You finally booked that trip with your child and made it to the airport, hopefully on time. We all know getting through security as an adult is a pain and now you’re adding on a child! Here are 5 tips for a smooth airport experience with young kids.
Documents Needed When Flying with Kids
Before you head to the ticket counter to check in make sure you have the proper documentation for your children.
Domestic Flights: For unpaid lap infants you will need to carry proof of age in the form of a birth certificate, immunization records, or passport. I personally have never been asked to show it but I have seen firsthand a father, who didn’t have proof of age, denied boarding for his flight unless he paid for a seat for his daughter. Buying a ticket at the gate is no small fee so better to be safe than sorry.
International Flights: All passengers regardless of age require a passport to travel internationally. If both parents or legal guardian(s) are not traveling with the child you are required to have a notarized document giving you permission to take the child out of the country alone or proof that you have sole custody. Although only required for entry to some countries, airlines, cruises, and immigration officers have the right to ask you for this documentation as they try to reduce kidnappings and human trafficking of children. Throughout our travels I have been asked for this form twice, once by Royal Caribbean and another by Delta Airlines. We’ve always gone to our bank to get the forms notarized. Although it can be a pain, I’m glad we took the precaution to get it done so we didn’t miss out on those two trips.
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All passengers require a boarding pass, even non-ticketed infants. Some airlines such as Delta will have a notification like “Infant in Arms” on the adults boarding pass that they are linked to, others like JetBlue have separate boarding passes for the infant. Some airline apps allow you to access the infant boarding pass from it just like your own but others will only show the adults so you will have to stop by the check-in kiosk or ticket counter so allow extra time!
Kids Luggage Allowance
On most airlines parents of lap infants will be allowed to check in both a car seat and a stroller at the ticket counter or at the gate, free of charge. You will also be able to bring a diaper bag on board in addition to your carry-on allowance. If you purchased a ticket for your child they will have the same luggage allowances as an adult. Airline rules vary, especially when traveling budget airlines, so be sure to check the website of the airline you’re traveling. Print a copy of what’s allowed and keep it with you in case you are challenged by an uninformed gate agent or flight attendant.
Getting Through Airport Security with Kids
Children under 12 do not have to remove their shoes, light jackets or headwear when going through the metal detectors, thank God! Unfortunately you still have to remove yours. I recommend wearing easy slip on and off shoes as you will likely be juggling with a car seat, stroller, and/or carrier or a combination of the three.
Can you take food through airport security? Yes you can bring food through airport security as long as it isn’t restricted from being brought from the country you are leaving to the one you are heading to. Don’t worry there will be plenty of signs letting you know what those are.
What about brining drinks through airport security with kids? When traveling with an infant or toddler you are allowed to carry milk and juice for them and these liquids do not have to follow the 3.4oz. Keep in mind these liquids will be subject to additional screening so give yourself an extra 15-20mins for this. Pack these items in a separate bag to make it easier. Once at the x-ray machine take them out or your luggage and put it through the machine separately. There is no limit on the amount of breast milk or formula you can bring on the plane. Do not let a TSA agent tell you otherwise, some of them unfortunately just don’t know the rules. Ask to speak with a supervisor if you get push back.
You are allowed to have ice packs, freezer packs, etc. to keep these items cool. However, if your ice packs are not frozen TSA can make you toss them as they are now liquid so be sure they are frozen. To avoid this altogether consider traveling with a gallon sized zip lock bag. Once you get through security you can ask someone at a food counter or the flight attendants to fill it with ice.
If you are gate checking your stroller or car seat they will also have to go through the x-ray machine. If they do not fit, they will be hand searched. If you are using a baby carrier TSA agents are supposed to have you remove your child from the carrier, put your carrier through the x-ray machine and have you hold your baby while you walk through the metal detector. I’ve learned while your child always has to come out of the car seat or stroller, TSA seems to be more lenient with the carrier.
Some agents have made me take my kids out of the carrier while others just let me walk through the metal detector. Whether you carry your baby in the carrier or in your arms you will have to have your hands tested for certain particles. If you aren’t traveling with your infant car seat I recommend using your baby carrier through the airport and checking your stroller at the ticket counter. (I love my Ergobaby 360 and highly recommend it). You can read more TSA rules and tips on flying with children here.
Getting To the Gate with Kids
Being hands free and having your children confined is the fastest way to get through the airport. I like to carry as little as possible so my infant is always in the carrier. When traveling with a car seat the easiest way to get it to the gate is to use a car seat carrier for the airport. We have the SmartMove by Brica and it is absolutely a lifesaver.
If you have an infant you can use the Brica Cover Guard Car Seat Tote to either carrier your infant car seat like a backpack or roll it. It’s also fits convertible car seats so if you’re not using your car seat on the plane you can use this to protect your car seat. You’ll want to do this before gate checking it so it doesn’t get dirty and filled with germs.
If you aren’t traveling with a car seat using a carrier or Mountain Buggy Bagrider is the perfect option for getting your infant and toddlers to the gate. You’ll easily be able to carry your luggage and other items since you don’t have to hold anyone’s hand.
Killing Time Before Your Flight with Kids
Before getting to the airport check if there are any play areas for kids. This will keep you sane, especially if there are any unexpected delays. If there aren’t any playgrounds let them walk around the gate area or play in front of your seat. Nothing like wearing the kids out before a flight so hopefully they sleep for most of it!
I hope these tips prepare you for smooth sailing through the airport with your kids in tow. If you found this article helpful please share it!