots of deep breaths! I definitely like to get there early so that we're not the ones feeling rushed at security. It's just not worth it, even if it means you have to kill time on the other side. Being rushed at security and running while carrying heavy children (who can't keep up with you on their own) to make it to your gate sets you up for a very frazzled trip, which is no fun for anyone. I know from experience. :)

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