Mighty Life List
Jan 24 2008

9 Tips for Quick Airpot Security Screening With a Baby

Admittedly, Bryan and I stress about getting through security efficiently. We don’t like to delay other people, and we also don’t like to miss our flight. So we developed a system, a meticulous system, early on.

If you’re a laid-back sort, these tips will amuse you. If you hyperventilate at the thought of people in line behind you rolling their eyes, you’ll find this helpful.

The tips assume one baby, two adults, and three carry-ons. And away we go:

1. Get organized. Put liquids, gels, or powder (including baby food) in clear plastic bags. Wear shoes that slip on and off. Skip jewelry, empty your pockets into your bag, and affix your watch to a bag strap.

2. Toss contraband. Before queuing, ask yourself if you have any food or water that you’ve forgotten, and then throw it away. If you accidentally stow it in your bag, they’ll have to search your stuff, possibly send you through the air-puffing machine, call out the dogs, strip search you, and so on. It’s a pain.

3. Centralize IDs and tickets. Have one person keep IDs and tickets in an accessible pouch or wallet. That person shows ID for the group, and collects boarding passes after screening.

4. Get in the fast line. Lots of airports will send you into a quicker line if you have a baby with you. Approach the security agent with your stroller and ask, “Should we be in a different line with the baby?” Blink innocently.

5. Prep while you wait. Remove your shoes and laptops while you’re waiting. When you reach the magnetometer, un-stack as many trays as counter space allows.

6. Use lots of trays. Laptops need their own trays, as do your plastic bags full of food and toiletries.

7. Split up if possible. Ideally, one of you loads the conveyer belt while the other carries the baby through and packs up on the other side.

8. Load the conveyer belt judiciously. That means:

– Stroller or sling so the baby is situated right away and you have your hands free.
– Bag, then contents of that bag, rinse and repeat. That way you can zip one bag shut before tackling the next.
– Shoes go last. Either slip them back on, or go sit down elsewhere so you’re out of everyone’s way.

9. Exchange high fives. Damn, you’re good.

Like I said, meticulous. But awesome, no? If you have more ideas, please share them in the comments.

26 Responses to “9 Tips for Quick Airpot Security Screening With a Baby”

  • Robin Says:

    This is tops. The only thing I can add is no belts.

  • swankette Says:

    I always try to travel wearing cargo pants with the pocket on the thigh (I stocked up on them at Old Navy a couple years ago, not sure how easy they are to find now). That pocket is the perfect place to store boarding passes/IDs/etc while traveling because it’s secure and very easily accessible.

  • thecasualperfectionist.com Says:

    Awesome list! Thanks for sharing! It’s great to see someone else appreciates lists as much as I do. :) I’m not sure if you mentioned it or not, but those zippered lingerie bags (like from Target) are great for keeping undies, etc. together…anything you don’t want strewn about when Security dumps your bag. ;)

  • Allison Says:

    This is incredible. I thought I was one of the only people who freaks out about taking too much time in the line. My fiance thinks I am crazy, but everyone else just looks like they are completely unaffected while I am rushing and ripping computers and video cameras out of their bags so I don’t make anyone wait.

    Inevitably, some of the security people want everything in a tray while others want only computers and baggies in trays which just adds to my stress! This was a great post, I am definitely keeping #8 in mind. It’s a duh, but loading your stuff in order would make packing back up so much quicker!

  • bethany actually Says:

    If you are only ONE adult traveling with a baby or toddler, my advice is this: throw yourself on the mercy of strangers. I have had total strangers hold my stroller, my carseat, my shoes for me while I was holding my daughter on one hip and quickly loading the conveyor belt with my free hand. Also, smile a lot and tell everyone you’ve inconvenienced in the slightest, “Thank you so much for your patience, I really appreciate it!” even if they have not been all that patient. And most important when traveling alone with a baby? Stay calm. You WILL make it to the plane.

  • Nichole Says:

    What Bethany said! I found that lots of smiling works wonders. Also, regarding the “prep early” suggestion, we’ve had to remove the baby’s shoes at security, too.

