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The Best Ways To Help Families Speed Through TSA at the Airport

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Chris Hassan
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Chris Hassan

Social Media & Brand Manager

218 Published Articles

Countries Visited: 24U.S. States Visited: 26

Chris holds a B.S. in Hospitality and Tourism Management and managed social media for all Marriott properties in South America, making him a perfect fit for UP and its social media channels. He has a ...
Edited by: Jessica Merritt
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Jessica Merritt

Editor & Content Contributor

94 Published Articles 515 Edited Articles

Countries Visited: 4U.S. States Visited: 23

A long-time points and miles student, Jessica is the former Personal Finance Managing Editor at U.S. News and World Report and is passionate about helping consumers fund their travels for as little ca...
& Kellie Jez
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Kellie Jez

Director of Operations & Compliance

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Kellie’s professional experience has led her to a deep passion for compliance, data reporting, and process improvement. Kellie’s learned the ins and outs of the points and miles world and leads UP’s c...

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Traveling can be stressful even for a seasoned veteran. Add in a kid or 2, and you could be looking at entirely new stress levels. Maybe a traffic jam made you late to the airport, or a single TSA line created an extra long wait … or perhaps it’s just one of those days where everything goes wrong.

In any case, being extra prepared for TSA airport security can help save you and your family some sanity.

Here, you’ll find tips to navigate the TSA screening process, get your family through airport security, and get started on your vacation as quickly as possible — car seats, strollers, tablets, and stuffed animals included!

Have a Game Plan

Woman Holding Passport
Keep all boarding passes and passports together and in a safe spot. Image Credit: Tawan Jz via Shutterstock

If you have flown in the U.S. recently, you know the drill: get in a long line, take off your shoes, remove your laptop, go through the X-ray, turn around because you forgot to take off your belt, and try again.

Even when flying alone, getting through security can be frustrating. Multiply that by a couple of cranky kids, and you’ll be thankful for some sort of a game plan!

Start Training Early

As soon as your child is old enough to somewhat understand what going through airport security means, start to prepare them on your way to the airport. Explain what will happen and what you need your child to do.

This helps your child expect and understand the TSA process, making them less likely to be frightened when TSA agents have to place their favorite stuffed animal in a dark tube. Don’t learn this lesson the hard way via a meltdown because their favorite toy has disappeared into the scanner!

Hot Tip: If the little ones are old enough, try giving them some responsibility, like being in charge of their bag when it comes through the end of the X-ray. Little things like this can help them stay focused so you can continue gathering everything else.

Master the ID Check

If you travel internationally, you may find yourself at the TSA checkpoint with multiple passports and boarding passes — all very important items you don’t want to misplace. When flying domestically, you can probably get away with just using your mobile boarding pass and your driver’s license; the kids won’t need an ID.

However, sometimes trying to navigate multiple boarding passes on 1 cell phone can be more trouble than it’s worth.

For example, when we travel as a family of 4, I prefer to use printed boarding passes and keep them lined up on the photo page of each passport. This helps speed things along with the TSA agent.

Hot Tip: Yep, kiddos also need passports for international travel!  For more information, check out our detailed step-by-step piece on how to get a U.S. passport for your baby.

Prepare While in the Security Line

TSA Airport Security Line
Use your time waiting in line to get organized. Image Credit: Bignai via Shutterstock

As soon as you finish the ID and boarding pass checkpoint, you should immediately store all passports and boarding passes together in a safe spot.

I also put my cell phone, wallet, and watch in my carry-on so I don’t need to worry about collecting them later — this helps me focus on the kids and their stuff.

The same goes for any other loose items. If you’re traveling with a stroller, it can become a catch-all for a lot of stuff — so take this moment in line to start consolidating anything you can.

Hot Tip: If toys, dolls, stuffed animals, or jackets can be stuffed into a carry-on bag, do so now. The goal is to send as few items through the X-ray as possible so you can just grab your stuff and move away from the fray on the other end. Also, be sure you are up to date on what can and can’t be taken through security before you’re waiting in line!

Assign Responsibilities

If you are traveling with children who can follow instructions and handle responsibilities, you’re ahead of the game. If they can help with the younger kids, even better!

But when traveling with infants or toddlers, the responsibility falls on you to ensure things go as smoothly as possible. Traveling with your partner or another adult who can help will make a huge difference.

Here’s another example of how my family of 4 manages security responsibilities. When my wife and I travel with our 2 young children, we send her through the X-ray first with the kids while I finish loading our stuff into the machine.

