Knowing the TSA’s Airport Security Rules
Navigating the airport with young children in tow By Suzanne Rowan Kelleher
Question: My family will be flying next month and I have a few concerns about what I can bring in my carry-on bag. I’ve heard that some of the airport security rules recently changed. I am breastfeeding my 8-month-old baby and would like to bring breast milk in my carry-on bag so I can bottlefeed him on the plane. We also have two preschool kids (ages 3 and 5). Is there anything I need to know? – Bridget Kerrigan from North Andover, MA
Answer: For families, there have been two recent and notable changes in airport security rules. The first is that children 12 and under no longer have to remove their shoes when passing through the security checkpoint. But your preschoolers will still have to hand over backpacks, stuffed animals and any lovies they are carrying for screening, so explain to them beforehand that the TSA agents will need take an X-ray of their belongings and they will get everything back just a few seconds later.
As for your questions about what you can bring on the plane, the TSA now allows you to bring more than three ounces of breast milk, baby formula or liquified baby food in your carry-on bag as long as you declare it for inspection at the security checkpoint. Breast milk and baby formula are now categorized with liquid medications and you will not be required to taste it in front of a TSA agent. (For more detailed information, see the TSA website.)
More and more airports are providing a special family lane at the security checkpoint. Use it if offered. These lanes often have additional staff to help families make their way through the process more speedily. One trick to getting through security quickly is to be organized. I always recommend using large, gallon-size Ziploc bags to keep kids’ small toys like Legos and Matchbox cars corraled, and also for personal items like car keys and the inevitable gadgets such as cell phones, Nintendo DSes, and iPod Touches. This makes it easy to gather up belongings at the end of the screening process.
Also, before you get to the checkpoint, it’s important explain to your kids that the TSA agents must randomly select some people for additional screening. The key word is “random.” Last year at Orlando International Airport, the TSA selected my septuagenarian mother and searched her carry-on bag. Just last month Charlotte Douglas Airport, I was pulled aside to have my shoes scanned and my 8-year-old son was selected to have his hands swabbed. The agents politely asked me if I would let them test my hands instead of my son’s, and of course I quickly complied. In each case, we were delayed no more than a few minutes. The takeaway? Be prepared for the possibility that someone in your party may be selected for additional screening, and decide in advance that you’ll roll with it and get on with your day.
Wishing you a stress-free trip!
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