Are you planning on flying to a destination soon or maybe considering flying in the near future with a child or adult who has special needs?
Here are the 7 BEST travel tips when going through airport security to make your trip hassle free.
But before we get started I have to share a quick story with you …
For my family, ‘TSA special needs’ is a topic of conversation when we travel because my 4 year old nephew has cerebral palsy. He has a wheelchair stroller, pump for his food, g-tube, as well as other medical supplies and equipment needed when going through airport security.
Due to previous hiccups we’ve experience with my nephew (one time being when my sister brought his Acquaphor healing ointment for his skin and had to throw the whole tube out because it was too big), I don’t want you to go through the same thing. Hopefully, avoid a hiccup like this all together. 🙂
My goal in writing this post is to provide you the most helpful information to know when traveling with someone who has a disability through airport security TSA (also known as Transportation Security Administration).
Now let’s explore these 7 helpful tips so you know what to expect when traveling through airport security.
First, what is TSA?
TSA (also known as Transportation Security Administration) is the airport security check you are required to go through before boarding your flight.
When traveling, everyone is required to undergo screening at the checkpoint through technology or a pat-down.
Normally, you are required to remove your shoes, laptop, 3-1-1 liquids, light jackets, or belts before getting screened. The good news is when your TSA PreCheck designation has been verified, you do not need to remove ANY of the items previously mentioned.
To quickly note, the 3-1-1 liquids rule is when you are allowed to carry liquids, gels and aerosols in travel-size containers that are 3.4 ounces or 100 milliliters. Each person is limited to one quart-size bag of liquids, gels and aerosols.
So if you’re packing your favorite hand lotion or diaper ointment for your babe be sure it’s 3.4 ounces or less!
Tip #1: Contact ‘TSA Cares’ Helpline or Email
Before you do decide to travel, I would suggest calling the ‘TSA Cares’ toll free hot line so you have an easier time navigating airport security when traveling with your loved one who has special needs.
You may contact the TSA Cares helpline at (855) 787-2227 or email ContactCenter@dhs.gov 3 days prior to traveling with any questions you may have about airport security procedures, screening policies and what to expect at the security checkpoint. They are open weekdays from 8am to 11pm (ET) and on weekends/holidays from 9am to 8pm (ET).
Tip #2: If Traveling with Medications
Any medication that is in pill or other solid form must go through the security screening process.
Be sure to let the TSA officer know that you have medically necessary medications and/or liquids and it’s important that your medications are clearly labeled and separated from your other belongings. It will help make the security screening process go smoother.
You will be the sole person responsible for showing, handling, and repackaging the medication when it is time to be checked.
A TSA officer will either check your medication via x-ray or visually in person (as they are testing for traces of explosives).
Also, there are exceptions to the 3-1-1 liquids rule where you can take larger amounts of liquids, gels, and aerosols in reasonable quantities when going through security. You just have to declare them at the checkpoint for inspection with a TSA officer.
Again, it’s best to call the TSA Care helpline ahead of time before your travel to cover your basis with any medications and/or liquids you will be traveling with.
Tip #3: If Traveling with a Mobility Disability, Aids, or Devices
Let the TSA officer know of your ability to stand or walk before going through the security checkpoint. You can provide the officer your TSA notification card or other medical documentation to describe your condition.
When being screened in standard lines, the TSA officer will do so through technology, a pat down, or metal detector. They will screen mobility aids and devices through x-ray screening (if it fits). If the device does not fit the x-ray screen, then the officer will inspect the item directly.
Tip #4: If Traveling with a Service Dog
Inform the TSA officer you are traveling with a service dog.
You may also provide the officer your TSA notification card or other medical documentation to describe your condition.
You and your service dog will walk through a metal detector to be screened either together or individually. If individually, you will need to accompany your dog on a leash. If you are unable to be screened through a metal detector, then you will have a pat-down.
It’s important to note that service dog collars, harnesses, leashes, backpacks, vests and other items are subject to screening.
Items that are needed to keep your service dog under control or if your service dog happens to be on duty when going through airport security, then those type of items do NOT need to be removed when screened.
Tip #5: If Traveling with a Companion that has Intellectual Disabilities or a Brain Injury
Let the TSA officer know your traveling companion has a brain injury, intellectual or development disability.
You may provide a TSA notification card or other medical documentation to inform the TSA officer. Your loved one can be screened with you (without being separated) when going through security.
Tip #6: Maintain a Familiar Environment
When traveling with your loved one with special needs it’s important to keep them surrounded by familiar things they gravitate towards or like.
For instance, download their favorite movie, pack their favorite blanket or pillow that comforts them and bring snacks and toys they enjoy. Also, bring a couple new items to peak their interest to keep them entertained.
A side note. When I traveled several years ago with my son who was 2 years old at the time, he happened to be carrying his favorite blanket. The blanket was required to go through the screening process, particularly the x-ray scanner. Let me tell you what, he was absolutely devastated for those few seconds. You thought his world was ending!
I was told from a friend that letting your child know their ‘blanket’ (or whatever item goes through security in which they will be separated from which could cause a potential ‘melt down’), to let them know their ‘blanket’ is going on a quick adventure and will be back in their hands right away.
A countdown is a great way to ease any anxiety your little one may experience when being departed from their favorite comforting item (blanket, toy, etc.).
Tip #7: Separate Screening Process
It’s important to know that anyone you travel with who has a disability can be checked through security in a private room if needed. This is more rare, but can happen if you ask the TSA officer or by calling the TSA Care hot line ahead of time before you travel.
Also, during most security checks, the disabled individual is not required to remove their shoes. However, the shoes will be checked both visually and physically.
Helpful Resources and Travel Items
#3. When traveling through airport security with medications, this helpful organizer case is a pill bottle organizer which has a TSA approved lock.
#4. Below are TSA approved silicone travel containers that are BPA free. These leak free containers are great to use for your toiletries and shampoo.
#5. This insulated medication bag is a lifesaver when keeping medications cool or even baby formula for up to 30 hours when traveling.
Did you find this post helpful? Do you have an important travel tip to add when going through airport security?
I’d love your feedback. Please leave share your comments below. 🙂
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