We do this for a few reasons:

  • I can provide a small buffer for her and the kids to get their shoes on before the people behind us start collecting their stuff.
  • Having 4 people (even if half of them are tiny) trying to help load items onto the belt can cause more headaches than it solves.
  • I choose what order our stuff is sent through, which can make a big difference on the other side of the X-ray.

Hot Tip:When traveling with a stroller, send it through the X-ray first so you can start loading it up with the kids and bags as soon as possible on the other side!

What Will Be Scanned?

Everything you bring to the airport that you want to take on the airplane will be scanned. If it is on you (like clothing or jewelry), it will be scanned via a full-body scan or a standard metal detector.

In my experience, our children have never been asked to complete a full-body scan. As soon as our oldest could walk, she was asked to go through the metal detector herself. Before that, TSA allowed us to carry her through.

All items not on your person will be placed in bins on a conveyor belt and sent through a closed X-ray machine to be inspected more thoroughly.

Car Seats

Family With A Stroller In The Airport
If you want to bring all of this on a plane, it has to be scanned! Image Credit: Chris Hassan

If you are traveling with a car seat or stroller, be prepared that it might not fit inside the X-ray machine. In this case, it will need to be hand-checked by airport security and will add a few minutes to your experience.

My family often travels with a stroller, infant car seat, and a convertible car seat. Though we could, we don’t like to check the car seats for 2 reasons:

  1. Airlines often claim they aren’t responsible for damaged baby items. So if your car seat is mishandled, you’re out of luck.
  2. If the airline loses or misplaces your car seat, you’ll be in a tough situation when you land. Airlines often have loaner seats available, but that just adds more hassle to your trip. Since we like to grab our rental car and start exploring new locations immediately, the thought of having to deal with a lost or damaged car seat is very unappealing.

After going through many airport security checks, I already know that our stroller and infant car seat will fit in the X-ray, but our convertible car seat won’t. As soon as it’s our turn, I bring the big car seat to the front and ask the TSA agent to request a hand check.

So, although it is free to check strollers and car seats, we don’t think it is worth the risk. Plus, having a stroller in the airport is handy!

Hot Tip: Check out our ultimate guide to flying with a car seat, with policies listed by airline.

Baby Formula and Breast Milk

Normally, passengers are subject to the 3-1-1 rule when traveling with liquids. That means you can bring a quart-sized bag of liquids, gels, creams, and aerosols if each is equal to or less than 3.4 ounces.

However, according to the TSA website, parents (whether traveling with the child or not) can bring juice, formula, and breast milk in “reasonable quantities.”

That means that if you are just coming back from a week-long work trip and you have a large supply of breast milk that you pumped, you will be allowed to bring it in your carry-on.

To expedite the screening process, place the breast milk or other liquids in a separate tray and alert the officer so they can test them for explosives.

If the breast milk is frozen, it will be easier to pass through security as it doesn’t need to be tested.

Ice or gel cold packs are allowed as well, though these are also subject to additional testing.

Hot Tip:Water is allowed for babies and toddlers but is subject to extra inspection. To save time, empty your water bottles and refill them after security.

Going Through the X-ray

TSA Airport Security Cellphone Bin
You’ll have to put your cell phone into a small container to go through the X-ray machine. Image Credit: Monkey Business Images via Shutterstock

The moment of truth: just a few more steps, and you are on your way to a wonderful family vacation (paid for with points, of course)!

Going through the metal detector will be a lot of fun for some kids. For others, being separated from their stuffed animal for 30 seconds can trigger a tantrum — parents, beware!

Here are a few tips to keep in mind for you and your children:

  • If you have your baby in a baby carrier or sling, according to the TSA website, you can keep them on but may be subject to additional screening.
  • Remove any excess jewelry that may cause the metal detector to go off. Wedding rings are OK to leave on.
  • Plan which items you will be sent through the X-ray first. We recommend sending the stroller first if you are traveling with one.
  • Prepare any tablets or laptops by placing them in their own bin, outside of any case or sleeve. If you have TSA PreCheck, your tablets and laptops can stay in your carry-on.
  • Keep breast milk, formula, juice, and medicines in a separate bin so they’re easy to find if extra testing is required.
  • Remember, small children should not need to go through a full-body scan.
  • Unless you have TSA PreCheck, you must remove your shoes. Ensure everyone wears shoes that are easy to remove and put on by themselves.
  • Wear socks. You don’t want your kids walking around barefoot on the dirty airport floor.
  • Double- and triple-check the bins when you are done — nobody wants to forget a teddy bear at security!

Hot Tip: Did you know that in 2020 more than $517,000 was left in security bins by forgetful travelers? Don’t be like them! Save your money for more family vacations.

