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Traveling Don’ts: Learn From My Mistakes Part 2



Last week I headed of to San Francisco to help my wife with a conference that she was managing. I had a few hard learned tips on things that you should never do when traveling by plane.

If you missed the first article check out part 1 by clicking here

I am now back safely and with a few more stories to tell.

Never assume that something is safe to bring on-board. Even security doesn’t know all the time:

Last year I bought my wife her first electronic cigarette while at a trade show in Vegas.

We had a moment of clarity and thought that maybe we should call the airline to see if the ecig would need to be checked or if it could be brought onboard and or used while on the plane.

After an hour on the phone and three transfers, we had 3 different answers.

Yes. No. and something that I can only describe as  “an electronic ciggawhat? Uhhh maybe?”

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The main question was concerning the lithium batteries and the fact that it had an ignition source.

Fortunately we were able to ask the competent lady at bag check and she assured us that it could be brought onboard as carry on.

She advised against using it on the aircraft as the regulations on ecig’s were still a bit hazy and the vapor emitted from it could spook other passengers into thinking that there was a fire.

(Still working on getting her to quit smoking though)

If you’re traveling as a group, check everyone’s bags.

I am not kidding on this at all; especially if you are traveling with children or the elderly.

My wife’s grandmother was stopped by security on not one but three consecutive flights due to questionable contents.

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On her first flight to visit, she decided to bring a clock in her carry-on baggage. Not particularly questionable but get this.  Not only was it a clock, but it was a cuckoo clock, a ticking cuckoo clock.

She couldn’t understand why the cuckoo clock was not allowed on the plane.  It was a very serious matter, until the hour struck and the clock started chiming. They let her off with a warning and after a thorough inspection that involved a bomb sniffing dog, she was allowed to check the bag and be on her way.

On the next flight she was caught with a purse full of light bulbs.  She was moving down to be closer to us and had shipped her lamps ahead via a service.  She didn’t want to pay to replace the perfectly good bulbs and didn’t want to risk shipping them.  I lost it on this one, I was laughing so hard that I thought security was going to detain me.

I am all for saving money but that method took the cake.

A few weeks ago she decided to fly back to Kentucky and visit family.  This time she was stopped for having a 32 ounce bottle of peroxide in her carry-on bags.  Now I wasn’t with her on this trip, but my sister in law was.  After about 10 minutes of conversation with security, my sister in law said that they had agreed that the peroxide could go on with her as it was considered medical supplies.

As they were packing her bag back up for her she then decided that that was the best moment to let them know that the bottle wasn’t filled with hydrogen peroxide, but rather she had filled it with mouth wash.

I still cannot for the life of me figure out why she would have made that switch in the first place, let alone tell them about it after they agreed to let her take it on board the plane.

I had hoped that this trip to San Francisco would go off without a hitch…it didn’t but at least I have another story to tell.

Expect the unexpected:
With the event over we got everything packed up and ready to leave.  Monday afternoon we left the hotel at 3 pm for a 5:30 flight.  Everything was going fine, right up until we got through security.

As we passed by the first set of monitors our flight suddenly blinked red, then the “on time” notification changed to “delayed”  suddenly our early arrival became twice as long as we expected.

Even with all of the  instant access to flight information that we have at our fingertips, a delay can happen right up until the moment you sit down on the plane.  You need to expect that you may be late getting home and plan accordingly.

5 hours is not much but I feel for several of the attendees who’s flights home to London were canceled due to snow.  I always pack extra clothes in my suitcase and have a large rolling computer bag with a clothing compartment that I use to store extra pairs of underwear, socks, and a light jacket.

You never know when a simple delay will turn into an overnight stay at the airport lobby inn.

Know what you are getting yourself into
The vast majority of airports now are using full body scanners at the security checks.  My personal view on them… I could really care less, but anything that gets me through the  security line quicker is OK in my book.

With that being said, I understand that many people do have reservations about full body scanners, the radiation they emit and the invasion of privacy.  I get it and it is completely your choice, but if you decide not to have the full body scan, you need to realize what you are getting yourself into and make sure you are ready for it.

If you want to bypass the scanner memorize these words and use this exact phrase, ” I opt out”.

While many security officers will respect your right to privacy, others will simply not care and they will try to coerce you into using the scanner so that their precious time is not used in a physical pat down.

“I opt out” is an indisputable phrase and are the only three words you need to protect your rights.

Another thing to realize is that you will not be granted the same expedient entry into the airport as those who follow routine measures.  You may have to wait  30 minutes or more for an agent to become available.

You may also be subjected to what is known as an “enhanced pat down”.  These are much more rigorous than a routine pat down and the agent may use his or her palms to actually touch your private areas.

I watched as a young woman that stated she would be more comfortable with a pat down, was reduced to tears as the 6’4″ Male TSA agent gave her a very liberal pat down.

Her husband was forced to watch and I am not sure who was more agitated, him  or the agent doing the pat down.

Opting out is your right, by all means use it just make sure that you know what to expect.

Has anything like this ever happened to you?

Let me know in the comments below.

