Home Travel 6 Things That Can Get Your Luggage Flagged By TSA

6 Things That Can Get Your Luggage Flagged By TSA

by SharonKurheg

With 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. 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 own ideas of a cheap, easy fix for the long queues. However there are a few items you could have in your pockets, or in 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.

“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 meds

This also goes up there with the “liquid” thing. You’re allowed to bring more than 3.4 ounces of 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. Your 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. PJ’s Coffee out of New Orleans is a good example. So is Joffrey’s, which a lot of people buy when they’re at Walt Disney World. Or the coffee you’ll encounter while you visit Seattle, Hawaii or Costa Rica.

Problem is that smugglers sometimes use coffee to mask the smell of drugs. So a carry-on bag with a lot of coffee in it could get flagged for swab tests.

Wrapped 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 carrying so much money with you. Furthermore, if they think the money is thanks to criminal activity, they can also get law enforcement involved right then and there.

The MyTSA app can help with the age-old question of, “Can I bring this on the plane?” But you kind of have to have it in your head to look up if your PBJ sandwich or that bag of Kona coffee are smart things to bring on the plane with you or not.

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

Feature Photo: TSA

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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary


xyeahtony May 13, 2021 - 9:47 pm

i’ve had TSA precheck for 8+ years and they’ve never given me grief about my liquids not being in a one quart bag. i just throw them all into my bag and nobody has ever once said anything.

SharonKurheg May 13, 2021 - 9:53 pm

I’ve heard others say the same thing – some PreCheck, some not. I’ve already heard yet others say that they were asked to dispose of their liquids if they weren’t in the bag – again, somePre-Check, some not. The rule is 3-1-1. How strictly that’s followed, like almost every other rule of theirs, can sometimes vary.

derek May 13, 2021 - 11:43 pm

A bag of papers (documents) will often trigger a search because it’s so dense. I have brought full sized tubes of toothpaste. Never caught. Not intentional as I use my bag for car trips to a place 100 miles away, not just air trips.

Tom May 14, 2021 - 12:24 am

My best TSA story, P2 is going on a girls trip from our home state where recreational marijuana is legal to another state where it was widely accepted but not legal then but now is.

She has mj edibles to take when she gets air or car sick which is inevitable any time we fly. So she’s waiting in TSA line and an airport police dog comes up to her, she starts petting it thinking the dog is just friendly. Airport police said they need to search her stuff. They find the edibles and she explains to them the motion sickness.

Police tell her she can’t fly with it but she can take as much right there and then and they will toss the rest. She said she ate like 8 brownies right in front of them. And they all went there own ways.

Jennifer May 14, 2021 - 9:18 am

Dd gets flagged for her thick books every time, even thinner books if they have a holographic cover. I understand and its become the family joke that we will see her on the other side of security later with her contraband books.

Jinxed_K May 14, 2021 - 12:20 pm

I think I’ve been getting flagged for putting Tide pods in my checked bags in case I have to use the laundromat at my destination. Every time I had them in there, it’s been opened and the little card placed inside. They don’t even put them back properly in the ziplock and mini tupperware container I had them in so I stopped bringing them.

I did have a carryon swabbed for having coffee in it as well.

katewalks7 February 12, 2022 - 3:18 pm

I just got back from a trip to see the Aurora in Canada. Winnipeg Airport was a delight. Very friendly airport people. Toronto was a mixed bag. I had to go through security screening. Both my handbag and small carry on were roughly inspected. Why? I carry crackers and dry food because I am celiac. I offered to eat some of the food right then and there and I was glared at. The agent did not destroy any of my food or take anything. The poor man who was in line after me was mistreated. He had a small tube of toothpaste in the correct size clear plastic bag. It was almost all used up. The man pointed that out and his ENTIRE bag of liquid items was dumped in the trash. He told me that he was just going to have to buy more because he was on a business trip. I have TSA-Pre, but not Global Entry. When travel starts to pick up, I might just get Global Entry. Also, Toronto Airport randomly screens for Covid. My friend was held and screened. What she went through was worry of a short article in itself!!!


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