6 Things That Can Get Your Luggage Flagged By TSA

by SharonKurheg

With so many more people going to airports again and the TSA scrambling to hire more employees (would YOU want to work at a place that treats their workers like this?), the lines at the security checkpoints are getting longer and longer.

Having CLEAR and TSA PreCheck are both excellent ways to bypass a good portion of the line most of the time (sorry, ATL…but who knows? Maybe you’ll catch a worker doing this side hustle and get you to the gate super fast. Or not.). And with PreCheck you don’t even have to worry about preparing as many things before you go through an X-ray.

These are some ways to get through the X-ray process as quickly and seamlessly as possible. And passengers have offered their ideas of a cheap, easy fix for the long queues. However, there are a few items you could have in your pockets or your carry on or personal bag – ones that you may not think would be a problem – that could get flagged for a time-consuming secondary inspection by hand:

The liquids, gels and paste you don’t think of

The 3-1-1 rule (3.4 ounces in 1 bag that’s 1 quart-sized) is for more than the typical liquids, toothpaste and non-solid deodorants. It also includes things like peanut butter. Snow globes. Those jars of jam, mustard and honey you got at the farmer’s market. The thing of slime your kid bought. If TSA agents see those, they’re going to want to investigate what those mystery liquids/gels/pastes are.

a small toy with a mouse inside“Intimate” items

Travel & Leisure has an excellent article called “Seven Tips for Getting Your Sex Toys Through Airport Security.” And because of that, I don’t need to say another word.

Well, except on a related topic, don’t let this happen to you!

Not telling them about your medications

This also goes up there with the “liquid” thing. You’re allowed to bring more than 3.4 ounces of certain liquids, gels, etc., and it doesn’t have to be in your quart-sized bag if it’s medication. Cough syrup. Your kid’s antibiotic. Voltaren gel for your arthritis. Stuff like that. But if you don’t tell the TSA officer before your stuff goes through X-ray that you’re carrying that non-solid medication, they’re just going to see a big container of liquid, and they’re going to want to go through your bag to check it out.

Coffee beans

Some people enjoy buying coffee beans from places they’ve visited. Kona coffee from Hawaii is a good example. So is Joffrey’s, which many people buy at Walt Disney World. Or the coffee you’ll encounter while you visit Seattle, Portland, Jamaica or Costa Rica.

The problem is that smugglers use coffee to mask the smell of drugs. So, a carry-on bag with a lot of coffee could get flagged for swab tests. As a fan of PJ’s Coffee from New Orleans, I can promise you this happens. 😉

a group of packages of coffeeWrapped presents

This happens a lot during the December holiday season, but any time you have a wrapped gift – for a birthday, wedding, Mother’s or Father’s Day, etc., if they can’t see what’s in the box because of the wrapping paper, the TSA officers are going to delay you while the package is unwrapped.

Carrying a load of cash

If you enter the U.S., you’re allowed to carry up to $10,000 and have to declare the rest. However, that’s not a TSA issue. If you’re flying domestically, you can technically carry as much cash as you’d like. However, the TSA reserves the right to stop and ask you about how/why you’re bringing so much money with you. Furthermore, if they think the money is from criminal activity, they can get law enforcement involved right then and there.

Final Thought

The MyTSA app can help with the age-old question, “Can I bring this on the plane?” But you have to have it in your head to look up if your PB&J sandwich or that bag of Kona coffee are smart things to bring on the plane with you.

I suppose if you have some more “unusual” things that you KNOW are going to get flagged by the TSA, you could just leave a note in your carry-on, with an explanation, as this guy did. But if that’s the case, give yourself extra time at the checkpoint.; -)

Feature Photo: TSA

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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary

1 comment

eric February 26, 2024 - 2:20 pm

I think the other thing about coffee is it can look like a big, solid brick of  … something on the x-ray monitor. I started putting coffee packages into clear, zip-top bags (so my carry-on doesn’t smell like coffee beans for months afterward) and then pulling that out of my carry-on just before it all goes through the x-ray. At least at Seattle (the only place where I’ve brought whole beans through TSA), I haven’t had the every-surface-swab routine since. (And it has the added bonus of helping me limit my purchases to what will fit in a a gallon zip-top bag.)


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