7 Surprising Items TSA May Flag You for at Airport Security (2023)

When heading to the security checkpoint at any airport, your biggest concern is making it through as quickly and easily as possible. Even if you just packed the basics, there's sometimes a worry that your bag will be pulled for further inspection—which could keep you from making your flight on time. These concerns are normally unwarranted, but travelers do get stopped by Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officers even when they truly believe they haven't packed any security no-no's. Eager to avoid that situation? Read on to discover seven surprising items TSA may flag you for at airport security.

READ THIS NEXT:10 Airport Security Secrets TSA Doesn't Want You to Know.


Snow globes

7 Surprising Items TSA May Flag You for at Airport Security (1)

During your travels, you're likely to pick up a souvenir or two to remember your trip. But if you grab a snow globe while on vacation, be warned that it might not get through security.

"I lovedsnowglobes as a kid, so I know they make great gifts,"Cheryl Nelson, certified lifestyle and travel preparedness expert, and founder of Prepare with Cher, LLC, tells Best Life. "However, if yoursnowglobe is bigger than a tennis ball, don't pack it in your carry-on luggage. Sincesnowglobes are considered liquids, they also have to be less than 3.4 ounces, and the entiresnowglobe including the base must fit in your quart-sized bag."

TSA's "What Can I Bring?" webpage confirms this, adding that larger snow globes have to be stowed in your checked luggage instead.


Exercise weights

7 Surprising Items TSA May Flag You for at Airport Security (2)

If you're looking to stay fit—and don't mind schlepping a heavier bag—you might toss some exercise weights into your carry-on. Doing so can be problematic, however, according to Rebecca Deitsch, founder of the travel blog Day Trip Queen.

"While TSA doesn't technically forbid weights in your carry-on luggage, they do forbid sports equipment that could be used as a bludgeon," Deitsch says. "Their example is a baseball bat, but other items can be removed at the discretion of the TSA agent."

She speaks from personal experience when her 2-pound weights were confiscated at Atlanta International Airport.

"I was bringing it along to do my physical therapy exercises, and it was so small that it never occurred to me that it could be used as a weapon!" Deitsch explains. "It is always safer to put weights and other heavy exercise equipment in your checked luggage."

READ THIS NEXT:7 Clothing Items to Never Wear Through Airport Security, Experts Say.


Peanut butter

7 Surprising Items TSA May Flag You for at Airport Security (3)

Food is always a questionable addition to your carry-on or personal item, and some do fall into gray area. For instance, believe it or not, peanut butter is considered a liquid.

"Last summer, TSA confiscated a jar of peanut butter I was bringing to a family member who lives abroad,"Eric Segalstad, vice president of Gondwana Ecotours, tells Best Life. "I was traveling without checked luggage and didn't foresee that JIF Extra Crunchy was considered liquid. Now I know!"

On TSA's "What Can I Bring?" page, the agency confirms that peanut butter can only be taken in carry-on luggage if it's less than the 3.4-ounce limit. For checked bags, your full-sized containers of peanut butter should make it through without issue.

Before Thanksgiving last year, TSA issued a press release on foods you can and cannot bring with you, offering some additional "food for thought."

"If you can spill it, spread it, spray it, pump it or pour it, and it's larger than 3.4 ounces, then it should go in a checked bag," the agency said.

This rule also applies to soft and spreadable cheese such as Camembert, Roger Broussard, former pilot and founder, CEO, and creative director of Pilot School Hero, says.


Thick exfoliators

7 Surprising Items TSA May Flag You for at Airport Security (4)

Speaking of liquids, the rules also apply to your toiletries. To adhere to TSA's 3-1-1 liquids rule for carry-ons, you know that your shampoo and body wash have to be less than 3.4 ounces. But you might overlook this requirement if something you've packed doesn't constitute as a "liquid"—at least in your opinion.

Travel expert Becca Siegel, of Halfhalftravel.com, previously told Best Life that she was once stopped for trying to take an exfoliant through airport security.

"I once had exfoliating face wash (it has kind of a goopy rather than liquidy texture) tossed away by TSA, much to my dismay!" she said. "Travelers should know that any item that is able to be squirted in a semi-liquid state is not considered to be a solid item when going through airport security."

READ THIS NEXT:Southwest Is Finally Changing the Way It Boards Flights.



7 Surprising Items TSA May Flag You for at Airport Security (5)

If you're traveling for a birthday or a holiday, you likely have some presents to take with you—and if you're against checking a bag, you might pop these wrapped goodies into your carry-on. But travel experts advise against this, as wrapped items could land you in hot water with TSA.

Nelson recommends waiting to package up your presents until after your flight (even if you want to be one step ahead).

"If a wrapped gift looks suspicious on an x-ray machine, the only person unwrapping your perfectly wrapped gift will be the TSA screening agent," she says.

