Tips to Clear Airport Security with Babies, Toddlers & Young Children

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Strollers & Liquids & Toys… Oh My!

I think it’s been a while since the heyday of travel–when hopping on a plane was an experience in itself. I know my mom always looked forward to being able to just sit for a few hours and have someone bring her a hot meal and a glass of wine (obviously I was older by this point!) while she thumbed a book or napped. Clearing airport security with babies and toddlers was not the ordeal it is today.

Unless you’re flying first class or by private jet, it’s safe to say those days are long gone, and now the “fun” of air travel begins before you’ve even hit the departure lounge. Ah yes, I’m talking about going through airport security with babies.

While we’re grateful for the extra precaution airports are taking to ensure our safety, it’s safe to say that that element of our travel day can be fairly unpleasant. But the next time you’re traveling with your kids, try to remember the “3 Ps” before you head to the airport. You should all sail right through…

Tips to Clear Airport Security with Babies and Toddlers: The 3 Ps!

Be Prepared:

Have your travel-sized liquids in their 1 litre/3 quart baggies already and keep them all together. Make sure you haven’t forgotten one of the thousands of bottles of hand-sanitizer you have stashed in your purse and various pockets.

Babies (0-24 mos.) are allowed a reasonable amount of milk, breast milk, juice, formula, or baby food and–contrary to popular belief–you won’t have to taste it. Just make sure you keep it all in one bag and don’t use a gel-filled freezer pack to keep it cold. Those aren’t allowed. The Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) suggests using a small package of frozen peas in your insulated bag–great suggestion!

X-Ray Info:

Everything you are traveling with will have to go through the X-Ray machine. Explaining that Dolly is going on a fun ride has never gone over well, but the tears are usually short-lived.

The TSA (Transportation Security Administration in the USA) warns to make sure you take your infant out of the carrier before putting it through the machine. I’d snort, but I think I do remember hearing about this happening some time ago.

If your stroller won’t fit, you can usually wheel it through. However, the screening officer will likely take it aside for a quick once over. If your child can’t walk, you’ll carry her through. But if you beep, however, you’ll both likely have to have a secondary screening. We’ve almost always ended up having one, and in all cases the officers were respectful and considerate.

Arrive early. Have all your documents handy. Forgo fashion for shoes that you can slip on and off easily. Make sure your older kids haven’t packed toy guns or anything that remotely resembles a weapon of any kind. It’ll be taken.

Be Polite:

Yes of course you’re nice and early and completely organized for your journey through airport security, but lots of people aren’t and lots of people also think they are very important and are the only ones with a plane to catch.

You’ve seen how rude people can be while going through the screening process. Imagine dealing with that kind of treatment day in and day out. The TSA officer is not out to get you or purposely make you miss your flight. But I suppose they DO have that power, so why not be pleasant?

Be Patient:

Because you’ve come prepared and (of course) are polite, you don’t mind waiting while the guy in front of you goes back and forth through the metal detector because he’s forgotten to take off his watch. Or while his wife fumbles with the trillions of bracelets she decided would be appropriate accessories for air travel.

Don’t be that guy. Don’t be that guy who huffs and puffs and moans and groans because things are taking so long. And don’t be that mom.  Don’t be that mom who snaps at the screening officer for asking dumb more questions and double checking your diaper bag. The screening officer has a job to do, and we’re all safer for it.  Yes, it’s a hassle. Yes, it takes forever. But, yes, we’re all safer for it.

Trusted Traveler Programs:

If you are a US citizen, you may qualify for a number of Trusted Traveler programs, that can greatly improve your airport security experiences. The TSAPrecheck is the biggie, and your coverage also includes your children under 12. If you do a lot of international travel, the Global Entry program for US citizens covers air, land, and sea and includes TSAPrecheckNEXUS is available for US citizens, Canadian citizens and permanent residents, and Mexican nationals. It also covers air, land, and sea and may or may not also include TSAPrecheck.

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39 Responses to Tips to Clear Airport Security with Babies, Toddlers & Young Children

  1. Corinne – Looks your article and tips reflect your personal experiences as well which you have portrayed in a very interesting manner to the readers. You have taken into account the even the very minute points as well. Great Blog and a great post.

  2. Allison at #

    If I’m wearing my baby using a soft carrier like an Ergo or Beco while going through security, I would have to take the carrier off and just hold the baby, right? I wasn’t clear on that.

    • Corinne at #

      Hi Allison!

      Yes, when going through security you’ll need to put the carrier through the machine and carry the baby through. Have a great trip!

      • Hi Allison! Hey Corinne I think yes you should go through security at the airport with your baby on you put the carrier on your back first thing then you put baby in the carrier or in the car seat

    • KST at #

      No. They have never made me take my baby out of the ergo carrier and I’ve flown with her more times than I can count in the past two years and they have never even questioned it or suggested I take her out

      • Brandon Beyer at #

        Hey KST I’m going to say to you you will have to maybe take your baby girl out of your ergo carrier at the airport then after you get past your Security then you can get your ergo back on your back with baby tell you go and the airplane will leave your car seat at home or take it on the airplane so your baby girl can be in it

    • thank’s for the sharing

  3. Lesa at #

    In the US at least, if baby is in a carrier without metal, you do not have to remove the baby to go through security. This is a huge help. I still wear my 19 month old to have both hands free in security. TSA is usually great, we fly at least twice a month and have since she was born.

