Do you dread the day you have to get through TSA with a screaming baby, entirely too much stuff, and all of the extra checks that go along with it? No need, because thankfully, it doesn’t have to be difficult. It just requires a little bit of planning ahead.
Here’s everything you need to know about getting through TSA with a baby, from a momma who’s done it multiple times:
Give it Extra Time
If you’re used to arriving to the airport 45 minutes before your flight and breezing through security, gone are the days, my friend. That doesn’t mean you need to get there hours earlier, but it is smart to factor in the time it will take to have extra checks if you’re bringing food for baby as well as time to change and potentially feed the baby before boarding.
Speaking of feeding, many US airports now have Mamava lactation pods – download the Mamava app to your phone for free access. I wish they had sinks to make pumping easier, but for nursing moms, they provide privacy. I’ve seen nursery rooms in the airport as well, and we’re always excited to see a family bathroom for easier changing and taking care of everyone’s needs at once.
Does a Baby Need Pre-check?
One of my first questions was whether or not a baby needs TSA pre-check. This might sound silly to wonder about, but a baby actually does need Global Entry, so I wondered if Pre-check was the same. Thankfully, if the parents have it, the baby does too! Your little one won’t need their own until age 13.
The Pre-check line is shorter and moves faster. We don’t have to remove our shoes, which makes things easier. Keep in mind precheck or not, you’ll still be subject to extra checks for breast milk, baby food, and baby-related liquids.
Traveling with Breast Milk, Formula, and Other Liquids
Unless you put everything your baby is going to eat in separate bottles of 100ml/3oz or less, you’re going to have to consent to extra checks on the baby food, whether it’s breast milk, water for formula, cow’s milk, juice, or food packets. You’re allowed to bring bottles and packages that are larger up to a ‘reasonable’ amount.
I’ve actually had an issue with TSA telling me I had to dump some of our liquids since we had a short flight, but since I’ve experienced plenty of delays before, I held firm that we were allowed to have it and asked to speak to a supervisor, who agreed it was fine and let us go on our way. Be polite but firm if you run into the same situation.
Declare to the agent before you go through screening that you have breast milk and/or baby food. They will have you separate it out for extra checks. This is where you can end up eating a lot of time, so be prepared for this to slow things down.
It’s also important to know your rights. I’ve heard stories about agents sticking things into the liquid, which they’re not allowed to do. They may put the bottles through extra screening devices to make sure they are not explosives, and they may perform a vapor test. Feel free to print out the TSA rules and regulations in case you need them.
More info here on how to pump and travel with breastmilk specifically.
How to Get Baby Through the Body Scanner
I prefer to wear my baby through security and the airport. You are allowed to wear your baby through the metal detector but will have to take them out of a stroller or car seat.
Usually Garrett and I just check his car seat as luggage, which I will discuss more below, in favor of only going through security with the diaper bag and our other carry-ons. I like to keep things as simple as possible and minimize what we have to keep track of at the airport. As he gets older and I can’t wear him anymore, I’m sure we will switch up how we handle it.
Strollers, Carseats, and Other Gear
How do you deal with these bulky items in security? You don’t necessarily have to. Your options are:
- Bring a carseat and stroller with you all the way to the gate and check them there.
- Bring the carseat onboard and buckle it in (requires buying baby their own seat).
- Check the carseat and stroller, or just check the carseat and gate check the stroller.
I prefer to check the carseat since we don’t buy Felix his own seat (yet), and wear him through the airport rather than pushing him. Most airlines don’t count this against your checked baggage allowance.
It’s a risk since baggage gets thrown around, but we use a secondhand carseat that a friend gave us as our travel carseat, so we roll the dice.
But if you do go through security with a carseat and stroller, it must go through the x-ray machine just like your other carry-on bags do. If either of them don’t fit, they’ll be subject to extra checks to at security, which is another reason to give it extra time, particularly if it’s your first time flying with them and you’re not sure if they’ll fit or not.
Traveling with a baby through security basically just comes down to budgeting extra time. You may not need it, but if you do, you’ll be very glad to have it. Be ready for some extra screening, extra patience, and the reward of an awesome family vacation at the end of it.