Taylor Beal, owner and author of the travel blog Traverse With Taylor, also advises against pre-wrapped items—especially if they're considered liquids.

"Local jams and mustards are a popular thing to bring back from Amsterdam—they pair perfectly with Dutch cheese!" she shares."But make sure they get packed into your checked luggage, because they are considered liquids—even if they're shrink-wrapped in a gift set and completely sealed!"


Christmas crackers

7 Surprising Items TSA May Flag You for at Airport Security (6)

When you think of Christmas "crackers," your mind might go to some festive food, but these crackers are actually cardboard cylinders that are pulled open to reveal a small gift inside. They're often used as table decorations, and while they're more popular in the U.K. and Canada than in the U.S., you've likely seen them during the holiday season.

If you're in charge of supplying them, though, they're not getting past TSA.

"Crackers are so named because of the 'cracking' noise they make as they are pulled, which is created by a small amount of gunpowder," Broussard explains. "As a result, most airlines are extremely cautious about letting passengers bring crackers on board."

According to TSA, these novelties aren't permitted in your carry-on luggage or your checked bags. And don't pack bang snaps—those small fireworks that make a snapping noise when thrown against hard surfaces—either.

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Small metal tools

7 Surprising Items TSA May Flag You for at Airport Security (7)

It's common sense that any weapon shouldn't be brought to the airport (unless you've followed instructions to transport it properly), but TSA has a wider definition of what can actually be used as a weapon—similar to those 2-pound weights. Deitsch recommends looking out for "small metal tools of any type."

"If you are flying with your guitar and you have extra tuning keys, wire clippers, or any little metal objects, it's best to put these in your checked luggage, even if they seem inoffensive," she says. "This is especially true if you are entering a foreign country and there is a language barrier."

Corkscrews are a bit tricky, as they're not allowed if they have a blade, per TSA, but if they don't have a blade, they're safe to take through security. Swiss Army Knives will be confiscated as well, as the agency says that only "plastic or round bladed butter knives" can come through a checkpoint. When putting them in your checked bag, make sure that they're "sheathed or securely wrapped to prevent injury to baggage handlers and inspectors," per TSA's requirements.

If you have concerns about what you're packing, TSA makes it pretty easy to search for items on its website. For items that you can't find listed, take a picture or send a question to AskTSA on Twitter or Facebook Messenger, the agency says.


What gets you flagged at TSA? ›

These violations include security-related offenses at an airport, on board an aircraft (including assault, threat, intimidation, or interference with flight crew, physical or sexual assault or threat of physical or sexual assault of any individual on an aircraft), at a maritime port, in connection with air cargo, and ...

How do you know if you are flagged by TSA? ›

There are signs that will indicate you have been flagged for additional screenings: You were not able to print a boarding pass from an airline ticketing kiosk or from the internet. You were denied or delayed boarding. A ticket agent “called someone” before handing you a boarding pass.

What is the most confiscated item at airports? ›

Most common confiscated items
  • Loose Batteries (must be in your carry-on luggage and in its original sealed packet)
  • Sharp Items (including knives, scissors, pocket knives, and box cutters)
  • Lighters (travelers are permitted to carry one lighter only, any additional will be confiscated)
Nov 27, 2022

Does TSA check your pills? ›

Medication is usually screened by X-ray; however, if a passenger does not want a medication X-rayed, he or she may ask for a visual inspection instead. This request must be made before any items are sent through the X-ray tunnel.

What does TSA see when they scan you? ›

Depending on the type of machine, ionizing radiation is used to identify objects that may be hidden by passengers and to create images of what is in luggage. Backscatter passenger scanners are used to detect threats such as weapons or explosives that a person could be carrying under their clothing.

Can TSA look at your phone? ›

Officers may ask you to power up your electronic device, including cell phones. Powerless devices will not be permitted onboard the aircraft. TSA does not read or copy information from your device.

What is not allowed in a carry-on bag? ›

Liquid or gel food items larger than 3.4 oz are not allowed in carry-on bags and should be placed in your checked bags if possible. TSA officers may instruct travelers to separate items from carry-on bags such as foods, powders, and any materials that can clutter bags and obstruct clear images on the X-ray machine.

What causes you to fail a TSA background check? ›

Temporary Disqualifying Criminal Offenses

Unlawful possession, use, sale, manufacture, purchase, distribution, receipt, transfer, shipping, transporting, delivery, import, export of, or dealing with a firearm or other weapons. Extortion. Dishonesty, fraud, or misrepresentation, including identity fraud.

What will get taken away in airport? ›

Guns, weapons, hazardous materials or anything deemed illegal are turned over to local law enforcement, and all forbidden liquids are immediately disposed of. All other items are either turned over to state agencies or kept by the TSA to be disposed of through sales, destruction or donations to charity.