  • mamie Says:

    we have yet to fly with our twins, but i think it is funny that we approached airport security much in the same way pre-babies. it is good to know others out there think in such detail-oriented ways. we will have to see how it goes this summer when we do take them airborne.

  • Leah Says:

    I don’t even have a baby, and I follow these tips. I’m not a fan of the long wait at the airport, so I try to be efficient and not annoy others.

    My other tip is to remove the belt early on. I just keep mine in my backpack and put it on once I get to my gate (if I wear it at all). Mine doesn’t typically set off the metal detector, but better safe than sorry.

    Oh, and with water bottles — you can carry through empty water bottles, so I like to do a check and chug maneuver while waiting in line.

  • Danielle Says:

    We went to the airport today and I totally agree, I really hate making people wait behind me. I always make sure everything is packed correctly, pram goes on first, then handbag and then any extras.

    We don’t have to take our shoes off here, maybe security isn’t in Australia as it is in other parts of the world.

  • WaywardGoddess Says:

    I have an unreal amount of anxiety about missing my flight. I am one of those people that is at the airport and through security and sitting in the terminal reading a book 2 hours before the departure. I leave my house 4 hours before my flight (it’s an hour’s drive and ANYTHING could happen).
    My husband is a traveler by trade. He flys to at least one place every week. He’s the guy who get to the airport with 30 mins to spare and makes it by the skin of his teeth.
    We don’t travel together, lol.

  • Noelle Says:

    I don’t have a baby, either, and after reading that post, the only tip I can think of is: don’t fly, drive.

  • Elizabeth Says:

    THANK YOU! I no longer have a baby to travel with, but I do know the importance of being organized to make travel easier for you as well as other travelers. I wish more adults would take this approach when entering security without children. It’s a wonder some people have lived as long as they have. Just like waiting in line to pay for groceries, HELLO, you have to pay when they check you out so why not be READY to pay before you even get to the cashier? ie: fill out the freaking check while you are standing in line. Oops! This was supposed to be a thank you for your wonderful suggestions.

  • Rachel Says:

    Great advice. I’ve flown a lot with infants, babies, and toddlers. It’s important for toddlers to not see you being stressed. They often find the security people scary, and removing their shoes bewildering. It helps a lot to talk about what is happening before you get there and while you’re doing it.

    I also wanted to echo what commenter #5 said. I was moving (!) from Maryland to Texas. My husband drove our car and I opted to fly, by myself, with a 4-week old infant, a two-year-old and a three-year old. I knew there was no preparing for security (thankfully this was pre-contraband liquid). I had only 2 carry-ons, no lab top, but I had a huge double stroller and the baby in a front pack.

    They saw me coming a mile away and called in for back-up. I think I had 5 security people helping me. I was so grateful. I made it through about as fast as anyone else. The hardest part was keeping track of my kids, who were not too sure what was going on. I think smiles and many thank-you’s go a long way. Plus, I think I probably looked pretty pitiful.

  • sally Says:

    Great tips! My only addition is make sure you are going to make it through to the other side of the conveyor belt BEFORE your laptop. I do this with my messenger bag too which generally contains my wallet and camera. i.e. anything of value that you are afraid someone could scoop off the belt you need to be waiting for. How ironic that people will steal things at a security check but it could happen. I have heard of laptops being scooped off the belt.

  • fully operational battle station Says:

    THANK YOU! No, really. THANK YOU! I have been consumed with utter despair lately at the thought of our upcoming trip to Africa. With 3 kids. 2 of which will be scared of their new cracker parents (that’s us).

    Printing and filing now…. thanks again.

    Jamie

  • Lunasea Says:

    My husband and I are a well-oiled machine getting through security since we have to do it several times a year. I still think it’s the most stressful thing about air traveling. A couple of things I’d add:

    The importance of slip-on shoes is paramount;
    Keep all your ziplock baggies at the top of your carry-on so they’re easily pulled out and put back;
    Remind your husband to empty his pockets so he doesn’t get pulled aside by security and wanded, leaving you to deal with the kids and everything else by yourself (Arrrrgh);
    Put all the shoes in one basket, all the jackets in another, etc;
    Put the stroller through first, then it will be on the other side ready to set up and throw the kids in so you can get everything else off the belt.
    Use those luggage carts – you can’t get them through the metalometer, but we’ve always been able to get them wheeled through and picked up on the other side – especially if you’re taking car seats on board.

