Home Air Travel Tip #38: Talk Back to the TSA

Tip #38: Talk Back to the TSA

by Shelly Rivoli

After struggling to get your carry-on bags and your diaper bag and your shoes onto the X-ray belt, just before presenting your baby’s bottles and your Ziploc with travel-size diaper ointment and teething gel for inspection, all the while anticipating just the right moment to yank your child out of her stroller and try to collapse it one-handed and get it up onto the X-ray belt without dropping her (she is now tucked under your other arm like a football), while a parade of business travelers snort and snuff behind you and anxiously tap their laptops that are lined up in a row of neatly organized bins dotted with perfectly polished shoes, and the gentleman at the metal detector informs you that your baby’s booties must also come off and go through the X-ray detector, well… you might be tempted to offer some suggestions of your own to the security officers.

I’m happy to report that there are some people at the TSA who are interested in hearing your feedback now. By using the “Got Feedback?” form (click here), you can easily report your U.S. airport security experiences, good and bad. Since parents traveling with babies and small children can have their hands full as it is (quarterback mamas et al), I hope that an influx of “family feedback” will help the TSA establish more uniform ways of helping families streamline passage through security across the U.S. Where did you get the best assistance? What did they do for you? Where did you burst into tears and vow you wouldn’t fly again until your child had graduated from college?

As it stands, the experiences of getting through airport security with a toddler at one U.S. airport versus another can be radically different. While at one airport (e.g. Oakland), your requests for assistance may be met with indifferent stares and you may be informed with a bark that your child (now completely frightened by the grouchy guard) must walk through the metal detector alone, at another (e.g. Denver) security guards may jump to help you get your carry-on items in queue and address your child with friendly competence, even presenting him with a sticker for walking through the metal detector by himself.

Sure, it’s not the TSA’s job to give everyone a warm, fuzzy feeling at security checkpoints. But let’s face it, establishing standard protocol for assisting parents with strollers, car seats, and small children will help countless families (and the business travelers behind them) get through security screenings more quickly and efficiently. And hey, a sticker never hurt anything either.

Got feedback of your own? Post it here or tell the TSA. And remember, you’ll find plenty of tried-and-true tips on clearing security with small children in Travels with Baby.

Safe journey,

Shelly Rivoli, author of the award-winning guide Travels with Baby
The Ultimate Guide for Planning Trips with Babies, Toddlers, and Preschool-Age Children

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