    • Corinne at #

      Wow – that’s news to me. Thanks, Lesa!

    • Nicole at #

      This is great news I was going to wear my baby in our wrap was hoping we’d be able to do so!!! This will make things so much simpler tomorrow.

      • Anamika at #

        I am not sure but we were not allowed to carry baby stroller. I had a huge fight with the TSA about the same but ended up leaving the stroller at the airport. Luckily, my brother was there to carry it at home.

  4. Angel at #

    if your child don’t walk,you can carried stroller with you that you can easily go outside with your kids and stroller is very helpful when you have to walk very long way like shopping.

  5. Debbie at #

    I recently traveled via air in the US and I was surprised to find out you can’t carry on almond butter or other foods of the same consistency (i.e. peanut butter and hummus). TSA threw my jar of almond butter away and I almost cried. Our flight was 3+ hrs and during dinnertime. We survived though!

  6. Kadisha at #

    What great advice and insight. After reading this I am already calmer about traveling with my 11mo old. (PS I also scoffed at the baby in the carrier, then thought of on the Airplane comedies from back in the day. There was a scene where a child in a carrier was checked and the mother kept her bag, since she was only allotted one carry on. You just never know.)

  7. Marianna at #

    They’ll steal your pack of gum sometimes. I’m not even kidding. By the time you notice your halfway through the air lol.

  8. Cindy at #

    In regards to the baby formula, are you allowed to take water pre-filled in the baby’s bottles and the pack of formula into the airport past security? Or does it have to be pre-mixed? I’d like to avoid pre-mixing and having to keep it cool, but also don’t want to buy bottled water to use for the feed – I’d prefer my pre-boiled water from home. Does anyone know if I can do this?

    Thanks! Coming up to the first flight with my just turned 1 year old – 16 hours to Asia! Feeling extremely anxious, but very glad for the tips on this site!

    • Corinne at #

      They may question why you are bringing water, but if you specify that is has been especially prepared for your trip, it shouldn’t be a problem. Have a great trip!!

    • Brandon Beyer at #

      Hey Cindy I’m saying to you can take baby formula for your baby on the airplane and get water for your bottle and water mixer for the formula buy a baby warmer so you have one to take on the airplane so you don’t have to buy water there for the formula

  9. Denise W. at #

    Do you need a passport or birth certificate for your baby?

    • Corinne at #

      Hi Denise! It depends on where you’re going. For domestic flights, a birth certificate is usually all that’s necessary. For any international travel, baby likely needs a passport.

  10. miriam at #

    Does it have to be a copy of the birth certificate or the original

  11. krystal at #

    What if i’m flying to colorado from washington state but the only baby food and formula i have is here with me now? Can i pack it away in my baggage that’s being paid for at check-in?

    • Corinne at #

      Hi Krystal!
      No problem to pack baby food and formula in checked luggage. Just be sure to wrap in plastic bags in case a container opens mid-flight and you’re not left with a big mess.

      • Brandon Beyer at #

        Hey Krystal you want to leave your house earlier to get to the airport do not forget your first thing you need food for your baby girl and do not forget formula you can put formula in your dipper bag for you take on the plane so ready to change your baby dipper on there

  12. Nice Article thanks for sharing this article.

  13. Wow I feel so much better about flying with my 5 month old now, thank for all the advice, tips and hints x

  14. KB at #

    We are about to fly for the first time with our 1 year old. Great advice and great questions/answers….I was so worried about baby food but my questions have been answered! Thank you!

  15. Merry at #

    If I’m wearing my baby using a soft carrier like an Ergo while going through security,

    • Corinne at #

      Hey Merry, you’ll still have to remove baby and the carrier when going through security. Good luck!

    • Angela at #

      Merry, you do not have to take off the baby in a soft carrier, *as long as it doesn’t set off the metal detector*. I have had to remove my ring sling (metal rings), but my carrier with plastic buckles I wear right through, no problem.

  16. Emily at #

    We are travelling from NZ to US with 7 month old and I would like a stroller that a)fully reclines so baby can sleep well during 4 hours transit and b)will be allowed on the plane. Do you have any recommendations?

    Many thanks!

  17. Meg at #

    Both of my flights (departure and return) claim on their websites that ONE government certified baby car seat and ONE stroller can be checked in FREE of charge for any infants flying.. this is my first trip with my baby.. does anyone second this? has this been your experience? thanks

    • Angela at #

      Yes, you can have a two-piece “stroller” (car seat and stroller frame/standalone stroller), and both piece are free to gate check. Do not check at the main desk!

  18. Kristin at #

    We are traveling with a 25 month old. She gets car/motion sick so we have to give sleep aid before we arrive at the airport so she can sleep through the flight. Can she be carried through security since she will be most likely be asleep?

    • Corinne at #

      That should be no problem but you might have to hand her off to your partner so you can each go through security individually. Have a great trip!


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