One of the many challenges of air travel with toddlers is deciding how to best transport the milk, juice, or other liquids they need. Although TSA allows parents with babies and toddlers to bring liquids in excess of 3.4 ounces, the reality is that the process is still far from easy. If you bring milk or other liquids with you for a flight, you very well may have to endure extra security screening. And let’s not forget the hassles that liquids like milk pose if you need to keep them cold.
Just this past week, I received a full body pat-down at the Orange County, California airport for bringing milk for my 13 month old. It wasn’t the first (or probably the last) time this has happened to me.
There is no perfect solution for air travel with toddlers and liquids. I find it is helpful to do things a bit differently each time I travel, depending on the age of my little one and the duration of the flight. Here are the choices and alternatives you might consider when you need to travel with toddlers and milk.
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Options & Ideas for Milk on Planes
1) Cold milk in a thermos or insulated bottle
If your trip is fairly short and you can keep regular milk somewhat cold in a thermos or bottle, this is probably your best bet. TSA agents are often able to screen the milk by itself by opening the container without having to subject you to a full body search.
2) Shelf stable milk
For longer flights where you can’t keep milk cold for the duration of your travels, shelf stable (aseptic) milk packs are your best bet. The most commonly available brand is Horizon, which we used with our daughter during the toddler travel years many times. Horizon, however, is most readily available in regular grocery stores as 1% milk. With younger toddlers used only to whole milk, finding an acceptable product can be more challenging. Luckily, Amazon now carries a shelf-stable whole milk product from Organic Valley (you can sometimes find the same product in Whole Foods if you have it in your area). At a little over $1 a pack, it is priced competitively to Horizon and was a life-saver for us on our most recent toddler travels with our son.
Be aware, however, that carrying shelf stable milk will sometimes result in enhanced security at the hands of TSA. Because TSA cannot open the sealed milk boxes (because they’d spoil), some agents insist on subjecting you to an enhanced pat down. It’s no fun, but I have just accepted that this will happen some times. Luckily, my home airports of SFO and OAK seem to let me pass without incident.
3) Powdered toddler formula
Toddler formula is one of the newer products on the market that is probably not necessary for most toddlers most of the time. It has the huge advantage, however, of being available in powdered form. As long as your toddler likes the taste, you can use it instead of milk while in transit. Bring a small amount of the powder with you on your air travels, and mix it up with water in the airport or on the plane. No liquids needed for TSA checkpoints!
4) Buy milk in the airport
Many families simply plan to avoid the TSA hassle by purchasing milk for their toddlers once they get through the sterile side of security. This is a little risky, as milk isn’t always available and you may not be able to find the type of milk your child drinks. However, if you know the airport you are departing from (or if you can wing it without milk if it turns out to be unavailable), this approach is certainly viable.
5) On-board your flight
This is the one option that I don’t recommend! Although all airlines carry several varieties of juice that you can use, most airlines do not carry much milk on board, if any. And some airlines will only make the milk they do have available for use with the coffee service. If you wait to think about milk until you board the plane, you will likely be out of luck. So plan ahead for another choice.
How have you handled milk when traveling with toddlers? Leave your tips in the comments.