What happens if TSA finds contraband in checked bag? ›

As a result, prohibited items may result in both a TSA civil enforcement action and a criminal enforcement action. Before leaving home, remember to check your baggage to ensure you are not carrying any prohibited items to avoid a possible arrest and/or civil penalties.

What items will be confiscated at the airport? ›

The TSA confiscates any container of liquid weighing more than 3.4 ounces. The only exception is medication.

Do jeans set off TSA? ›

Jeans. Jeans are fine to wear through airport security. So, don't worry, you won't be asked to remove them! Some people might be concerned that metal buttons and zips on jeans will set off the metal detectors at airport security but these metals are so small that they're unlikely to get picked up.

What not to wear when flying? ›

What not to wear on a plane
  • Jewelry or bulky accessories. Metal will slow you down at security—it's one of the things more likely to get you flagged by the TSA. ...
  • Anything tight. ...
  • An uncomfortable bra. ...
  • Skimpy clothing. ...
  • Fragrance. ...
  • High heels, flip-flops and slides. ...
  • Fabrics that are flammable. ...
  • Bulky jackets.
Mar 29, 2023

Can you wear jeans to TSA? ›

Yes, you can wear jeans through airport security. Before going through security please remove everything in your pockets (keys, coins, wallet, cellphone) and put them into the tray. Even though Jeans might set the alarm off on the scanner it is not a problem.

Do pills have to be in original bottles when flying? ›

The TSA does not require you to have your medication in its original prescription bottle, so traveling with a pill case does not violate any rules. You will also generally not have to tell the officers about your medication unless it is a liquid.

Does medication need to be in a clear bag when flying? ›

You may place medications in 3.4 ounce (100 milliliters) or smaller containers in a one-quart size clear zip-top plastic bag along with your other personal liquid and gel items. If your prescription medications come in larger containers or bottles, you will need to pack them separately in your carry-on bag.

Can TSA see your tampon? ›

Standard security scanners used by security use backscatter X-rays that do not penetrate the body, they just see through clothes and do not present an anatomically correct image to the operator, so a tampon, inserted, would not show up.

How much cash can I fly with? ›

You can fly with any amount of cash. No law prohibits you from bringing any amount of money on a flight. Likewise, TSA has no rules that limit how much money you can bring through security. In other words, TSA has no cash limit per person.

Can airport scanners detect arthritis? ›

SMI can detect low-grade inflammation not seen with Power Doppler. Microflow imaging: New Doppler technology to detect low-grade inflammation in patients with arthritis.

Why did TSA swab my hands? ›

The Transportation Security Administration randomly swabs passengers' hands at security checkpoints and airport gates to test them for traces of explosives. The TSA swabs are analyzed for nitroglycerin, nitrates, glycerin, or other chemicals. This was an expansion in 2010 from simply swabbing luggage and other items.

What is the random check at the airport? ›

Random checks

If selected, you will be subjected to a more thorough check by the security officer. The security officer will look for banned items. If selected for a random check, you must remove your shoes and have them screened. You can choose to be checked by a person of your own gender.

Can TSA see through clothes in luggage? ›

Lastly, the airport scanners can detect anything that it is not part of the human anatomy and spot things concealed under clothes and layers.

Can I take my purse and a backpack on a plane? ›

Most airlines allow passengers to bring on both a carry-on and a personal item like a backpack, laptop bag, purse, briefcase, shopping bag, etc. The general rule of thumb is that your personal item is smaller in dimension than your carry-on bag and it can fit underneath the seat in front of you.

Can I have a bag inside my carry-on? ›

But the bag will need to fit the size regulations of your airline. In fact, carry-on allowance isn't determined by the TSA but instead by individual airlines. Generally speaking, most airlines implement a maximum size policy of 22 inches by 14 inches by 9 inches, including wheels and handles.

What is the best seat to choose on a plane? ›

Exit rows, aisle or window seats, and anywhere close to the front are typically considered the best seats on a plane. On a short business trip, you might want an aisle seat near the front of the plane so you can debark as quickly as possible on arrival.

Who gets denied for TSA PreCheck? ›

If you commit certain violations of federal security regulations, such as assault, threat, intimidation, or interference with flight crew, physical or sexual assault or threat of physical or sexual assault of any individual on an aircraft, interference with security operations, access control violations, providing ...

How far back does TSA PreCheck background check go? ›

Conviction* within the last 10 years of any one or more of the crimes listed below will disqualify you for employment with TSA.

Should I be nervous about a background check? ›

Should I be worried about a background check? A background check is a prerequisite of the hiring process and cannot be avoided. As long as you are honest on your resume and understand your rights, you will not have anything to worry about. Be sure to review the background check laws in your state before applying.

