The Air Up There Podcast
Flying With Kids: Tips From TSA
Making plans to fly with your kids? Do you know what to pack, how to pack it, and how to get through the security line seamlessly? Check in first with the Transportation Security Administration and Federal Aviation Administration by listening to our latest ‘The Air Up There’ podcast episode.
TSA – The Suitcase Advisors? Actually, we have a lot in common with TSA’s Emily Bonilla-Pieton and Lisa Farbstein: we’re parents, love air travel, safety and security. They joined us for our “Flying With Kids: Tips From TSA” episode to offer you practical advice for packing your bags and getting through the security line effortlessly.
After this episode, you’ll be a pro at finding surprise “no-no” items that your kids sneak into the luggage before you leave the house (and not in the security line), what snacks to pack and the best place to put them, what to do if your child safety seat doesn’t fit in the security scanning machine and more!
It’s all in the planning and it starts at home. Walk out your door confidently for your next trip with the kids. Share this episode with other parents to help make their journey through the airport easy-peasy (lemon squeezy).
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Parent Voice 1: Uh, yeah, I can remember a stranger actually holding one of my children onboard when they had a tantrum, because here I was with twins.
Parent Voice 2: Oh, gosh, all the things that can go wrong.
Parent Voice 3: Like, we don’t need to be superheroes here.
Parent Voice 1: This is life and it’s not always easy.
Voiceover: Welcome to the Air Up There. A podcast about the wide world of aerospace. Presented by the Federal Aviation Administration.
Kevin Morris: Thanks for joining us. I’m your host Kevin Morris. As much as travel can be fun, it can also be a lot to process for parents like me. Not only are you thinking about what you packed, but you also have to keep tabs on what your child may have snuck into their luggage. On this episode we’ll be getting tips from Emily Bonilla-Pieton and Lisa Farbstein, representatives from the Transportation Security Administration, or TSA. They have advice for you on what to pack, how to pack it, and how to get through the security line when traveling with kids.
Kevin Morris: Getting ready to travel starts at home before you even get to the airport. So, from a parent's perspective traveling with young kids, what things can they do at home before they even get in the car to go to the airport to make sure they have a smooth travel experience with their kids?
Emily Bonilla-Pieton: So, I know this can be very intimidating for parents, especially if they're traveling with small children or multiple children. Our advice would be to consider signing up for TSA PreCheck. The first step is looking into the application process to make sure you can get access to TSA PreCheck before your scheduled flight. For $78, you get an opportunity to travel with ease for five years. That's five years of not worrying about taking off your shoes, your belts, your outerwear, your travel liquids, your electronics. And I mean, children don't need to, under 12, don't need to do that. But 12 and under can accompany a parent with TSA PreCheck. So that is the first step we would look into or recommend.
Lisa Farbstein: So if you are enrolled in TSA PreCheck, even if you're traveling, both say parents are traveling together and only one parent is enrolled, that parent can take the children through the TSA PreCheck lane. But do keep in mind as well. Even if you're in the TSA PreCheck lane or not that your children under age 12 can still leave their shoes on.
Emily Bonilla-Pieton: Also, there are many resources we have available that will help you prepare on what can and cannot fly or even videos that will help your children to better understand what they're going to expect through the security process. We have a TSA YouTube series designed for children in a very kid friendly way that provides guidance on frequently asked questions and specific topics and you know, since it's designed for children, it's very kid friendly with the music. Actually, my own children voiced the characters, so it's children speaking to other children. So, it's a really cute series that we began just this past year. Another resource that we have is our Ask TSA team. So that's the customer service side of the house. Ask TSA is designed to be available seven days a week 8am to 6pm, Eastern Standard Time. They're available on Twitter, Facebook, and now texts. So, you can either ask your questions, submit your photos, and a live agent will provide guidance. So, anything from can my peanut butter jar go in my carry-on bag, so I can make my kids PB and J sandwiches on the flight to can this toy from Disney fly in my carry on? We’ll have somebody on hand that could provide guidance in real time.
Kevin Morris: As a parent myself with a couple of boys that have made it through multiple rounds, airport travel, I think anything you can do in advance to make that process smoother, like what you just laid out, Emily, is great advice. So, alright, so let's say somehow, as a parent group, you've managed to get your kids’ stuff packed, you've managed to get him into the car, you get to the airport on time, everything seems to be going great. Now you're at the airport. So, what happens now?
