Traveling With Toddlers- TSA

So here we are, round two. TSA, the glorified security guards that supposedly keep us safe in the sky. It can be a nightmare to get through the line without a hassle as a solo traveler. Add infants and kids into the mix, well…

My husband and I never had issues getting through TSA pre-baby, that all changed 24 hours after they carved that kid out of me. It’s really kind of amazing. My son was flown to a bigger island for medical care and I had to fly commercial. That meant TSA. Well, at 10pm on a Thursday, in an empty airport, on an inter island flight, in a wheelchair, covered in bandages and hospital bracelets I looked like a threat. My staples set off the metal detector and they decided to pat me down. I cried in pain throughout the whole thing. It’s been downhill ever since.

TSA will tell you, you can bring anything you need for your baby. Baby food, formula, breastmilk, etc. In fact on one such trip the man on one side of the metal detectors told us we could have all these things, and the jerk on the other said we couldn’t. Apparently it’s at their discretion. They can and do make up rules on a whim, and they do it Every. Single. Time. So here are a few tips to make getting past these lunatics easier.


I used to wear a floor length nursing dress I bought at Target. It was comfortable, enabled me to breastfeed discreetly, and had no metal. Well here’s the thing, dresses swing and that apparently confuses the backscatter machines. The last time I wore that dress they scanned me twice with “objects” flaging in different spots. Since there was no way in hell I was having another pat down I hiked that dress up to my thighs and asked them exactly what they thought I was hiding and they let me go. After that trip I went out and bought my only pair of yoga pants. They’re tight so they know I’m not hiding anything, and they don’t move. I wear those with a tight t shirt. I feel embarrassed to be out in sweats, but if it keeps me free of assault I’ll wear them with a smile on my face. For my son I try to make sure his clothes have as little metal as possible. So no onesies with extra snaps, or tiny blue jeans. Just simple tee shirts or basic onesies, and sweat pants for him. I also put him in Robeez since I know they have no metal and he’ll probably be dancing on my lap very soon. I wear no jewelry beyond my wedding rings (real metals can set off the machines if there’s enough of it) and I take my son’s cross off of him.

Carry-Ons, Liquids and Bulky Items

I carry as little as I possibly can with me. Before we used to bring the stroller and it could be a pain to put through the machine. If you have any of the Bugaboo models they can fit through the machine and that’s a lot faster than bulky ones that have to be checked by hand. We also have their travel bag and we would just send it through the machine folded and pack the stroller up at the gate. Now since I’ve taught my son to ride on the suitcase (he stands and holds onto the handle) we check the stroller and carseat at the ticketing counter. If you don’t absolutely need your stroller I suggest you do the same. We get through security much faster. I take out all liquids and I put those along with our baby food pouches into the same bin. If there’s other things in there they sometimes get mad, so just keep it separate. They will hassle you over the baby food every time. They will tell you they have to open every container or pat down one in your party (they don’t, they’re just trying to scare you). So if you can go it without I suggest you do. Put everything in your bags. Even if your kid whines for that special bear, pack it anyways. You can’t have anything in your hands as you pass through the machines and it’ll ensure it doesn’t get filthy or lost.

TSA PreCheck

This might be a waste for you. My husband and I actually went to sign up for this. The guy who did it was soooooo unprofessional. He and the entire office reeked of cigarette smoke (because he took smoking breaks while we were waiting) and had me fill out the customer satisfaction survey in front of him. I don’t give a damn though, I answered honestly. And after that I was approved almost instantly- yet I still wasn’t able to go through the PreCheck line. Something they don’t tell you is that it’s not a guarantee. The TSA “agents” I talked to started by saying it was like 99% of the time you’ll be able to go through the faster line and by the end they said it was more like 70% so who knows. Just don’t plan to show up to the airport an hour before takeoff. Cause if your number doesn’t pop up on your ticket and theres a long line you’re going to miss your flight. Also, if you have a lap child your number won’t pop up on your ticket. This is despite the fact children don’t need a number until they’re 12. So unless we buy my son a ticket every time either my husband or I will still have to go through the regular line. I’m pretty mad about this since I had to pay for them to do a background check on me- something they don’t even do on their own employees! So just be aware of all of this before you take time off of work and pay to get this intermittent service.

