Getting through airport security with kids can feel like chaos, especially if each family member has their own carry-on bag packed to the brim with items they need to stay entertained on a long flight. Parents have to keep an eye on multiple bags, which may not pass through the scanners in any sort of logical order and can be difficult to keep track of if one or more gets pulled for additional screening.
Bags with kid-friendly items may be particularly prone to extra inspection, too—they’re usually filled with toys, electronics, and snacks, as well as things like medications and baby formula that may be flagged by TSA. If this happens, you also have to make sure everything that’s removed is returned to the correct bag and nothing is left behind at security.
Good news: this situation may be avoidable with some strategic packing.
Pack items that will probably be flagged into a single carry-on
Instead of risking screening-related delays and lost items, try packing everything that could possibly raise red flags into a single carry-on, which is then overseen by you or another adult in your party. Kids can still bring their own bags, but these should contain relatively safe items like clothing, blankets, stuffed animals, and non-electronic toys.
In the “flagged” bag, pack these things:
- Electronics, such as iPads and Nintendo Switches
- Snacks, including baby food and puree pouches
- Baby formula and breast milk
- Ice packs
- Medication, including EpiPens and inhalers
- Personal tools such as nail clippers
- Other liquids that meet the 3.4 oz requirement
TSA rules exempt formula, milk, and baby food—as well as freezer packs required to keep these items cold—from the liquid volume limit, because they’re considered medically necessary. To move through security smoothly, the agency recommends packing these liquids in clear bottles rather than plastic bags. As with all liquids, you should remove these items from your carry-on; place them in the bin with your bag, and let a security officer know.
Ideally, this packing strategy will keep additional screening to one bag. As a bonus, having everything that’s needed in-flight for entertainment and eating makes it easy to distribute items to family members. No one wants to dig through multiple bags stored underneath seats or in overhead bins.