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What can you travel with in your hand luggage?

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Elyse Welles was traveling from Athens to Newark this spring when it finally happened: she was passed over for an extra security check at her doorstep.

After some time searching through Ms Welles’ backpack, the officer finally grabbed a bullet-shaped vibrator from the bag and waved it in the air. “Is it an electronic cigarette? asked the agent. “No, it’s a sex toy,” she replied with a smile, at which point her personal items were quickly returned to her and she was free to go.

Ms Welles, a writer and life coach who lives in Artemida, Greece, said she had no qualms about traveling with her vibrator.

As the number of air travelers increases, returning to near pre-pandemic levels, so do questions about protocols and flight rules – especially what travelers can and cannot take in. their carry-on baggage when traveling to the United States. For example: is guacamole a solid or a liquid? (It’s a gel, which falls under the same restrictions as liquids and isn’t allowed in your carry-on – unless it’s in a 3.4-ounce container.)

Here’s a guide to help you navigate the more ambiguous transport rules – with a few quiz questions throughout to test your knowledge too.

Let’s talk a little more about vibrators. Although most sex toys, including vibrators, are allowed in your carry-on, according to the Transportation Security Administration, they can still lead to arrest, as in Ms. Welles’ case. There are ways to reduce the chances of these uncomfortable encounters, especially if something starts to buzz.

Shan Boodram, intimacy expert and host of the Lovers and Friends podcast, suggests removing all batteries or running the batteries on rechargeable toys before packing them. “Or, find a hard case to put it in slightly larger so the power button is less likely to get pressed when pressure is applied to your bag,” she said.

There are also vibrators with built-in travel settings now, to prevent them from going off at the wrong time, such as the Surge Silicone Rechargeable Vibrator, which has a built-in travel lock.

“The most common mistake we see people make in terms of prohibited items at airports is large liquids, gels and aerosols in carry-on baggage,” said TSA spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein. .

The widely publicized TSA 3-1-1 rule states that passengers can travel with liquids, gels, and aerosols as long as they are in 3.4-ounce containers in a one-liter resealable bag. So while a bottle of water won’t pass the pre-flight check, what about something in a more nebulous category, like a jar of peanut butter?

“If you can spill it, spread it, spray it, pump it, or pour it,” Ms. Farbstein said, “it’s a liquid, gel, or aerosol.”

This is why a Magic 8 Ball, which is filled with liquid, is not allowed to pass a TSA checkpoint. The same goes for a snow globe. Unless, of course, as Ms. Farbstein points out, it’s a version small enough to fit in a traveler’s 3-1-1 bag.

“The TSA is not looking for drugs,” Ms. Farbstein said. “Our dogs sniff out explosives; they don’t snort drugs.

But just because they’re not looking for drugs doesn’t mean the officers won’t ever find them. If they do, TSA agents are required to report suspected violations of the law to police, Ms. Farbstein said. And although marijuana has been legalized for recreational use in 19 states and for medical use in 37, it is still illegal under federal law and is therefore restricted on airplanes, even though it is technically legal in the states. departure and destination.

Some plant lovers may want to go home with a new addition to their collection.

Plants are allowed on domestic flights as long as they fit in the overhead compartment or under the seat of the plane, according to the TSA website. Returning with potted plants from abroad is however prohibited, although a limited number of bare-rooted plants (not in the ground) are permitted, as long as they meet certain criteria established by the Inspection Service zoosanitary and phytosanitary of the Ministry of Agriculture. There is also additional information for travelers arriving in the US mainland from Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands.

“I’m always on the lookout for beautiful, healthy specimens of rare plants, so I like to catch them when I see them,” said Lexi Osterhoudt, Ph.D. student in Columbia University’s Integrated Cellular, Molecular, and Biomedical Studies Program. Often, she says, her plant souvenirs are impulse buys she makes while traveling around the country, or they’re great finds that are more affordable than they would be if she bought them in New York. where she currently lives.

“I’m going to wrap the pot to keep the soil together, put them in a paper bag and stick them under the seat in front of me,” she said.

If further clarification is needed, the TSA has provided a comprehensive, searchable list where travelers can search for items they wish to bring. Knitting needles, for example, are allowed in your hand luggage, as are live fish, provided they are in water and in a transparent transparent container. But wait – isn’t there a rule about liquids?

“Live fish are indeed allowed to be transported through a security checkpoint,” Ms Farbstein said. “And of course, to keep them alive, they have to be in the water. TSA officers will examine the container of water the fish are in. The examination process will take longer. Live fish in the water need not follow the 3-1-1 rule.

Cremated remains get a bit trickier, while cricket bats and cutting boards are best left in checked baggage. Musical instruments like violins are allowed after going through a TSA check, but for brass instruments the suggestion is to check them. And if you’re a Harry Potter fan, fear not, wands are allowed on flights.

Despite TSA rules, there’s one item in particular that Ms. Farbstein says she still sees confiscated all too often: knives. “We see knives every day,” she said.

Up to four tons of different types of knives and large tools are confiscated at Newark Liberty International Airport in an average year, according to Ms. Farbstein. The TSA then sends them in bulk to the state of Pennsylvania, she said, which sells them for a profit at a surplus store in Harrisburg.

Travelers should remember that knives of any kind are not allowed on flights, Ms Farbstein said.

Something that won’t be confiscated? A duffel bag containing eight Goetta sausage rolls. However, it might land you on the TSA’s Instagram account.

Quiz photographs by Tony Cenicola.

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