When people ask me how it is to travel with kids, they often assume it’s the TSA, flight attendants, or even the kids themselves that make it challenging. Surprisingly, it’s actually other passengers who can make it difficult.
Recently, my wife, myself, and our two children (2M and 4-month-old F) returned from a short flight. We found ourselves waiting in an incredibly long line at a major international airport to check our car seats and luggage. To make matters worse, the security line seemed to stretch for miles. We had arrived with a comfortable two-hour buffer, which is usually sufficient at our local international airport.
After standing in the security line for about an hour and a half, it became apparent that we might miss our flight. Just as we reached the security checkpoint, our toddler decided to have a complete meltdown. He desperately wanted to get out of the stroller, throwing things and squirming out of our arms. Naturally, this caused our younger child to follow suit. In the midst of the chaos, I forgot to remove my laptop from its bag, mistakenly thinking we didn’t need to do so (another lane had different rules).
My wife and I struggled to maneuver the stroller through the scanner, and finally, we made it through. As my wife underwent a hand swab (she was carrying the baby), our bags were flagged for inspection. One bag contained diaper wipes, another had breast milk, and the third held my laptop. The security officer manning the scanner sighed and asked whose bag contained the laptop. He then called me back through the gate. I didn’t blame him; it was a busy moment, and I had made a mistake.
At this point, I found myself juggling my wallet, phone, ID, a stuffed animal, and a boarding pass. The officer took the bag from me and began emptying the electronics, while I had to go back through the gate holding all my belongings. Once the laptop was out, I apologized, and he placed it back on the conveyor belt.
Suddenly, the man behind me lost his cool. He claimed that his wife had gone through 20 minutes ago and started berating the TSA officer and me, causing a scene. We moved over to the line for the body scanner, and the irate man came up behind me, saying, “Have you even traveled before? Seriously?”
At that moment, I was only a split second away from giving him a piece of my mind, explaining how his behavior mirrored that of an entitled 2-year-old in a 50-year-old body. Instead, I chose to ignore him and focused ahead. The person in front of us had forgotten to remove their phone from their pocket, resulting in the scanner needing recalibration. In the chaos of switching to another scanner, the impatient man cut in front of me and dashed through.
In the end, it didn’t make much of a difference since we had to wait for 20 minutes while the security staff inspected our wipes, breast milk, and various items that appeared suspicious due to their kid-related nature.
Looking back, I regret not speaking up. I have always been a non-confrontational person, but I realize I made a mistake and caused a disruption in the line. Nonetheless, being confronted like that while my kids were having a meltdown and feeling terrible already was far from ideal.
So, in short, I kindly ask fellow travelers not to target parents with small children when they themselves are frustrated during travel. I apologize if we make things more challenging for you. I already feel guilty that we require more assistance than most travelers, and the last thing I want is to exacerbate the situation for everyone else. Or, if possible, choose a different lane at security to minimize any inconvenience you may experience.