Try To Stay Relaxed

This is easier said than done. We all know that traveling can be frustrating, but it’s easy for this feeling to spread: first, you’re flustered, then your spouse, then the kids. Managing a family and everyone’s stuff can be stressful, especially with a line of people behind you watching.

If you feel stressed over something silly, like a TSA agent trying to force a car seat into the X-ray machine, just take a deep breath, look at your kid(s), and laugh it off. Even a forced laugh will help — and it’s contagious!

Take a Step Back

Sometimes, common courtesy helps, too. Even though we’re all trying to get through security as fast as possible, a family of 4 will take a bit longer than a single businessman with a briefcase. Instead of rushing and stressing, try asking the person behind you if they’d like to go ahead.

When my family travels, we make this offer almost every time we’re in a situation like this — and have only been taken up on it once. On our last trip, we asked the 2 businessmen behind us, who both declined. After we’d all passed through security, they told us they were impressed by how smoothly we’d moved through with 2 crying kids and all our gear.

I’d love to say that practice makes perfect, but just being prepared can go a long way. And it was also nice to get a compliment — it just shows that not everyone will judge you negatively!

TSA PreCheck for Families

TSA PreCheck sign
TSA PreCheck signs at DCA. Image Credit: TSA

TSA PreCheck is a great tool for any traveler to have. This program is a more thorough security clearance that U.S. citizens (and a few others) can receive by paying a $78 fee, completing an in-person interview, and undergoing a background check.

Once you qualify, you’ll be set for 5 years.

In this line, you will not need to remove your shoes, laptops, belts, light jackets, or small liquids.

TSA PreCheck is free if you have Global Entry, commonly reimbursed by many of our favorite credit cards.

Cards That Pay for Your Global Entry or TSA PreCheck Fee

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The Amex Platinum reigns supreme for luxury travel, offering the best airport lounge access plus generous statement credits, and complimentary elite status.
Earn 80,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $8,000 on eligible purchases on the Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership.
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See Pay Over Time APR. Carrying a balance will incur interest. Eligible charges can be included in the Pay Over Time balance, up to the Pay Over Time Limit. Pay Over Time only applies to eligible charges meeting minimum transaction amounts.
Upgraded Points credit ranges are a variation of FICO®Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit cardapplication.
Good to Excellent (670-850)

When it comes to cards that offer top-notch benefits, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better card out there than The Platinum Card® from American Express.

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  • The best airport lounge access out of any card (by far) — enjoy access to over 1,400 worldwide lounges, including the luxurious Amex Centurion Lounges, Priority Pass lounges, Plaza Premium Lounges, and many more!
  • 5x points per dollar spent on flights purchased directly with the airline or with AmexTravel.com (up to $500,000 per year)
  • 5x points per dollar spent on prepaid hotels booked with AmexTravel.com
Cons
  • $695 annual fee (rates and fees)
  • Airline credit does not cover airfare (only incidentals like checked bags)
  • Earn 80,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $8,000 on eligible purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership. Apply and select your preferred metal Card design: classic Platinum, Platinum x Kehinde Wiley, or Platinum x Julie Mehretu.
  • Earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points for flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year and earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel.
  • $200 Hotel Credit: Get up to $200 back in statement credits each year on prepaid Fine Hotels + Resorts® or The Hotel Collection bookings with American Express Travel when you pay with your Platinum Card®. The Hotel Collection requires a minimum two-night stay.
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  • The American Express Global Lounge Collection® can provide an escape at the airport. With complimentary access to more than 1,400 airport lounges across 140 countries and counting, you have more airport lounge options than any other credit card issuer on the market. As of 03/2023.
  • $155 Walmart+ Credit: Save on eligible delivery fees, shipping, and more with a Walmart+ membership. Use your Platinum Card® to pay for a monthly Walmart+ membership and get up to $12.95 plus applicable taxes back on one membership (excluding Plus Ups) each month.
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  • Receive either a $100 statement credit every 4 years for a Global Entry application fee or a statement credit up to $85 every 4.5 year period for TSA PreCheck® application fee for a 5-year plan only (through a TSA PreCheck® official enrollment provider), when charged to your Platinum Card®. Card Members approved for Global Entry will also receive access to TSA PreCheck at no additional cost.
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Financial Snapshot
  • APR: See Pay Over Time APR. Carrying a balance will incur interest. Eligible charges can be included in the Pay Over Time balance, up to the Pay Over Time Limit. Pay Over Time only applies to eligible charges meeting minimum transaction amounts.
  • Foreign Transaction Fees: None
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American Express Membership Rewards

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The Business Platinum Card® from American ExpressTerms Apply / Rates & Fees
U.P. Rating 
The rating for this card has been determined by our own industry experts who know the in's and out's of credit card products. Bonuses, rewards as well as rates and fees are all taken into account. Compensation from the issuer does not affect our rating. We only recommend products we either use ourselves or endorse.