Kids & Patdowns

I prefer a DIY approach to this. If you don’t want TSA patting your kid down I highly suggest you do it yourself while you’re waiting in line. I reference my brother. Every time my mother asks him if he’s emptied his pockets, and every time he says he has- then he suddenly remembers the $10 worth of loose change and other crap he’s carrying. So if you’re kid has pockets assume there’s something in them and make them show you, or better yet check them yourself. Too many TSA agents have been outed as being on the Sex Offender registry. It’s pretty horrifying they can’t do simple background checks on their own people, but I guess that would cost too much money. So unless you want your child being felt up by some random perv check every pocket, put them in crocs (no jibbitz) or other shoes you’re positive have no metal, make them take off anything they don’t truly need, no dresses, loose tops, or extra layers. Stay safe!


That’s it for now. Mother’s Day is this weekend in the U.S. so I’ll be celebrating that with my family. The end of the month I’m going to Hawaii for a bit, then I’ll be back. Hopefully I’ll have some time next week to get my next post up. I’m thinking that one will be about the things I bring to keep my son entertained on the flight. Until then, Happy Mother’s Day!


9 thoughts on “Traveling With Toddlers- TSA

  1. I’m not gonna lie the thing about TSA pervs has got all my mum alarm bells ringing, that would be horrifying. Thank goodness we have Crocs. Never thought I’d say that.

    You’ve inspired me to write a post on carseats on planes, I’d love to hear your two cents next post, but I have just been desperately trying to makes sense of the British rules and now feel I owe it to post it so others don’t end up googling for hours like me just to get basic info…

    PS I am going to speak to my dr here about meds, mind you they are a bit Victorian here being the spendthrift NHS (all medical prescriptions for pregnant women are free) so I may have to claim I’m vomiting six times a day before they consider prescribing, which I probably would be if I could swallow anything :s

    • I don’t want to scare anyone, but I feel like people should be warned. I was always suspicious of a organization that allows convicted felons to treat innocent people like criminals. Things just got worse after my “pat down”, though I don’t like to call it that. It was assault, plain and simple. Add to that I’m a rape survivor and it was basically the cap off on the worst 24 hours I’ve ever lived through. I mean I’m wondering if my kid will still be alive when I see him again, I’m in horrible pain, and then I’m assaulted. So yeah, I’ve got a lot of TSA hate. And I just think other people should know how to get by them with as little risk to themselves and their loved ones as possible. They’re largely uneducated people who have been given WAY too much power. So us normal people do have a lot to fear.

      I’d love to read your post on car seats inflight. I’ve only brought mine a few times and it was domestic travel, not international. I know in the US the flight attendants can be difficult with “foreign” car seats and you’ll want to be sure it has a sticker that says it complies with all FAA regulations (or a printout from the manufacture). But like everything with air travel so much is left up to the discretion of the staff. My MIL is a flight attendant and she wouldn’t care to look a car seat over, but some do and it’s nice to be prepared.

      I am hoping to get that post up sooner rather than later. But I usually write when my husbands at work and he’s off for a bit. But I hope I can help you (and others) out. It’s mostly basic stuff, but I’ll go into why I find something works and what isn’t worth the carry on space even if it does.

