Any time you fly, you probably spend at least a few minutes thinking about what the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) will think of your baggage. You probably know most of the TSA’s rules, like how you have to take off your shoes and separate your plastic bag full of liquids to get through airport security.
Most of the things that the TSA allows — and prohibits — travelers to take through the security checkpoint make a lot of sense. But spend enough time reading through the agency’s rules, and you’ll encounter a few oddball items. For instance, something that might be in your shoes right now can get you into big trouble at the security checkpoint.
Below, check out the weirdest things that TSA won’t let you take through airport security.
1. Magic 8 ball
A Magic 8 ball seems pretty harmless. However, you can’t pack one in your carry-on bag, probably thanks to the liquid inside. (In case you were wondering, that liquid doesn’t actually fill the whole Magic 8 ball. And if we had to guess, this popular toy probably contains a lot less than the allowed 3.4 ounces of liquid!) The TSA quips, “For carry-on bags: We asked the Magic 8 ball, and it told us, ‘Outlook not so good!’ For checked bags: We asked the Magic 8 ball, and it told us, ‘It is certain!'”
2. Foam toy swords
Foam toy swords are harmless, and they usually look it. (After all, foam swords don’t usually get realistic details or even convincing finishes!) But the TSA still won’t let you through airport security with one in your carry-on. Fortunately, you can still place this item in your checked baggage, just in case you picked one up as a souvenir or can’t enjoy your vacation without this toy in tow.
3. Fencing foils
Another kind of sword that the TSA won’t allow through the security checkpoint? Fencing foils. Under its entry for “swords,” the TSA advises travelers that they can’t put “Cutting or thrusting weapons, including fencing foils,” in their carry-on bags. Instead, if you really need your foils at your destination, you’ll have to pack them in your checked baggage.
4. Cricket bats
It’s not just fencing enthusiasts who can run into trouble if they try to take their sports gear through airport security; the TSA also prohibits cricket bats in carry-on bags. We can’t say we’re totally in the dark as to the TSA’s logic here. After all, the agency prohibits travelers from carrying on “sports equipment that can be used as a bludgeon,” including baseball bats. However, we’re a little surprised that cricket bats are common enough for the TSA to be so concerned about them.
5. Gel insoles
Ready to get the details on one of the weirdest items that the TSA prohibits you from carrying — or wearing — onto the plane? Gel insoles. The TSA has long prohibited gel insoles and gel shoe inserts. But according to the TSA’s website, gel shoe inserts are now allowed through the security checkpoint.
Nonetheless, travelers note that your experience may vary. Some have had their insoles confiscated, while others have made it through the TSA checkpoint just fine. TSA agents have the final say on what you can carry (or wear) through airport security, and even the agency explains, “The final decision rests with the TSA.”
6. Canoe or kayak paddles
Planning a camping or kayaking trip and hoping to fit everything you need in your carry-on? The TSA will have something to say about that. In fact, the agency prohibits travelers from carrying canoe or kayak paddles through the security checkpoint. (We’re not sure if the TSA realizes that most paddles are plastic or wood, and probably can’t do a whole lot of damage.) At least you can pack them in your checked baggage instead.
7. Cast iron skillets
Another camping essential that the TSA doesn’t want to see in your carry on bags? A cast iron skillet. Unlike a canoe paddle, a cast iron skillet could probably be pretty dangerous if used as a weapon, so we (sort of) get it. But we still think the rule is a little unfair to people who prefer cast iron cookware. The TSA allows other kinds of pots and pans in carry on bags, while cast iron gets relegated to checked bags only.
8. Strike-anywhere matches
Yet another camping essential — strike-anywhere matches — can also get you into trouble at the TSA checkpoint. To light, you can strike these matches against any surface that provides a suitable amount of friction. So we sort of understand why the TSA doesn’t want people carrying this item onto a plane. Alternatively, the TSA does let you take one book of safety matches in your carry-on bag. But the agency prohibits all matches in checked luggage.
9. Nerf guns
Kids or adults who love their Nerf guns will have to put them in their checked bags — or leave these toys at home. The TSA explains, “There are some items that are not prohibited, but because of how they appear on the X-ray, security concerns, or impact of the 3-1-1 rules for liquids, gels and aerosols, they could require additional screening that might result in the item not being allowed through the checkpoint.” As for Nerf guns? “We suggest that you pack this item in your checked bag, ship it to your destination, or leave it at home.”
10. Water guns
Another toy that the TSA doesn’t want to see in your carry-on bags? Water guns, no matter how obvious it is that they’re plastic and meant for the pool. The TSA explains, “Water guns, toy guns, toy swords and other items that resemble real firearms or other weapons can look just like the real thing in an X-ray.” Fortunately, you can pack your water guns in your checked bags if you really have your heart set on using them at the beach or at the hotel pool.
11. Ice cream
The TSA allows travelers to carry a lot of surprising foods through airport security. However, they seem conflicted when it comes to ice cream.
The agency’s “What Can I Bring” page flatly prohibits ice cream in people’s carry-on bags. However, when you search for information on other frozen items, like ice packs, the agency concedes, “Frozen liquid items are allowed through the checkpoint as long as they are frozen solid when presented for screening. If frozen liquid items are partially melted, slushy, or have any liquid at the bottom of the container, they must meet 3-1-1 liquids requirements.”
12. Gel candles
Another surprising item that the TSA won’t let you carry through airport security? Gel candles. The agency warns travelers that gel-type candles can’t go in carry-on bags, likely as part of the TSA’s rules regarding liquids and gels.
However, the agency does allow them in checked baggage. So, if you’re carrying a gel candle as a souvenir or as a gift, it doesn’t seem like you have a lot of options other than checking your bag.
13. English Christmas crackers
English Christmas crackers sound like a holiday treat, but they’re actually small cardboard and paper contraptions with a prize hidden in a central chamber. When two people pull on opposite ends, the cracker splits unevenly, making a snapping noise and leaving one person with the prize.
The snap or bang noise is likely to blame for the TSA’s rule against packing Christmas crackers in your carry-on bags. It’s also probably why the agency prohibits party poppers, which make a popping noise when you pull the string, in carry-on bags.
The TSA also prohibits travelers from packing sparklers in their carry-on bags. They treat sparklers like other kinds of fireworks, which you cannot pack in either carry-on or checked bags.
We doubt that sparklers could really do much damage, but still we’ll admit that the reasoning makes sense. Fireworks and sparklers are flammable and constructed from explosive materials, after all. You’ll have to pick some up when you reach your destination if you really need them for your holiday festivities.
15. Flammable paints
In a similar vein, the TSA prohibits travelers from packing flammable paints in their carry-on or checked bags. Aerosol paints are flammable, so you should leave your spray paint at home. Water-based paints, on the other hand, aren’t flammable. As for oil-based paints, USA Today notes that while they aren’t usually flammable, some TSA agents think they are. If you run into such an agent, they may treat your paints as flammable. In fact, the agency isn’t particularly friendly to oil painters in general. It prohibits turpentine in both carry-on and checked baggage.
16. Medical marijuana
If you use medical marijuana, the TSA doesn’t want to see it in your carry-on or checked bags, noting, “Possession of marijuana is illegal under federal law. TSA officers are required to report any suspected violations of law, including possession of marijuana.” TSA agents don’t search for marijuana or other illegal drugs. But the agency warns, “in the event a substance that appears to be marijuana is observed during security screening, TSA will refer the matter to a law enforcement officer.”
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