Everyone has a crazy story tell about airport security, from suspicious breast milk in 2002 to the liquids ban of 2006, to removing belts, shoes, and goodness knows what else. While many security measures may seem silly, annoying, or unnecessary, they do prove effective. Every year, American TSA agents confiscate thousands of guns and other weapons from would be terrorists, all round bad guys, and a shocking amount of otherwise innocuous citizens who can’t see what all the fuss is about when it comes to traveling with a grenade launcher. Because of this, I’m thrilled to spend some time in a tedious security line, knowing that the inspection process really does work.
That being said, going through security can be a challenge with children. It is difficult to explain why confiscated water bottles make the world a better place and why removing your shoes means the airplane is safe. Long lines and utter boredom make for worthy temptresses for otherwise angelic children and it’s not uncommon to see tantrums, whine festivals, and all out mischief in this, the most serious place of the airport.
The last time I returned from Maui, I had the misfortune of standing behind a large, extended family that were completely oblivious that two young brothers were in the middle of an enthusiastic scrap. As the young boys did their best to pummel each other, hanging onto my legs and hiding behind other passengers to gain advantage, the adults continued to aimlessly chat, oblivious to the world class wrestling match going on behind them. Finally, a TSA agent told the boys to cut it out, which they half heartily did, and the parent’s attention was roused enough to get these devilish rebel rousers through security. In any other place than relaxed, family friendly Maui, I’m sure the staff would have had a more serious reaction.
Here are some tips for surviving the security line. With a little preparation, it can be an easy, uncomplicated experience.
1.) Let your children know what to expect – long lines, metal detectors, suitcases checks. Explain what is happening at a level they understand and focus on the importance of good behavior and patience. Emphasize that on the other side of security it is fun and relaxing – you can watch planes take off, see the pilots walking by, visit the play zone, and so on.
2.) Be the Early Bird. Always expect long lines and give yourself extra time during peak hours and holidays.
3.) Size Matters. Do your research and learn what is acceptable as carry-on luggage. Weight and size limits are being increasingly enforced.
4.) Inspector Gadget. Pack your carry-on bags as if they will be inspected. Electronics should go near the top where they can be easily accessed.
5.) Bottoms Up! Yes, there is still a ban on water bottles and all liquids must be contained in a 3-1-1 kit. I’ve seen people pitch huge fights over contact lens solution, applesauce, and their double-double. You have to do your homework! (For more information on carry on regulations http://www.catsa-acsta.gc.ca/Page.aspx?ID=72&pname=LiquidsAerosolsGels_LiquidesAerosolsGels&lang=en)
6.) Dress the Part. Focus on simple outfits that are free of accessories. Keep belts, scarves, jackets, and jewellery in your carry-on for now. Wear shoes that are easy to slip on and off.
7.) Corral the Chaos. Anything not in your main carry-on is at increased risk of loss through theft or absent-mindedness as it goes through the security x-rays on the ubiquitous trays. Teddy bears and treats, wallets and cell phones, cameras and keys – don’t give them a chance to disappear!
8.) Passport perfection. Only one person should be in charge of passport and boarding pass management for safety and convenience.
9.) Mutual Respect. Security agents and airline staff have exhausting, challenging, and sometimes dangerous jobs. They have heard every complaint in the book and sarcasm about applesauce appropriations isn’t acceptable frustration – it’s disrespect.
10.) Don’t be afraid to hold up the line. If you’ve followed the previous steps, you will be as organized as anyone can expect to be. If you need to take an extra minute or two to comfort a confused child, put the passports away in their special pocket, or triple check that nothing’s missing, you should take it.