This card is ideal for business travelers who enjoy luxury travel and are looking for a card loaded with benefits!

Learn More(at Amex's secure site)
This card is ideal for business travelers who enjoy luxury travel and are looking for a card loaded with benefits!
Earn 150,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $20,000 in eligible purchases on the Card within the first 3 months of Card Membership.
150,000 points
$3,300
$695
19.49% - 28.49% Variable
Upgraded Points credit ranges are a variation of FICO®Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit cardapplication.
Good to Excellent (670-850)

The Business Platinum Card® from American Express is a premium travel rewards card tailored toward business owners who are frequent travelers with a high number of annual expenses.

When you factor in the large number of perks that the card offers like the best airport lounge access at over 1,400 lounges, along with tons of annual credits, it’s easy to see why this card can is a top option for frequent traveling business owners.

Hot Tip: Check to see if you’re eligible for a huge welcome bonus offer of up to 170,000 points with the Amex Business Platinum. The current public offer is 150,000 points. (This targeted offer was independently researched and may not be available to all applicants.)

Pros
  • 5x Membership Rewards points per $1 on flights and prepaid hotels at Amex Travel
  • Access to over 1,400 worldwide airport lounges as part of the American Express Global Lounge Collection
  • Get 50% more Membership Rewards points (1.5 points per $1) on eligible purchases in key business categories, as well as on purchases of $5,000 or more (cap applies)
Cons
  • High annual fee of $695 (rates & fees)
  • Airline fee credit does not cover airfare, only incidentals like checked bags
  • Welcome Offer: Earn 150,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $20,000 in eligible purchases on the Card within the first 3 months of Card Membership.
  • 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights and prepaid hotels on AmexTravel.com, and 1X points for each dollar you spend on eligible purchases.
  • Earn 1.5X points (that’s an extra half point per dollar) on each eligible purchase at US construction material, hardware suppliers, electronic goods retailers, and software & cloud system providers, and shipping providers, as well as on purchases of $5,000 or more everywhere else, on up to $2 million of these purchases per calendar year.
  • Unlock over $1,000 in statement credits on select purchases, including tech, recruiting and wireless in the first year of membership with the Business Platinum Card®. Enrollment required. See how you can unlock over $1,000 annually in credits on select purchases with the Business Platinum Card®, here.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit: Select one qualifying airline and then receive up to $200 in statement credits per calendar year when incidental fees are charged by the airline to the Card.
  • $189 CLEAR® Plus Credit: Use your card and get up to $189 in statement credits per calendar year on your CLEAR® Plus Membership (subject to auto-renewal) when you use the Business Platinum Card®.
  • The American Express Global Lounge Collection® can provide an escape at the airport. With complimentary access to more than 1,400 airport lounges across 140 countries and counting, you have more airport lounge options than any other credit card issuer on the market as of 03/2023.
  • $695 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.
Financial Snapshot
  • APR: 19.49% - 28.49% Variable
  • Foreign Transaction Fees: None
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American Express Membership Rewards

Chase Sapphire Reserve®
U.P. Rating 
The rating for this card has been determined by our own industry experts who know the in's and out's of credit card products. Bonuses, rewards as well as rates and fees are all taken into account. Compensation from the issuer does not affect our rating. We only recommend products we either use ourselves or endorse.

A top player in the high-end premium travel credit card space that earns 3x points on travel and dining while offering top luxury perks.

Learn More(at Chase's secure site)
A top player in the high-end premium travel credit card space that earns 3x points on travel and dining while offering top luxury perks.
Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $900 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Travel℠
60,000 points
$1,200
$550
22.49%-29.49% Variable
Upgraded Points credit ranges are a variation of FICO®Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit cardapplication.
Excellent (740-850)

If you’re looking for an all-around excellent travel rewards card, the Chase Sapphire Reserve® is one of the best options out there.

The card combines elite travel benefits and perks like airport lounge access, with excellent point earning and redemption options.  Plus it offers top-notch travel insurance protections to keep you covered whether you’re at home or on the road.

Don’t forget the $300 annual travel credit which really helps to reduce the annual fee!

