How to Get Your Kids Through Airport Security

One of the challenges of air travel with kids is getting them through security. It doesn’t have to be such a big ordeal, though. Here are a few hints that you may find useful.

Two different universes: kids and airports. They just don’t seem to mix. Except they have to, every time you need to figure out getting your own luggage, your kids’ luggage and, more importantly, your kids, themselves, loaded onto a plane. It’s all clear in your mind. Pack the suitcases, pack the toys, pack the kids. Get everyone to the airport. Deal with check-in. Watch the suitcases slide away, fingers crossed that the favorite toys, change of clothes, baby food and diapers are in your carry-on. Look at the departures board – plenty of time. Breathe. Now for security…

But unless your kids are frequent flyers, don’t expect it to feel natural to them. It’s all an adventure, after all. They probably can’t wait to arrive – they know about the beach, or the plans to visit Grandma and Grandpa, or whatever wonderful experience awaits them at the end of the flight. And the flight will be exciting, looking down at the clouds, seeing glimpses of towns and villages several kilometers (thousands of feet) below. But standing in line? Going through a body scanner? That doesn’t sound like so much fun!

Going through security

So the security check may seem as if it’s going to be an ordeal, with way too much stress for you. But don’t worry, it’ll all go smoothly! “On balance, it’s not a great idea to go into too much detail with your kids as to why security is necessary”, remarks Texas realtor Jenny O’Neill, 36, a mom of two. “If they ask, say airports need to implement special security measures because flying has to remain a safe means of transportation for everyone.” You could make up a game: see if the lady can find a hidden treasure, for instance. Having a little fun and sharing some complicit play-time with the kids will make the experience easier for them.

Airport security teams know what kids are. They see plenty of them, day in and day out, and they try their best not to be scary. Some of them may have kids of their own! Procedures may vary a little from one country to another, but they always take account of children’s ages – younger children are not asked to take their shoes off, for instance. Some airports offer lines especially for families. Try to find out before you get into a long line. If there isn’t one, there’s a good chance they’ll let you into the priority lane. Even if you’re in a normal lane, though, the security staff will not pressure you to hurry – they know that you’re under enough pressure already.

Children who can walk are normally expected to go through the scanner on their own, but you’ll probably find a degree of tolerance if it’s a choice between you carrying a toddler through and a two-hour delay on the flight until your child calms down. If your children have braces on their teeth, mention it to the operator as they go through, but the tiny amount of metal should not trigger an alert. It’s very unlikely that your kids will require a body search, but if the scanning machine goes crazy it can’t be ruled out. If it does happen, it will be carried out with all possible sensitivity by a fully trained female operator, in your presence.

“I always make sure that the boys are not wearing anything with metal”, notes 38-year-old account executive Steph Cassidy, a mom of twins. “I always avoid belts with buckles for instance!”

Food and medicine

For older children, you can take snacks and treats such as cookies, sandwiches, and fruit in your carry-on bag, but don’t forget that there are restrictions on taking over 100 ml of liquid per person into the cabin. But these restrictions do not apply to babies and small children (up to age 2): you can take baby food, formula and breast milk – the regulations simply say “reasonable amounts”. You must tell the security agents, who may require you to take a taste if they are in any doubt about what you are carrying.

You must also declare any medicines for yourself or your kids when you go through security. Over-the-counter treatments are included in the 100 ml allowance. Prescribed drugs must comply with a doctor’s prescription, which you must show the security agents. Don’t forget to make sure you have enough with you, not just for the period of the flight, but to allow for any unforeseen delays, of course.

If you’re used to flying without your kids but you know that when it’s vacation time you’re going to be transformed from a self-assured professional to a harassed parent, take a good look around you next time you go through the airport. Who knows, there may well be a family with kids of about the same ages as yours. Hopefully, it will all be going smoothly for them. Check out how they’re coping. Don’t worry, it will go just as well for you!

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