Want to know more? Check out these related articles from our site:

Traveling Don’ts: Learn From My Mistakes Part 1

Traveling for the Holidays? Make Sure You’re Prepared

Making a Safe Travel Kit

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  1. Christina

    January 24, 2013 at 9:03 AM

    Having broken my foot in several places I was in a cast and using a knee walker to get around. My daughter and I were heading to Utah from Phoenix. A short trip however since I was unable to stand in the scanner at either airport I had to be patted down. I was told I would have to wait for a same-sex TSA member. Neither airport will use an opposite sex to do the full pat down. They also swiped my knee cart as well as my cast and palms for explosives. Not realizing what a “pat-down” would entail I opted not to go behind a curtain. I was felt up and down for all to see. Male or female it was very uncomfortable!

  2. kelly b

    January 24, 2013 at 9:49 AM

    Lol! Having been a widow for 2 1/2 years and still looking very much like I’m in my mid-40’s, I’m thinking on my upcoming Spring Break flight, I might just do that whole opt-out thing… just to get a little excitement! Hahahaha! Then maybe I could ask the guy for his phone number after!

  3. Frank

    January 24, 2013 at 9:57 AM

    I often travel with a gun. I know the government requirements better than most people in the airport. Before TSA was set up to handle such tasks, at a small airport the ticket agent insisted, by government edict,that he had to inspect the gun to assure it was unloaded (not true). Despite my assurance that such a regulation did not exist, he insisted I unlock and open the box. I did. He picked up the revolver and tried to open it. He hadn’t a clue as to how to open the gun. He pointed the gun at everyone in the area, including himself. He would not let me touch the gun but finally allowed me to point and instruct.

    I learned a lesson. As variations of this scene occured often, I hereafter insisted a police or security officer was present before I unlocked the box. I made few friends.

    TSA has been much better, they are very consistant and only inspect for explosives in the box.

    Live and learn.

  4. Terry

    January 24, 2013 at 7:06 PM

    I am licensed for concealed carry in almost every state. Because I carry whenever and wherever I can, I check my weapon with carry on whether I need carry on or not. I was joining my wife for Christmas in Colorado and had a cross made of hand made nails around my neck. Maybe an inch and a half long at most. I am a artist by hobby and had several of these crosses checked in for presents for family in Colorado. The TSA people told me that I was going to have to surrender my cross because it was a weapon. No, they did not know that I had enough fire power to take over the plane and several others already on board. I told the TSA people that I would not surrender my cross because it was what I believed in and they told me to step out of line. I did and when the supervisor arrived, I was with a nice lady that I didn’t know that told the supervisor that they would be on network news becaus she was the owner of a major news paper from the Bay Area ( I was flying out of San Francisco) and this was stupid and abusive. The supervisor said “go ahead but don’t cause anymore trouble”. NEVER underestimate the power of stupidity when you travel.

  5. Lucy

    January 26, 2013 at 9:17 PM

    I am mobility challenged and either check or ship all my baggage. I have a wheelchair waiting at the Delta ticket counter to take me to the gate. Meds are in a clearly marked ziplock baggie. I have a small pocketbook with IDs, insurance cards, two credit cards, my AAA, the boarding pass, a $20 bill, clean panties in a ziplock baggie, and my glasses case. Sometimes I keep a plastic police whistle. I opt for a same sex pat down, having arrived at least two hours before boarding to accomodate delays. The Delta employee takes care of everything. My TSA attendants have always been courteous and helpful as it is difficult for me to walk. I don’t expect problems and never have them. I am always grateful for their kindness and respect and thank them when they are done. Perhaps a little more respect and a little less defensiveness would go a long way toward making one’s experience a little more pleasant.

  6. Gordon558

    January 31, 2013 at 2:33 PM

    I watched as security pulled a girl (about 14 or 15 years old) out of line for enhanced pat down. It was summer and she was wearing about the minumim legally allowable. She could not have concealed a credit card but they “patted” her down. I was mad and her parents were outraged but no one dared speak out.

  7. paul krawic

    February 4, 2013 at 3:45 AM

    being “respectful” and “thanking “someone for violating your rights and person is not a viable choice in my eyes.depending upon how you are treated you can acknowledge that you realize that the person is just doing their job,but to thank someone for violating you is what caused this problem in the first place.know your rights and know the constitution.i’m not saying to yell and scream,or be abusive in any way,but you should never be one of the sheep and just accept tyrranny when it’s being used on you let alone thank the henchmen for their act of tyrrany.i have had numerous violations to my person and had my family jewels out for everyone who walked by to see for the simple crime of being crippled.there was no reason they couldn’t close the curtain other than their own personal amusement,this is tyrranny at its worst.i understand that when you are going to fly now you are subject to an illegally created dept of the govt and that you must interact with them,and that raising your voice,swearing,or other shows of aggression will cause even more hassles,but to thank them?that’s just what they want-good little sheep.

    • Lucy Mauterer

      February 4, 2013 at 6:57 AM

      @Paul Krawic, I am not thanking them for violating my rights. I am thanking them for their courtesy and respect of my person. I qualify as handicapped, but I can walk with some degree of difficulty, hence the need for a wheelchair for long distances. I am so sorry you have had such an awful experience. You might want to contact the TSA at and let them know your genitals were exposed in public and where that violation occured. They do want to know when their staff oversteps the bounds of decency. There is a contact center link where you can report your experience. I would suggest you avail yourself of it.

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