Do you need to take out chargers for airport security? ›

Portable chargers or power banks containing a lithium ion battery must be packed in carry-on bags. For more information, see the FAA guidance on portable rechargers. For more prohibited items, please go to the 'What Can I Bring?' page.

Can you take phone chargers in hand luggage? ›

Do not pack you portable charger (power pack) in hold luggage: Taking your portable phone charger (power pack) on a plane is fine, but just remember to pack it in your hand luggage. Do not put them in your hold luggage as this is not permitted and could result in your luggage not being loaded.

Do you have to take your phone out at airport security? ›

Do I need to remove electronics from my carry-on bags? Yes, you should plan to remove personal electronic devices larger than a cell phone from your carry-on bag and put them in a separate bin with nothing placed on or under them for security screening. (This does not apply to TSA PreCheck™ passengers.)

Why put a tennis ball in suitcase? ›

Tennis balls can put any fancy, expensive gadgets to shame when it comes to alleviating pain, improving circulation, and relieving tightness. And as it turns out, having one of these portable masseuses in your carry-on could prevent blood clots on long flights or road trips.

How much contraband does TSA miss? ›

The results of the tests showed that the TSA screeners failed to detect weapons, drugs, and explosives almost 80 percent of the time. While the exact failure rate is classified, multiple sources indicate it is greater than 70 percent.

How many items does TSA confiscate? ›

The confiscations by TSA mark a nearly 10% increase over the 5,972 firearms seized in 2021, which was also a record.

Do airlines confiscate toothpaste? ›

Each passenger is limited to one quart-size bag of liquids, gels and aerosols. Common travel items that must comply with the 3-1-1 liquids rule include toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, mouthwash and lotion.

Can I put a knife in my checked bag? ›

Checked Bags: Yes

Except for plastic or round bladed butter knives. Any sharp objects in checked bags should be sheathed or securely wrapped to prevent injury to baggage handlers and inspectors.

What color do clothes show up as in TSA? ›

Organic matter, such as wood, water, plastic and textiles, are coloured orange. Inorganic matter, such as metals, show up as blue.

Does TSA check deodorant? ›

Stick deodorant is fine in any size. Well, almost any size… Powders and crystals are good to go as well. Spray, Gel, Liquid, Cream, Pastes, and Roll-On deodorants need to be in containers no larger than 3.4 ounces and placed in a clear quart-sized baggie.

Do zippers go off in metal detectors? ›

You shouldn't have an issue with metal detectors, just as zippers on pants or shirts are generally OK.

Should I wear socks on a plane? ›

Socks are non-negotiable. Most airlines agree, by the way, even going so far as to mandate their presence in the air.

What everyday things are not allowed on planes? ›

Chlorine, bleach, spillable batteries, spray paint, fertilizers, tear gas, and fire extinguishers are considered dangerous and are not permitted on commercial passenger aircrafts. Items such as bear bangers (intended to scare away bears without harming them) and bear spray are not allowed on commercial aircraft.

Can you wear open toed shoes on a plane? ›

"Flip-flops and backless shoes can also end up flying off your feet, and your feet are more likely to freeze, especially during a long flight." Furthermore, open shoes can make for an unsanitary visit to the airplane lavatories. "Be wary of wearing sandals if you are planning on going in the lavatory," warns Fischbach.

What do I need to remove from my bag at airport security? ›

Remove the 3-1-1 liquids bag and place it in the bin. Ensure pockets are empty (keys, tissues, currency, wallets, cell phones, etc.) and remove bulky jewelry (valuable items can be placed in carry-on). Remove your shoes and place them directly on the X-ray belt.

What is not allowed in a carry-on? ›

Liquid or gel food items larger than 3.4 oz are not allowed in carry-on bags and should be placed in your checked bags if possible. TSA officers may instruct travelers to separate items from carry-on bags such as foods, powders, and any materials that can clutter bags and obstruct clear images on the X-ray machine.

What to wear to avoid TSA pat-down? ›

Want to avoid a pat-down after going through the full-body scanner? Don't wear shirts or pants with extraneous pockets, buttons, or zippers, or anything with sequined bling on it. These items tend to appear suspicious on the scanner, which is programmed to flag anything out of the ordinary.

What triggers SSSS? ›

Why You Might Get an SSSS On Your Boarding Pass. TSA doesn't provide the exact reasons that people are selected for secondary screening, but unusual itineraries such as travel from a high-risk country, last-minute flights, or even one-way international flights seem to be a trigger.

Does TSA know if you are illegal? ›

You must show him your airline ticket and your identification. Because you are traveling on an international flight, you must present your passport. The TSA security official will inspect your passport searching for some proof of your legal status or lawful presence in the United States.

How often does TSA fail checks? ›

Repeat national tests in 2017 also went badly, "in the ballpark" of an 80 percent failure rate.


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