Pros
  • 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase TravelSM immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually
  • 10x points on Lyft purchases March 31, 2025
  • 10x points on Peloton equipment and accessory purchases over $250 through March 31, 2025
Cons
  • $550 annual fee
  • Does not offer any sort of hotel elite status
  • Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $900 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Travel℠.
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Travel℠ immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Travel℠. For example, 60,000 points are worth $900 toward travel.
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select and up to $100 application fee credit every four years for Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck®
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.
  • Member FDIC
Financial Snapshot
  • APR: 22.49%-29.49% Variable
  • Foreign Transaction Fees: None
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Chase Ultimate Rewards

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit CardTerms Apply / Rates & Fees
U.P. Rating 
The rating for this card has been determined by our own industry experts who know the in's and out's of credit card products. Bonuses, rewards as well as rates and fees are all taken into account. Compensation from the issuer does not affect our rating. We only recommend products we either use ourselves or endorse.

Get 2x miles plus some of the most flexible redemptions offered by a travel credit card!

Get 2x miles plus some of the most flexible redemptions offered by a travel credit card!
Enjoy a one-time bonus of 75,000 miles once you spend $4,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel.
75,000 miles
$1,350
$95
19.99% - 29.99% (Variable)
Upgraded Points credit ranges are a variation of FICO®Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit cardapplication.
Good to Excellent Credit (670-850)

The Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card is one of the most popular rewards cards on the market. It’s perfect for anyone in search of a great welcome offer, high rewards rates, and flexible redemption options.

Frequent travelers with excellent credit may benefit from this credit card that offers a lot of bells and whistles. And it offers easy-to-understand rewards earning and redemption.

Pros
  • 5x miles per $1 on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
  • 2x miles per $1 on all other purchases
  • Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee credit
Cons
  • Enjoy a one-time bonus of 75,000 miles once you spend $4,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on every purchase, every day
  • Earn 5X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of trip options
  • Miles won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how many you can earn
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your miles to get reimbursed for any travel purchase—or redeem by booking a trip through Capital One Travel
  • Enrich every hotel stay from the Lifestyle Collection with a suite of cardholder benefits, like a $50 experience credit, room upgrades, and more
  • Transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
Financial Snapshot
  • APR: 19.99% - 29.99% (Variable)
  • Foreign Transaction Fees: None
Rewards Center

Capital One Miles

Here’s how to use TSA PreCheck as a family:

  • If everyone in your family has the TSA PreCheck logo on their boarding passes, you can all use the faster TSA PreCheck line.
  • If anyone did not receive the TSA PreCheck logo on their boarding pass, they must use the regular line.
  • Children 12 and under can accompany an adult with TSA PreCheck clearance, even if they do not have their own TSA PreCheck clearance.
  • Children ages 13 to 17 may accompany a TSA PreCheck-approved parent when they are on the same reservation and have the TSA PreCheck designation on their boarding pass.

Hot Tip: If you are arriving in the U.S. and your boarding pass does not have PreCheck clearance for your connecting flight, reprint it when you land. Sometimes it will get added automatically.

Final Thoughts

Little Girl Pulling Luggage In The Airport
Our daughter loves pulling and riding her JetKids BedBox through the airport. Image Credit: Chris Hassan

Getting a family through airport security can be hectic and stressful for even the most seasoned traveling family. But having a plan and understanding expectations for everyone in the group can go a long way toward a smooth and quick start to your next trip!

The information regarding the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card was independently collected by Upgraded Points and not provided nor reviewed by the issuer.

For rates and fees of The Platinum Card® from American Express, click here.
For rates and fees of The Business Platinum Card® from American Express, click here.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I bring breast milk and formula through security?

Yes, you are allowed to bring a “reasonable amount” beyond 3.4 ounces of breast milk, formula, or juice in your carry-on. It will be subject to extra inspection.

Can you go through TSA PreCheck with a baby?

Yes, children up to 12 can accompany an adult with TSA PreCheck.

Can a 13-year-old use TSA PreCheck?

Yes, but they would need to apply for TSA PreCheck and acquire their own Known Traveler Number.

Can I bring baby food pouches on a plane?

Yes, food for babies and children is allowed in reasonable quantities. It will be subject to additional inspection.

Should I gate check my stroller and car seat?

Gate-checking a stroller and car seat is often a good idea. Strollers are useful for getting kids around the airport, and gate-checking can help avoid having these essential items damaged or lost.

What do I need to get through security at the airport?

You will need a valid boarding pass and a valid form of identification.

Can I wear a watch through airport security?

Yes, you can, but it may set off the metal detector. We recommend removing watches, belts, and wallets to save time.

Chris Hassan's image

About Chris Hassan

Chris holds a B.S. in Hospitality and Tourism Management and managed social media for all Marriott properties in South America, making him a perfect fit for UP and its social media channels. He has a passion for making content catered toward family travelers.

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