If you are traveling with an infant or toddler, one of the most stressful parts of air travel is standing in an endless airport security line. Although there are some times when this just can’t be avoided, there are a few strategies you should consider when the TSA is getting you down. Here are 4 tricks and shortcuts to coping with TSA hassles on your next flight with kids.
TSA Family Lanes
Many larger airports have special lines for families traveling with small children (often labeled “Family and Medical Liquids Lane”). These are often – but not always – shorter than regular lines. Look carefully for them, as entrances may often be obscured by the long lines filled with everyone else. Always ask the TSA officials monitoring the early parts of the lines if there is a special lane you have missed.
Elite Security Lines
If you have elite status on the airline you are flying, you may be eligible for a special TSA checkpoint in some airports (particularly if you are in a hub airport for the airline you are flying). Research your airport in advance, and be sure to ask at the ticket counter if there is an elite line at your airport and who is eligible to use it.
Use a Different Security Checkpoint
Some airports have multiple security checkpoints that dump everyone into the same set of terminals (e.g, ATL, CLT, SNA, and even some terminals at SFO). It doesn’t matter which checkpoint you go through because you can go to any gate after you clear security. If you find yourself facing an extra-long line, be sure to check other lines that may be nearby. Other airports, however, have a single checkpoint for each separate terminal and the terminals are not connected on the “sterile side” of security. Check your airport map before your trip to see if you may have options.
Travel at Off Times
Certain times at certain airports are notoriously crowded. Unless you are a frequent traveler, you probably won’t know what those times are, but there are a few guidelines to consider. Early Monday morning in major cities is often bad, as that is when all the business travelers start their week. The few days before and after Christmas are bad, as is the Sunday after Thanksgiving. Summer weekends in Orlando (MCO) can be rough, as families are often flying in and out for their week-long visit with Mickey Mouse. Consider flying on alternate days or at a different time of the day when possible to beat the crowds. And give yourself extra time if you can’t go at an off-time.