10 Things that Might Get you Flagged by TSA

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Flying has gotten to be a bit of a pain in the butt these days, with all of the taking off of shoes and putting laptops into separate bins. And if TSA sees something or you’re the lucky winner of an extra search, well, it could make getting to your flight on time harder – or mean that you’re not going to be able to grab that Cinnabon before takeoff.

We’re talking real tragedy here, folks.

So, if you’re looking to avoid a face-to-face with TSA, here are 10 things that should go a long way toward making that happen.

10. Don’t get out of line.

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Philip Farina is a safety and security advisor, and says “do not attempt to switch your line, which may include a full-body scanner to a pre-check line with only metal detectors.”

Basically, go where you’re told and stay there, or risk arousing suspicion.

9. Don’t talk (or joke) about weapons.

If you think you’re getting friendly with a TSA officer, trading laughs or whatever, don’t think it’s okay to crack one about weapons, firearms, explosives, and the like.

“While we do have freedom of speech in the United States, any mention of these items while in the airport or security lines can get you pulled and questioned.”

8. Don’t carry certain types of toothbrushes.


According to Geena Marcelia, travel editor and associate manager at hotwire.com, says you might not be aware that the FAA won’t allow you to fly with your Sonicare toothbrush in your carry-on – their lithium-ion batteries have been known to explode.

7. Don’t travel with coffee.

If you’re wanting to bring back a bag of local beans as a souvenir, be ready for some questions, Marcelia says.

“Apparently, the strong smell of coffee is also used to mask the smell of some illegal substances.

I’ve almost always had my bags searched, both checked and carry-on, when bringing back coffee.”

6. Don’t carry a lot of cash.

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Farina says that carrying anything in bulk – cash, jewelry, etc – will look suspicious.

“Be prepared to explain where these items came from and why you have it and/or are traveling with it.”

5. Don’t try to cheat the system.

It’s okay for you to wonder what parts of the process are really necessary, and crab about taking your laptop out of your bag or whatever, but Stephen Lloyd, a former FAA Air Traffic Organizer, says acting on your frustrations won’t get you anywhere (except possibly to prison).

“People will try to push the limits of what is allowed and actually game the system.

There are travelers who will see what they can get away with.

If you are trying to see what you can get away with, the penalties can be severe, including imprisonment.

4. Don’t look or act stressed out.

Even if you woke up late, your Uber didn’t show, the line to check your bag was out the door, and you’re soaked with sweat by the time you get into that TSA line, you don’t want to let it show on your face or in your movements.

Farina says,

“No matter the reason, always be courteous and respective to the TSA.

Being rude, pushy, or loud, not only to the TSA but also other passengers, may get you plucked from the security lines and questioned or searched.”

3. Not inspecting your kid’s bags.

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It’s fine to encourage your kids to pack what they want in their carry-on, but world traveler and founder of havebabywilltravel.com, Corinne McDermott, recommends you double check what they tossed in there.

“Things like craft scissors or toy guns, no matter how harmless, might get flagged and confiscated.”

2. Not having documentation for your medicine.

You are allowed to travel with any necessary medications, but for some, you will need a note from your doctor in order to bring them into the cabin.

1. Carrying on anything “odd.”

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You can travel with anything (legal) you wan, but you should be prepared to answer questions about anything that is weird or odd, warns Seth Kaplan, editor at Airline Weekly.

“Unusual items, even if they’re perfectly legal and safe, can get their attention.

For example, I used to travel with a long-arm stapler to staple newsletters on the road.

That’s just not something the agents see every day, so it would almost always get flagged.”

I’m putting all of these in my back pocket (and nothing else, because I’m definitely not someone who arrives too early for anything.

What are your tips for getting through airport security without a struggle? Share them with us in the comments!