Navigating the airport with a baby can be stressful if you don’t know what to expect. The first few times I traveled with my baby I was especially nervous that I was going to hold up the security line! One of my main questions was whether or not I could pass through airport security with my baby in the baby carrier. So, I called TSA directly and spoke with an agent. Here’s what I found:
When you’re going through a security gate in an American airport, you’re not required to remove your baby from their soft carrier. The TSA will allow you to go through the metal detector while wearing your baby, although you may be asked to undergo an additional screening even if there is not an alarm.
The additional screening will consist of having your hands swabbed for chemical residue, and potentially a pat-down. This is a quick process and you get to avoid the body scanner, which some people are uncomfortable with.
The TSAs recommendation is that you remove your baby from the carrier to go through the metal detector, as this makes it easier for them to check you thoroughly. They are able to assist you with the baby.
That being said, many parents don’t want to remove their babies from the carrier, and this is completely fine and your personal choice. You’ll just need to have the additional screening done.
Overall, having your baby in a sling, wrap, or soft carrier while going through airport security is simple and the whole process should be fairly smooth.
Where can I find TSA’s policies for going through security with a baby?
You can find the full guidelines on the TSA’s “Traveling with Children” page.
TSA requires every person, regardless of their age, to undergo screening prior to passing through the security checkpoint.
It’s the policy of TSA to never separate children from their parents or other accompanying adults. TSA officers have been trained to offer families with young children extra time, assistance and patience during the screening process.
So, no need to get flustered. Lots of families go through this procedure, so even if you feel like you’re holding up the line, just remember that this is normal and expected!
Does every airport have the same rules about baby wearing at the security gate?
The TSA is a federal agency, part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
The policies stated by the TSA should apply to all of the airports in the United States.
Can you keep your baby in the carrier at security when flying internationally?
Every country has it’s own security standards. Some parents report having had to remove their babies from carriers when traveling in Europe. This is generally not an issue in the United States.
I can’t tell you what each country requires, but I think it’s wise to anticipate that you may need to briefly remove your child from their carrier. That way, if the request is made, you’re not going to be flustered by it.
What is the procedure if I choose to take the baby out of the carrier?
If you’re comfortable taking your baby out of the carrier (which the TSA agents are able to assist with if you’re traveling alone), then you can simply pass through the metal detector while holding the baby in your arms.
This is the procedure recommended by the TSA.
- Babies in strollers or car seats must be removed from those items and carried in your arms through security.
- If you’re using a framed child carrier (for toddlers or older kids) you will have to remove your child and send the carrier through the X-ray machine.
Baby carriers make the security checkpoints, and the whole airport experience, much easier
Even if you choose to briefly take your child out of the carrier during the screening process, having a baby carrier for the airport is extremely practical.
Baby wearing at the airport allows you to move quickly and remain hands-free, which is a major plus. You’ll have a lot of other things to juggle, including your travel documents and carry-on luggage, so keeping your hands free can really help.
The last thing you want is a fussy baby or a toddler who’s trying to escape you, and the baby carrier can be a godsend in each of these scenarios.
If you also have a stroller with you for your trip, you can choose to either check it at the ticket counter, or check it at the gate. Either is fine, but again, you might be freed up a bit by just using your baby carrier and ditching your stroller at the ticket counter!
If you choose to take the stroller with you through security, you’ll have the added hassle of trying to fold it up, get it through the X-ray machine, and juggle your baby at the same time. If you’re traveling alone this can be very tough.
On the plus side, strollers can hold carry-on luggage underneath, so for some of you that pro may outweigh the cons. Every family (and their luggage!) is different.
That being said – if you really want the stroller with you up until boarding time, I would still highly recommend taking a baby carrier. That way, you can have your baby in the carrier while you’re folding up the stroller.
What else can I expect at the security gate with my baby?
Children will not be separated from their caregiver during screening, unless they’re old enough to walk through the detector separately from you.
Infants and small children can be carried through the metal detector. If the alarm goes off for any reason, additional screening will be required.
Children’s items (strollers, baby carriers, car and booster seats, etc.) will be screened for X-ray. Any baby gear that doesn’t fit through the X-ray machine will need to be physically inspected by a TSA officer.
What’s the best type of baby carrier for getting through airport security smoothly?
Deciding which baby carrier to take to the airport can be tough. There are a few things you’ll want to keep in mind:
- Simpler is better – you don’t want to be worrying about elaborate wrapping techniques in the security line! Something like the Moby, which involves lots of wrapping, will be much harder than something smaller and easier to manage, like the K’Tan.
- Soft structured carriers, like the ErgoBaby, are a great option. They are super easy to use, and allow for a variety of carrying positions, especially if you have the Ergobaby 360. However, a soft structured carrier might be a little less comfortable when you’re actually on the plane, due to the waist of the carrier.
- Avoid carriers with metal parts – As long as you don’t have metal on you, the security checkpoint should be pretty painless. If you have metal on a ring sling or other carrier, this might cause you an added hassle and an additional screening.
- Make sure you can bend down easily in your carrier – at security you’ll need to get your shoes on and off quickly. So in addition to wearing footwear that comes on and off fast, you’ll also want your carrier to cooperate and allow you to bend down easily.
Personally I have opted to use my Ergobaby for the airport and flight, even though I have several carriers to choose from. Mine is well broken in and cozy, so it’s worked out well. The carriers get softer after being washed a few times, so if you have a a chance to break yours in, that’s an advantage.
It’s really all about simplicity here. You want to be able to get your wrap or carrier on and off as fast and easily as possible, especially in case you do find yourself needing to unwrap the baby in the security line.
Getting through security is much easier if you know what to expect
Getting through security is just one of the challenges inherent in traveling with a baby. You don’t need to panic though. Lots of parents have survived trips with their young kids, and you will too. A little bit of preparation goes a long way here.
If you know what to expect, you can be ready ahead of time and not be that person fumbling around at security and setting off the alarms left and right because you thought you could pack a giant canister of sunscreen spray in your carry-on. (Not that I’ve ever been this person. Except for the one time that I was indeed this person).
Point being, if you understand the expectations, it’s much easier to have a stress-free experience.
While the focus of this post was on using baby carriers during airport security checks, you may also want to take a look at these tips for flying with a lap baby to make sure you have everything you need in order to have a smooth flight, way beyond the security gate.
I have for sure found that having a baby carrier with me on flights is essential, particularly if the baby will be sitting on my lap for the duration of the flights (which is allowed for babies under the age of 2).
Babies can’t remain in their baby carriers during takeoff or landing, but you’ll be able to use the carrier for the rest of the flight.
I can’t really imagine trying to fly with a baby on my lap without a carrier! It would be like holding a greased pig at a state fair.
I’ve never done that before but I’m pretty sure it would be the same thing.
Anyway, I wanted to include this really helpful video on flying with a baby. It covers everything from booking your flight to getting through airport security all the way through arrival at your destination.
There are always going to be challenges to traveling with young kids. But having a baby carrier available to move easily through airport security can make things so much easier.
Even if you wind up briefly taking your child out of the carrier, it’s still so nice to avoid having to lug around a stroller, balance your baby on your hip, or deal with a toddler who just wants to run around the terminal and lick every filthy surface they see.
Baby wearing doesn’t remove all the stress from traveling with young kids, but it certainly helps.
If you don’t have experience using a baby carrier, my baby wearing for beginner’s guide can help get you started. If you know you’ll be traveling soon, this would be a great time to find yourself a baby carrier and get comfortable wearing your baby.
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