Trekking with Tots

It's certainly exciting - but definitely a little nerve-wracking - to think about your child's first airplane trip. On the one hand, the experience is sure to be a memorable event for the youngster. On the other hand, you're probably anxious to avoid any bad experiences about the journey. With a little planning and preparation you can rest easy.

Here are some tips for parents traveling with kids.

Before traveling

Whether your trip takes you cross-country or out of the country, you'll want to verify your travel information carefully with your airline or travel agent. Ask for information on recommended check-in times for your departure airport. You can also inquire about your airport's private screening process if you are traveling with more than one child.

It's a good idea to talk to your kids about their upcoming airport experience. Let them know about the screening process so they won't be frightened or surprised if an alarm should go off near them. Remind them to not joke about threats such as bombs or explosives.

You can also discuss with your kids that their bags (backpack, dolls, etc.) will be put in the x-ray machine and will come out at the other end and be returned to them.

Let your children know that a screener might ask to see the shoes they're wearing, but that these too will be returned after the inspection.

Always allow yourself and your family extra time to get through security - especially when traveling with younger children.

The Screening Process

Every person, regardless of age, has to be screened in order to proceed beyond the security checkpoint. Even babies must be individually screened. You will not be asked to do anything that will separate you from your child or children .

Screeners are specially trained and understand your concerns regarding children. Your children will be approached gently and treated with respect. If your child becomes uncomfortable or upset, you will be consulted about the best approach to resolving your child's concern.

All carry-on baggage, including children's bags and items, must go through the x-ray machine. That means diaper bags, blankets, and toys. In fact all child-related equipment that will fit through the x-ray machine must go through the x-ray machine. Examples include:
  • Strollers
  • Umbrella strollers
  • Baby carriers
  • Car seats and booster seats
  • Backpacks
  • Baby carriers and slings
When you arrive at the checkpoint, collapse or fold all equipment and secure the items that are in the pockets, baskets, or attached to the equipment. You will place these items on the x-ray belt for inspection. Plastic bins are provided to deposit such items.

Ask screeners for assistance to help reunite you with your bags and child-related equipment, if needed. Babies should never be left in an infant carrier while it goes through the x-ray machine.

The Walk-Through Metal Detector

If your child can walk unassisted, it is best to have the child walk through the metal detector independently. Babies and children too young to walk through alone must be removed from their strollers or infant carriers so they can be individually screened. If you carry your child through the metal detector and something sets off the alarm, be prepared for the screener to inspect both you and your child. Also keep in mind:
  • You may not pass the child to another person behind you or in front of you during this process.
  • You aren't allowed to pass your child to the screener to hold.
  • The screener may ask for your assistance with secondary screening of your child.
If your child has a disability, screeners may ask you what abilities your child has in order to determine the best method for screening (e.g. carry the child through the walk-through metal detector, hand-wand procedure). Also know that if your child has a disability, screeners will never attempt to remove the child from his or her equipment. This will only be done at the discretion of the accompanying adult.