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Today’s Hint: How to Get Through Airport Security Faster With Kids

When you’re traveling with young children, going through airport security can be a daunting process. There’s the stroller you have to fold up, not to mention all the travel snacks and sippy cups that have to be specially screened.

Plus, little kids hate to wait around, so standing in long security lines with them can be challenging to say the least.

This is why when I’m traveling by air with my nearly 2-year-old daughter, I rarely wait in the regular security line. Rather, I use a strategy that is today’s hint for how to get through airport security a bit faster with kids.

My trick: I always ask the person manning the entrance to the priority lane if there’s a family lane and or a special lane for those with strollers.

If there is a family lane (i.e. a security line meant for families with little kids and strollers, so they don’t clog up the regular security line), the airport security worker will direct me in that direction. And if there’s no family lane nearby, nice airport workers generally usher me through into the priority lane or even sometimes the Transportation Security Administration Precheck lane.

Case in point: On a recent trip out of San Francisco International Airport, after I asked about a special line for those with strollers, I was allowed into the priority lane with my daughter and her stroller. We then made it through security in 15 minutes max. Another set of parents, meanwhile, traveling with a baby for the first time, followed me at my insistence, and then thanked me for letting them know about my trick.

My husband, however, who was parking our car and came a bit later, had to go through the regular security line because he was childless & strollerless. Getting through security took him at least 45 minutes.

I’m also not the only proponent of this trick. The Points Guy includes “ask nicely” as one of his tips for getting through airport security faster. He writes, “whether it is because you are cutting your time too short and your flight is starting to board or if you are traveling with small children, they just might send you through the priority line. It can’t hurt to ask!”

Elsewhere, Debbie Dubrow who blogs at Delicious Baby, similarly suggests getting in the family lines, which “often allow parents and young kids to bypass the longest part of the security line (before the ID check),” and if there’s no family lane, she says to “ask whether you can use the express lines.”

To be sure, my ask-for-special-treatment trick may not always work at all airports, though it has worked for me many times while traveling in and out of San Francisco, Chicago, Cleveland, Seattle and New York , among other locales.

photo 3-2In addition, there’s no guarantee that a family lane, or even a priority lane, will always be faster than the regular security line. Still, if you already have airline status or have gone through the TSA Precheck process (which is on my to-do list), getting through airport security faster is typically not as big of an issue.

However, if you don’t fit that bill and have young kids, it’s worth knowing that the quickest way to get through security is generally just to ask if there’s a special lane for those with strollers and or young kids.

Why not just find such a lane yourself? It’s always a good idea to ask since such lanes can often be off to the side and easy to miss, as Chris Bird of Mama Bird’s Blog points out over at Traveling Moms. Plus, if such a family lane doesn’t exist at a particular security checkpoint, you may find yourself directed to another typically faster lane, as I’ve learned first hand in the past.

Finally, as a side note, here’s another quick tip for getting through security faster with kids that you may not know: kids 12 and under can leave their shoes on during airport security screening, and check out this Walking On Travels post for more helpful speedy security tips.

What are your tricks for getting through airport security lines faster with young children?

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  1. says

    Bay Area airports have AWESOME TSA family lane setups. SFO is good, and OAK is even better. Not all major airports will allow you to cut this much of the line though. I’m hitting ATL (the worst of the worst during summer family travel) in a few weeks – will report back on that experience because that will be the true test of family lanes. 😉 And TSA pre-check is on my to do list too.

  2. says

    I’m about to test out the ‘Family Card’ that Air Iberia offer families checking in at Madrid Airport. It costs Euros 25 and they fast track your check-in. I have no patience when it comes to long check-in queues with kids so hoping this might take some of pain away! Here’s a link to their service (I have no idea if they offer it in other airports I’m afraid). – Victoria

  3. says

    Yup – we just flew MDW-RNO last week and at both airports, we were able to zip right through security with the family line.

    Bonus – even the adults get to go through the regular X-Ray machine and not the cancer box 😛

    That was nice since I was already super-stressed trying to keep track of 17 (yes, SEVENTEEN) pieces of luggage 😛


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