  • elayne Says:

    I must be a more seasoned and meticulous traveler than I’d thought. This all sounds like no-brainer stuff to me. (Except for the thing about the watch, but then again, I never wear one, so.)

  • MamaGeek Says:

    Wow, thank you for this. We’re flying for the first time with our 16 month old. And I’m already twitching. A baby line? Who knew. Thanks again.

  • Susan Says:

    Along the lines of consolidating boarding passes/ID:

    Consolidate electronics and liquids/foods between you – for example, my husband carries both laptops (and might as well throw in all the cameras, MP3, phones, etc.) in his carryon, whereas I have all liquids in the diaper bag. You can rearrange stuff once you’re onboard but at security, it means one less thing for each of you to worry about….

    Oh, and as previous commenter mentioned, don’t forget about the baby’s shoes, once they’re wearing them (this caught me out last time – he didn’t used to wear shoes….)

    Another tip for when they’re older (after seeing a toddler melt down and bring the line to a screeching halt): if they have a lovey or other comfort device, think about preparing them ahead of time to be able to let it go through the x-ray machine.

  • TobyO Says:

    One more suggestion, I hope you don’t mind additional suggestions. We traveled to Australia with a toddler AND a baby (yes, difficult, to say the very leash — I mean least), and getting a harness for the toddler was the best idea my wife ever had. I could just tie the leash to my belt loop, and pull out the portable DVD player, laptop, spare battery, liquids, gels, and C4 while he struggled at the end of the tether, but didn’t get anywhere fast.

    And to all the gasps of horror at the thought of putting a *leash* on your child, I can only say you haven’t tried it.

  • Debbie Says:

    If you have baby in a sling, be sure to ask whether you need to remove him or her before going through security. Some agents don’t require it!

    While you’re waiting in line, point out to your kids what everyone else is doing so that they’ll understand what they need to do when it’s their turn.

    Taking your child out of the stroller is the last thing you do… that way they’re not running around while you’re trying to take off shoes, remove laptops, etc.

    Hope this helps!
    Debbie
    http://www.deliciousbaby.com

  • Gudrun Says:

    great list, thank you for putting it all in one place. My kids are out of the baby stage, but we still prepare ourselves and them for the security line, and it goes much smoother when we plan ahead.

  • Macy Says:

    Our little guy is 9 months old and we have flown with him at least once a month – including a couple international flights. I can’t overstate the importance of having the liquids ready in a plastic bag. Now that we are eating solids, I also keep the baby food in a plastic bag and put that through the scanner as well (some agents want it out of the bag). We use a backpack when we travel instead of the diaper bag. It’s accessible, it fits under the seat and when I’m traveling alone, it is much easier to have the backpack on my back and both hands free. I love the Samsonite overnight bag idea as well though.

    Also, the slip on shoes are crucial for everyone. It saves so much time. People just don’t think about taking their shoes on and off when they plan their travel outfits. I really have a tough time keeping my irritation in check when I have gone through security by myself and I have someone in front of me holding up the line because they had to wear knee-high boots.

    Excellent post. Thank you!

  • Lyndsey Says:

    This is exactly how my husband and I manage airport security with our 2 kids. I think it is a very well thought out plan.

  • kelly Says:

    Having flown 14 times by the time my baby was 17 months old, I’ve learned a few things:
    – Don’t wear a coat – it just becomes one more thing for you to carry. Wear a fleece or sweatshirt you can tie around your waist.
    – Leave your baby in the stroller as you load everything onto the conveyor belt. Once everything is loaded, take off your shoes then her shoes, then load the stroller (sans baby).
    – Pray for a kindly grandmother to be behind you in line.