Tips for getting your family through TSA screening

Things have changed at the TSA checkpoint, especially for families. One good example: kids can keep their shoes and jackets on when going through screening. You still have to make sure their pockets aren’t filled with matchbox cars – those will set off the magnetometer.

But we’ve noticed an increase in the number of active full-body scanners machines lighting up the lines. On a trip a few days before our Hawaiian adventure my better half, a well-known TSA critic, declined the scan and submitted to a pat down.

So when we arrived at Orlando International Airport at 6:45 a.m. just a few days later and watched people going through the scanners, we wondered how long it would take to frisk our party of five. (I’ll let you know how that went in a minute.)

I know that for some families, the security process isn’t a big deal. But whether it is or it isn’t, here are some tips to help you and your family move through with confidence and composure no matter what comes your way.

Have a plan. What happens if you’re pulled aside for a secondary screening? Who goes through the magnetometer first? Who pulls out the computers and baggies with liquids and gels? Do you wait to send your bags through until your better half is through? Talk about these things with your better half and decide what to do before you go.

Share it with your traveling companions. Are you traveling with other families, business associates, club members or relatives? Let them know your plan so they can help or you can help them. It cuts down on confusion and helps the people you’re traveling anticipate what happens next.

Talk it through with the kids. Let the kids know what to expect. In Orlando, the line might seem like another cue for a Disney ride, but not so in other airports. Help your children understand why your family may choose a different screening, how important it is that they stay within sight of you and that if the screener puts their toy into the machine, it is just to check its tummy.

Scope out the lines. At some airports it’s clear to see which lines are leading you to an x-ray. The machines are easy to spot and light up when they’re in use. Try to subtly maneuver your family to the line that is more to your liking.

Ask if there’s a family-friendly line. Some airports still have lines for folks traveling with the young. They usually have more room for you to break down your stroller, heft up the car seat and wrangle the kids on both sides of the screening.

As luck would have it, we were able to avoid the pat-down. My better half declined the scanner but when the agent saw he was traveling with kids he shifted us to a line with a magnetometer. Could this be a new policy? We were so shocked we forgot to take the laptops out of the kid’s school bags.

What does your family do at the TSA checkpoint?

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Kari Haugeto

Kari is a serial entrepreneur with an education addiction and a profound curiosity that, more often then not, fuels some pretty incredible adventures. Currently her attention is focused on social and digital media technology and she is developing a project with her family of five and a variety of sponsors to share their cross-country adventures online in an interactive, socially responsible, educational and authentic manner.


  • Vicki

    So far at every airport we’ve been to only one parent has had to do the scan the other parent has just done the magnetometer with the kids and no further screening. One more tip I’d add is to tell the kids not to talk about “security” issues while in line. Recently our 9 year old asked a TSA agent “why would someone give a kid a gun to carry on a plane?” I think our reaction led the agent to believe it was an innocent question but I was pretty certain we were going to end up in a back room being questioned for 3 hours.

  • http://elliott.org Christopher Elliott

    I should probably disclose that I’m the “TSA critic” she’s referring to. I make everyone nervous (including myself).

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100002152481201 TestJeff Pierce

    Clearly, they are putting kids through the magnetometers to avoid criticism…and this is a recent (last 6 months or so based on reports) tactic by the TSA to avoid bad PR. In Canada, the strip search scanners were not allowed for kids from the original implementation of scanners (AIT) due to child pornography laws.

    Of course, this “defeats” the “security” measure as the thousands of terrorists with working non-metallic explosive bombs will travel with children now.

    I have only traveled once with my family since the illegal and abusive scanner/grope downs were implemented by the GeTSApo. I made sure we moved towards the metal detectors in Orlando airport (relatively easy as you know) and in Philadelphia we used one of the terminals with only metal detectors (Terminal D or Terminal A).

    DISCLOSURE: I am co-founder of a group that is working on actions to fight the TSA.