Emily Bonilla-Pieton: So a couple things is nowadays, some people use their electronic devices, whether they'll be iPads or electronic pads, as a kind of a clutch to ease their nerves maybe. Preparing your child that they'll be temporarily separated with their device is important. It just needs to go through screening real quick, but they can just go through security and then pick it up right at the other end. Something also really important to add is, you know, if you're traveling with strollers or car seats, you'll have to remove your child from car seats and strollers. They'll get screened by X ray and if they're too large, they'll have to be pulled aside and visually and physically inspected. But at no point during the screening process, will you be separated from your children. So, that's the key takeaway. And most importantly, you know, communicate with the officers. The officers are on hand to help and to guide those that need that extra assistance. Especially if you're traveling alone, you only have so many hands. So, you know, feel free to request some assistance to break down strollers or car seats to load them on the X ray machine. You want to make sure that you're communicating with your child – you’re just gonna stand for a little bit and then I'm going to carry you through security. If you're walking them through the process, or even our own officers, we'll walk them through the process, you'll see that it's not as scary and it's pretty easy-peasy.
Kevin Morris: You did mention child safety seats and I want to touch on that a little bit. I know as a parent my blood pressure was probably never higher than getting close to that security screening area with kids in a big ol’ car seat next to me. So, what tips, how can a parent sort of make that process as smooth as possible. They have this big child safety seat that they're bringing with? What advice do you have for them when they have that type of equipment?
Emily Bonilla-Pieton: Some of us over prepare and overpack. You want to make this as easy for you as possible. So even making sure that your stroller is just more easier to collapse or to travel with. But overall, we would say, of course, safety first. There's never a rush through security. Use the help that's available to you at the checkpoint. And once again, communicate with your children what's happening next what to expect next, the step by step. It can be a stressful time, but if you use it as a point of storytelling and hyping it up as an experience, you know, you find that your child will be more understanding and actually more excited to go through the process.
Kevin Morris: I've seen so many these child safety seats these days; they look like they could survive reentry. So, what happens if they’re so large they don't fit through the X ray? What happens, then?
Emily Bonilla-Pieton: So, then the officer will take it in over the x ray machine, and they will have to do a visual and physical inspection. It may require a pat down to the parent. Just to make sure the item is cleared. But that is pretty much a seldom occasion if it doesn't fit through X ray.
Kevin Morris: As long as you're talking about packing, and perhaps over packing, I challenge anyone to find a more well stocked person than a parent with kids going through security. You've got liquids, you've got food, you've got crackers, and snacks and all sorts of things. So, what tips do you have for that parent? What can they bring through? What are the liquid requirements? Or can they bring food? What happens if stuff is wrapped? What are some general guidelines you could help us out with?
Emily Bonilla-Pieton: Well, the great news is that you know, yeah, so you can bribe your children with snacks and guess what - snacks are good to go. And so are most liquids for your child. So, there is sometimes an exception to a liquids rule when you're traveling with small babies or infants when it comes to milk and juice. It will just have to be screened separately and cleared. But when it comes to any kind of crackers, sandwiches, fruits, yogurts, those are all good to go. I would address the officer beforehand, give him a heads up that there are snacks in your bag that you're traveling with snacks and what drinks there may be in your bag. I would also encourage that if you're using ice packs, if it's frozen solid, those are good to go as well. And of course, who wouldn't be a prepared parent without bringing some medication, liquid medication, just in case. Those are also okay to go when you're traveling with children.
Kevin Morris: Would there be an expectation perhaps, if you did bring some liquids through that those liquids may be tested or pulled out of the bag and further examined? Or what type of maybe extra screening or look-at may they get from TSA agents?
Emily Bonilla-Pieton: If it's sealed, it will not be opened. But if it's a baby bottle, it would be opened and inspected but not touched. Is that fair to say Lisa?
Lisa Farbstein: Right. So, sometimes we have something called bottle liquid scatters. And so the bottle can be placed in there and it usually takes about a minute for the unit to be able to detect the liquid inside to make sure that there are no traces of explosives. In some instances, you can open the bottle, say, and then they'll hold a little strip at the top to get any kind of fumes that, you know, any kind of odor from the contents. And again, they'll take that strip and feed it into a device to make sure that there are no traces of explosives, because that's really what we're concerned about. But just like Emily said, parents want to be prepared. We know that they're traveling with liquids, whether that's a bottle, whether that's some applesauce, she mentioned yogurt. You want to bring enough for the flight. You don't want to bring enough for the whole trip. She also mentioned peanut butter a little while ago. So interestingly, peanut butter is spreadable. So, if you can spill it, spread it, spray it, pump it or pour it - it's considered a liquid or a gel, something spreadable. So, don't bring the jar of peanut butter, but guess what? Bring the premade peanut butter sandwich.
Kevin Morris: Thanks, Lisa. That's also some really, really good advice.
