Tuesday, March 22, 2011

T.S.A. or S.T.R.E.S.S

In 2008, we decided to travel to Walt Disney World with our three children.  Joey was 3.5, Hayley was 2, and Emily was just 10 months.  I was so excited for this trip because it would be Hayley and Emily's first trip to WDW.  Plus, my brother, sister-in-law and nephew, who live in Texas, were meeting us in Walt Disney World and it would also be my nephew's first trip.  Even my parents were traveling with us, so it was a full out family reunion.

We arrived at the airport with more than enough time to spare.  If there is one place I do not want to cut it close, it is the Manchester Airport on a Saturday morning.  We checked in our luggage and made our way to the security line, which is my least favorite part of any trip.  I was holding Emily, while Pierre folded down the stroller.  My mom was taking Joey and Hayley's sneakers off, and that's when it all began.  Joey started crying because he thought TSA was taking his brand new Lightning McQueen sneakers.  So as you can imagine, Hayley started crying that they were taking her new Disney Princess sneakers.  I had planned for everything else.  I had taken all possible items out of their hands and had coats off before even being close to the front of the line.  But I had not even once considered that sneakers would be an issue.  These are my two kids who would go barefoot everyday of their life if I let them.

Joey & Hayley ~ October 2008
As bad as that moment was, I was even more unprepared for what was to happen next.  My parents went through the line first and were waiting for us on the other side.  Joey, still crying about his sneakers, refused to walk through the scanner, even though we had traveled many times before and this never bothered him.  I think he was afraid we were leaving his sneakers behind, though if you've read my previous post, Disney Magic at Work Again, you know that he talked very little at this age, so I am just guessing.  Keep in mind that he was just 3.5 but the size of a 6 year old, so the woman would not let my husband walk through with him.  My mom was calling to him, I was hanging onto Emily and trying to calm down Hayley and Pierre was trying to convince Joey to walk through. Finally I said to the TSA person, he is only three.  The TSA lady gave in but let us know that is not proper protocol.  We had never had an issue like this in all our travels, and our kids have traveled numerous times.

Emily ~ October 2008
Then, Hayley, who must have known I was at peak stress, let go of my hand and just walked through the scanner.  I was very relieved.  I was just waiting for TSA to tell me Emily had to crawl through on her own, but of course, that didn't happen.  So I made my way through with Emily and, because I wasn't stressed enough already, we were pulled aside for an extra security check on the Cinderella backpack and the Buzz Lightyear backpack.  Luckily, at this point none of the kids were crying, though Joey was in search of his sneakers, while I had to hand Emily over to my mom.  I am not sure what they saw in those two backpacks but apparently, diapers, wipes and empty bottles and sippy cups require an extra check. 

I will say that we have traveled many times and not encountered a TSA agent as strict as this.  But I will admit, I would much prefer a strict TSA agent who ends up stopping someone who shouldn't be going through, than someone who lets people slide by and misses someone who should have been stopped.  Since that trip, I make sure my kids, and myself, are prepared for anything.  My son still hates walking through the scanner, but he does it and knows his sneakers will be waiting for him on the other side.

So here are a few tips on getting through airport security with your children:

1.  Children cannot carry anything through the scanner, so if they have a special little toy or blanket, pack it away until you get to the gate.  We have twice had to pry "Green Bear" out of Emily's hands (though on several occasions, we were not asked to do this).  Now we tell the kids their special toys are meeting us at the gate. 

2. Strollers have to be folded down and scanned.  We fold ours down before getting into line. It makes our lives much easier.

3. Prepare your child about having to remove their sneakers and coats. Make sure they understand they will get them back after you go through security.  We remove coats and all that before getting into the security line, though I do wait to do sneakers for the last minute.  (Updated in 2011, children under age 12 are no longer required to remove their shoes, though they still need to remove coats.)

4. Have a plan in place should your child not want to walk through the scanner.  If you have two adults in your travel party, have one adult go first, so if needed, they can encourage your child to follow suit.

What is your best tip for helping children through security at the airport and making it a stress free experience?


Beth said...

great tips! Hopefully I won't have to fly with my little one until he's older! I don't think I could handle that stress!!

Beth Doda ~ disneymom2jhe said...

Let's just say I was so stressed and sweating!!! LOL!

Jodi Whisenhunt said...

OMGsh! The only time we've flown was in January, and it totally stressed us all out - and made 3 out of 5 of us ill! It's back to ROAD TRIP for us from now on! :)

Kimberly Hill said...

Heartbreaking for your littles, Beth! I used to love flying but with all of this extra garbage (and we won't get into whether it's really helpful or not) I don't care how cheap the flight is, I'm driving if my children are involved!

Beth Doda ~ disneymom2jhe said...

I think the most frustrating thing about it is the inconsistency from airport to airport and then even the inconsistencies between agents. We have flown plenty of times with no issues, so I was really surprised to say the least.

Magical Days with the Mouse said...

OMG! Max has green bear!! He is SERIOUSLY attached to it. My grandma gave him two at the baby shower I had, and for some reason he became attached to them. He is sleeping with it right now. Thanks for reminding me, I need to look online for another. When I forget green bear, when I leave the house boy do I get a crouch guy when he is tired. If I have green bear when he is tired, the crouch goes away, and green bear soothes him. Isn't it funny how that works. You are the first person I know who also has a green bear. ... Wait is it a bear head attached to a small blanket? or literally a green bear. You gotta tweet me the answer. I'm dying to know now. :)

I bet they were checking the sippy cups for liquid. We had an issue too, when we flew to Chicago. I told David no more flying for a couple years. Hhahaha.

Beth Doda ~ disneymom2jhe said...

We have the little Gund bear who is in a green bunny suit. Someone gave it to me for Joey's baby shower, but somehow Emily discovered it and now brings him everywhere.

Growing Up Disney said...

I'm with you on inconsistency. Seems some of the "rules" vary.

On one trip to WDW, Audrey and I were flying alone. The Southwest agent gave my husband a boarding pass that allowed him to accompany us to the gate. It was great having an extra set of hands through security! Not sure what the rules are but it wouldn't hurt to ask in a similar case.

Jamee @ A New Kind of Normal said...

I am a new visitor & am so glad that I found this post! We are heading to Disney for the first time with our daughter next month & will be flying! I didn't think about the whole shoes off thing! Thanks for the heads up!

Beth Doda ~ disneymom2jhe said...

Welcome, Jamee! I am so happy you found me! Yes, the sneaker thing really threw me for a loop! :-) Who knew, right? Enjoy your trip to Disney! The first one with kids is so special! Make sure you let me know if you have any questions, I'm here to help!