      I’m familiar with the NHS setup. It’s quite feared in my house, sadly universal healthcare would be a mistake at this point in US history. Hopefully your doc will be willing to write for you. Zofran (what I used) is fairly cheap so you may get lucky. In any case I hope you feel better soon. I remember morning sickness, I had intermittent issues throughout my entire pregnancy so I feel for you. 😦

      • You know I can’t even imagine. Your sons birth sounds traumatic enough, and that harrowing experience sounds absolutely abhorrent. I kind find the right words, really, but you’re one tough bird by the sounds of it.
        “uneducated people with way too much power” sounds about right, we call them jobsworths here…

        My husband seems to think they might try and stow our carseat for take off and landing, by the way, but that doesn’t make any sense to me… I guess we’ll soon find out.

        I take a lot of interest in the healthcare thing because I realise growing up with the NHS kind of means you take a lot for granted. It’s by no means perfect but we chose to stay here while having children because the maternal care here is universally better than the states, and free. You’ve got to know how to work the system though sometimes, say the right things or shop around for the right surgery. I often think about going private here but it’s easy to be lazy about it because even those who have private healthcare still use the NHS. It’s hard to reconcile going into debt for making a baby as it’s so alien. Private insurance here is cheaper than the US, and is rated very highly, the Princess had her baby in a private suite for under £10,000 in a fantastic private hospital.
        When I lived in the states for a while I really missed the flexibility I had with the NHS, free walk in appointments, fixed charges for any prescription etc, any birth control I chose for free, and freed medications for chronic conditions.
        But then when I came back I did rail against it – some of the NICE policies I don’t agree with, a thing called the ‘postcode lottery’ (basically your geography limiting your choice of hospitals or doctors nearby), the way drug companies exert a lot of pressure on what the NHS can provide, the line that all the workers have to take – it increases the “we know better than you” feeling you sometimes get from medical professionals because the NHS often ingrains in you the idea that they do, even though it pays to be savvy and make you’re own choices. I think the bureaucracy of hospitals here is a real detriment too… rubbish stuff like getting discharged takes forever because medical professionals have to do all the paperwork and red tape. And I think sadly some hospitals have a such pressure to achieve targets the government sets without the resources or rational systems in place to do so. Nurses are the most overworked and underpaid people in the UK. I think that’s why there’s so much affection for the NHS here, we want it to work and so do the people who work in it, but hospitals need overhauling and to be made more efficient moreso in some places than others

        Sorry I rambled a bit there! I am deeply embedded in trying to make choices for this pregnancy at the moment so I’ve been reading a lot about this stuff.

        I hope you enjoy your husbands off time – mine works from home now and then and it makes a big difference to have that extra time.

    • Yeah, it was a bit of a nightmare. And thanks, I try. I’m not normally the type to take any crap from anyone so having to rein myself in was probably the hardest thing. I used to fly out of that airport a lot and I never saw the team who patted me down after that. So for them they’re lucky, as I’d be more than happy to give them the public shaming/verbal spanking they’ve been looking for. I still can’t believe they even did something like that on such a small island. There have been people who have been “voted off” in the past. You just don’t screw others there without the very real risk of alienating ones-self.

      Hopefully they won’t. I’m very anti-lying, I don’t do it and I don’t typically support it. But this is what I classify as an “extreme instance” so I think you should do what you have to do. Perhaps you could claim you want to just set it up, and if it’s properly buckled down it won’t be a safety hazard. You just want it at the ready so as soon as it’s safe you can buckle your child in. If you get a compassionate flight attendant perhaps you’ll be alright. I have my fingers crossed for you!

      I do agree, the cost of maternity care in this country is out of control. If we didn’t have insurance my surgery, my sons med-flight, his NICU care, and specialist’s appointments, would have totaled more than $100k. We’re still not even done as I’m still having problems after the surgery, so the bills will just keep on coming. I’m lucky that my husband has a good job (he’s actually a doctor, lol) so we have the best insurance. But if we didn’t it could have bankrupted us. So many people get into trouble that way. So I don’t blame you for wanting to stay overseas until you’re done having kids.