Lisa Farbstein: I just want to add one other thing. And that is, when you're packing, say that diaper bag or that shoulder bag, it's a good idea to pack all those liquids, gels, medications in one area. So, you're not searching through several bags to pull them out. If you put them all out, when you get to the checkpoint and put them in a bin, it will go much smoother. So put those in your outer pockets, say if you've got the diaper bag. Put those sorts of liquids, you know, some bottles, the little juice bags in the outer pocket so that they're easy to take out and easy to put back in. It'll save you a lot of time and hassle.
Kevin Morris: Thank you, Lisa. That's also really good advice. I know we've all had that feeling when you're on that security belt and you're trying to dig for stuff you feel like 1000 eyes are upon your back. And it's can be super stressful. I think I gotta get this stuff out quickly. So, putting it on the outside that's a great tip. Let's look back a little bit in hindsight. So maybe we can learn from others too. What are some common mistakes that you see parents make while going through security with their kids.
Emily Bonilla-Pieton: So, for me personally, as a mother, I know, I announce that we're going on a trip and the first thing my children want to do is pack up their own bag. So, I think helpful advice is to make sure you inspect all the bags that you're taking to the airport, because you never know what your kids will pack. Whether it be slime or replica items like Nerf guns, or I know my kid is big into superhero items. Those items could look different through an x ray perspective, and could actually delay your screening process. So, for us, we always recommend you know, pack smart. And we don't normally travel, so, make sure before you pack your bag to inspect your bag, and make sure it's clear of any other storage items you might have used it for in the meantime, and make sure you double check what your kid is packing. Yes, encourage that opportunity to do it together, but definitely don't let them do it alone.
Kevin Morris: Emily, your suggestion about making sure you watch what your kids pack is a great suggestion, because I didn't do that one time my kid packed his Xbox. So, it's just something you really want to make sure you're keeping your eyes on. I think we've had some really good advice and I hope this really helps parents as they get going towards a vacation or a trip or anytime they're traveling with kids. Because traveling can be stressful all on its own and then you throw your loving kids in the mix, and it can be even more stressful. So, I guess I'm going to throw it back to you, Lisa and Emily, one last time. Is there anything else any other suggestions or tips you might give parents for traveling with those kids just to keep that blood pressure down a little bit? And Emily, we'll start with you.
Emily Bonilla-Pieton: Yeah, we always say an educated passenger is a competent passenger. So, we always encourage y'all to keep an eye on our social media content. You can find TSA on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram. And through those accounts, you can keep up with the latest agency, travel tips, guidance, and on Instagram, some really good catches that our officers are making nationwide.
Lisa Farbstein: But I would like to add that if a parent wants to bring a child with a disability, medical condition or medical device, it's a good idea to inform the TSA officer in advance and advise the officer the best way to relieve any concerns during that screening process. We do have a super helpful tip line for these sorts of things. It's called TSA Cares. And if you call TSA Cares, 72 hours in advance, you will know what to expect. And that number is 855-787-2227 or federal relay 711.
Kevin Morris: Lisa, Emily, I can't thank you both enough for your time today. I know it certainly helped me out. I wish I would have known a lot of these things a while ago. So, hopefully this can help parents out as they're getting their travel plans ready for the upcoming year. So again, thank you for your time. I really appreciate it.
Child Safety PSA with Kristina Harris: This is Kristina Harris, with the FAA. I am a mother and a frequent flyer, and I know that family travel can be challenging.
Did you know that the safest place for your small child or infant during in a flight is in a government-approved child restraint system or device and not on your lap? It’s true. When unexpected turbulence hits, it’s impossible for your arms to hold your child securely. Here are some tips to help you with your air travel plans. Buying a ticket for your child is the only way to guarantee that you will be able to use a child restraint. Not all car seats are approved for airplanes. Look for the printed message that says this restraint is approved for use in both motor vehicles and for aircraft. Use a rear or forward-facing child restraint based on the child’s weight. You can also use the AMSAFE Cares device for children who weigh 22 to 44 pounds.
Use a child restraint or device. It’s the safe and smart thing to do so your family arrives safely at your destination. Go to faa.gov/travelers to learn more.
Kevin Morris: Thank you for joining us today! We hope you’ve learned a few new tricks to make traveling with your more enjoyable. Because flying is a great experience to share with your kids. For even more family travel tips, check out other episodes in our podcast series, “Flying with Kids.” And subscribe to our podcast so you don’t miss an upcoming episode with a flight attendant who has great tips for you on navigating the boarding process. If you liked this episode, leave a review to let us know - and share it with another parent YOU know, because us parents have got to stick together.
Voiceover: The Air Up There is a production of the Federal Aviation Administration. For a transcript of this episode and to follow us on social media for the latest aviation safety news and guidance, visit faa.gov/podcast. That’s faa.gov/podcast.