FAMILY TRAVEL: AIRPORT RULES & POLICIES

by Rania Mankarious

       Traveling with kids is not easy. Families have to think about an array of things: packing strollers, car seats, baby formula, diapers, snacks, extra clothes, sippy cups, favorite dolls or blankets and entertainment for their unpredictable kids.
       This has been my reality for several years. I have three daughters ages 1, 3 and 4, and I tackle the airports with them at least six times a year. Every few weeks, I navigate airport rules, security lines and airline policies. The regulations seem to be constantly changing so I've gathered and included in this article everything you need to know to get to your destination, kids in tow, smoothly. 
      An exciting development at George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) is its new Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Pre Check at the Terminal C South Checkpoint. TSA Pre Check is a pre-screening initiative that allows an expedited security process. At IAH, select United Airlines flyers may be eligible. Passengers 12 and younger are allowed through Pre Check lanes with eligible passengers. TSA Pre Check is available for eligible passengers on participating airlines in 16 airports around the U.S. 
       Airlines are expecting 23.7 million passengers during the Thanksgiving holiday period, according to the trade group Airlines for America. That's up 150,000 passengers from last year. With that in mind, here are other TSA regulations as they pertain to ticketing, security and being on the plane with children 12 and younger.

TICKETING
(1) While you must have your boarding pass and ID ready, children are not required to show ID at any point in the airport. Please note, rules for unaccompanied children and teens vary.
(2) Infants/kids under two who are flying as "lap" seats must have a special "lap seat" ticket. While it may not be asked of you, always have documentation with you that shows your child is under two years old.

SECURITY CHECKPOINTS
       Security checkpoints can be the most stressful part of traveling with young children. In addition to getting kids to cooperate, parents must pull many items out of bags when going through security (i.e., liquids or electronics). There are often annoyed glances, even angry glares from some travelers without kids.
       In an effort to make this process easier, we're listing the recent changes as dictated to Congress by Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.

(1) Children under 18 are not required to present photo identification when going through security. Teenagers 18+ must present an acceptable form of photo ID. School IDs do not suffice.
(2) Children 12 and under are no longer required to take off their shoes or light outerwear jackets.
(3) TSA will not ask children to do anything that separates them from their parents.
(4) TSA Agents can never help you hold your children.
(5) The 3-1-1 rule: All liquids, gels and aerosols must be in 3.4-ounce or smaller containers and packed in a 1-quart, clear plastic, zip-top bag. Each passenger is allowed one bag.
(6) Exception to the 3-1-1 rule: Medically necessary liquids and gels like baby formula, breast milk, baby food and juice are allowed in reasonable quantities above the 3.4 ounce limit. These items do not need to be in a zip-top bag but TSA agents must be notified that you have them. Liquids, in all cases, will be tested.
(7) Strollers need to be emptied, folded and placed on the belt. If the strollers do not fit through the x-ray machine, notify a TSA agent and they will do a manual inspection and pass your stroller through the handicapped lane.
(8) Remind children before you go through security that their favorite toy, blanket, and/or doll will have to go through the X-ray belt. Little ones may not like this so try turning it into an adventure: isn't their teddy bear lucky it gets to go through the x-ray machine?
(9) Last fall, the TSA began to reduce the number of pat-downs for kids. If kids set off an alarm, they are allowed to go through the metal detectors additional times. If they continue to set off alarms, they more than likely will still not be patted-down but rather swabbed, usually on their hands. The swabs help TSA detect explosive residue.
(10) For those children that repeatedly set off metal detectors or have indications of other suspicious factors, TSA has the right to use the walk-through imaging machines to capture clearer pictures.
(11) Parents carrying infants or children cannot be screened by the walk-through imaging technology. In addition, parents accompanying children may opt out of being screened by imaging technology to prevent them from being separated from their family.
(12)  Use the Family Lines! They are there to help you!

ON THE PLANE: NAVIGATING THE PASSENGERS
       I have flown all over the world and have found that planes are filled with three distinctive types of passengers: those who have kids and really don't mind seeing yours on the flight, those who have no thoughts about your kids but just want to close their eyes and rest before they arrive at their destinations, and those who think being stuck on a 1 hour or 6 hour flight with any children in the nearby vicinity is a form of cruel and unusual punishment. Usually the last type will make their sentiments known. You certainly can not control those around you but you can help your kids be their best on your flight.
       Traveling is not easy anymore. Gone are the days when people just book a flight, hop on and off a plane and easily travel the globe. Those days are even farther gone for couples with kids. Don't fret! Traveling with kids is still manageable and even fun, as long as you are prepared!
       For more information on the latest TSA regulations updates, check www.tsa.gov




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