Toddlers Versus The TSA

By now, I’m sure just about everyone has heard about the three-year-old that was “hand-searched” by TSA agents after she got upset about having her teddy bear taken away.  It turned out that the girl’s father was a TV reporter; he pulled out his cellphone and recorded the search.  (The video has since been removed from YouTube due to copyright infringement.)

As you might expect, the opinions on this are all over the place, ranging from “this is sexual molestation of children!” to “if we don’t search children, the terrorists will put bombs in their diapers!”  I think reality is somewhere in the middle — I suspect the parents could have done better job of preparing their child for the process but I also think the TSA is probably ill-prepared and poorly-trained to handle such situations.

Naturally, both sides have been argued extensively all over the internet.  But the discussion about the appropriateness or effectiveness of checking diapers for more than poo doesn’t interest me as much as the more practical question raised by this situation.  Given the current atmosphere surrounding flying, do I, as a parent, have any interest in air travel?

Even before this incident occurred, I’d been weighing the cost of five airline tickets against the equivalent driving time and cost of gas.  It’s about 3,000 miles from San Francisco to New York which is, conservatively, 200 gallons of gas or $700 in fuel costs.  Add in 3 or 4 nights of camping or hotel rooms and you’re up around $2,000 to get from one side of the country to the other and back.  A quick check of one of the many travel website shows that flying would cost $1,500 or more for the same trip.

Since you’ll likely need to rent a vehicle once you get to your destination (and don’t forget car seats!), the cost of flying keeps going up.  The only real advantage to flying that remains, then, is the speed and, given that I might have to let some federal rent-a-cop feel up my kids, I’m pretty sure I’d rather take a few extra days and see some of the country instead of taking a plane.

What do you think?  How will you be traveling to your next family vacation destination?

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