      Even with good insurance things are getting difficult. Many primary care docs won’t take you unless you have certain insurances. And there’s a new thing called “boutique medicine”. Basically doctors have gotten so fed up with dealing with insurance companies (who try to pay out the minimum or reject many tests and procedures, basically won’t let doc’s do their job). So you pay a set fee, thousands usually, but then you get 24/7 access to your doctor. They have fewer patients so they can give each one enough time, the doc’s and their staff make a living wage, and they’re willing and able to do battle with the insurance companies on your behalf. It’s a myth that all doctors in this country are rich, some can barely afford to pay off their student loans. Things haven’t gotten bad enough where I live yet to make me want to switch. But if universal healthcare ever truly takes off in this country I’ll have no choice. I’m just grateful I have that choice. The system we have is so badly broken, universal healthcare will only make things worse at this point.

      And no, it’s important not rambling. I think women are the only ones who are really discussing it. Men only want to discuss the financial aspects. But women are the ones getting more services and so we think about it all more.

      I am enjoying his time off. He works 12 hours shifts (much better than his 24-48 hour ones!) at least 10 days a month. Though he usually works more so to have him home and awake is nice. 🙂

  2. Wow, that is really interesting. I have no idea what Obamacare will do. The NHS has been arpound forever – so much so that everyone in the UK doesn’t even remember they pay National Insurance for it, I know it’s hard to go back from thats for sure.
    I agree I think the US system at the moment is very uneven for patients (from my experience, being a teaching assistant with rubbish insurance!), and wanted to clarify when I said universal maternal care I meant that in the US it depends so much on your coverage whereas here there’s no limitation on how much the system will spend on you (new drugs for terminal illness=different debate). Interesting to hear the other side of it too from your husbands/other doctors point of view, I really don’t blame poor care on medical practitioners, even after my cs I came to realise the women looking after me were overwhelmed and that was the systems fault not theres. It’s crazy there are staff shortages here as if you do a medicine or medical degree of any kind here the government pays all your tuition and gives you a tax free wage while you do it. I read a compelling argument for salaried positions and the stability that brings the other day here (beware its pro universal mwahaha). Boutique care sounds kind of what I remember growing up, but a lot more fancy in the way that you have one practice, whereas here it was a connected group of surgeries, I prefer that idea a lot, it sounds like everyone wins.

    We will wait it out til we can afford citizenship for my husband here just in case, with UK citizenship you also get free healthcare in the EU (and you can live anywhere in the EU visa-free) so that’s travel insurance taken care of for the future. I am sure many would say the same thing about the system here though, despite the care being even, everyone is overstretched – there are not enough midwives. With my son I went 42 weeks over, had an induction and laboured to 9.5cm in a couple of hours with no pain meds on the post natal ward with other new mums around because I didn’t have one on one midwife care – just intermittent checks and they didn’t really believe I’d gone that far… I’m trying for a VBAC but dreading returning to an understaffed hospital, so exploring all my options now. One is that if I stay home and claim to want a homebirth I immediately get 2 NHS midwives to attend to me while I’m in labour at home – I would never get 2 to 1 care in a hospital, so it’s something I might consider even if I do intend on actually giving birth in hospital.
    I am going to be writing a grant proposal at the moment for research into what medical anthropology can contribute to medicine, (that’s kind of oversimplifying it but I’d bore you if I get into it too much), but it’s a real interest of mind the qualitative side of medical care. I am sorry you had such a traumatic birth, and that you are still suffering, if you ever want to talk that kind of thing out (hope that doesn’t sound too random) or anything else not on your blog my email is (edited to protect the innocent from crazies and spam bots (: ) . I feel like thats one aspect of healthcare that oft gets overlooked – not having the ability to reflect with someone about it – mind you I bet your husband can answer a lot of questions mine can’t! That’s why this time I’ve hired a doula with 30 years experience as a hospital midwife (she seems pretty kick ass), and if I offer her tea and cake she’ll talk about anything I want for hours. lol.

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