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What “OK” items will still delay your TSA checkpoint experience? Avoid these things!

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Rene’s Points For Better Travel, a division of Chatterbox Entertainment, Inc. has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Rene’s Points For Better Travel and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

WHAT! It is just a massager TSA!

If you are a frequent flyer you likely have TSA Pre Check. If you are a really smart frequent flyer you have that and you have CLEAR as well. These can really reduce your time getting past security and on to the gate or the lounge of your choice. But there are things that can slow this process down – way down.

I am NOT talking about things that are not allowed per the TSA to bring through a check point. No, I am talking about things are AOK and approved but despite that fact they will, most times, earn you some extra time with the screening folks.

The most frustrating part for me is when I am in TSA Pre Check and I attempt to remove anything from my bag, that I know will trigger extra screening, and get yelled at to “leave everything in the bag sir”. When I am able to take them out there is often no bucket to put stuff in on the Pre Check side and that is another annoyance.

So let’s look at a few that will, under most circumstance, mean extra time for you:

Massage machines. Notice the photo at the top of this post. I own a number of these Niagara Sonoid (no longer in mfg btw) massage units and sometimes when I have a sore back I travel with one. But every time, when in my carry-on, it will need extra screening.

Lead glass. One time I took back a lead glass fish from Sweden and it seems any glass with lead will look just nasty on their x-ray units.

Dive regulators. Call this one hit and miss as to if you will get pulled. From dive spots less so but from non-dive area airports this is common to end up pulled for extra visual testing.

Dive weights. My wife has “floaty feet” and thus has soft shot clip on weights. Until we got the tip to clip them into a circle we always got pulled with these when laid out straight.

Wine bottle opener. Yes these are legal as they do not have a blade to cut the foil at the top of the bottle. But if I do not pull it out I am guaranteed to have the bag pulled and searched.

Some curling irons. Lady flyers will attest to this that there are certain types of curling or straitening irons that will always end up in more time with TSA. If all carry-on what can you do?

Any spice mix with salt. Every time I visit Austin I pick up some Salt Lick spice mix for grilling. But if I do not buy it on the secure side it will mean a LONG time with TSA folks testing the outside of the bottles with drops of some stuff. It takes forever!

Frozen beef (or pork). I have a number of times brought back large chunks of frozen brisket or ribs etc. and not once have the TSA folks just said something like Ah BBQ and let me go. It always means more quality time but I guess it is worth it so…

Tools! I spoke to a friend who is a processional carpenter and he often takes carry-on wrenches, screw guns and all kinds of large battery packs for the tools. Even when all the tools are of legal size to bring on-board he has the bag pulled.

Certain car keys/fabs. With electronic start most keys have some kind of back key inside the fob but these can look like a blade on x-ray. I know some folks who have been stopped so many times they always put them in an extra bin to avoid longer delays.

So there you are. This is clearly not a complete list of all the things that will just about every time trigger extra time at TSA check points when all we are trying to do is speed through the process but that is where you come in dear reader. Tell me what things you travel with that ALWAYS end up costing you extra time through security! – René


Rene’s Points For Better Travel, a division of Chatterbox Entertainment, Inc. has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Rene’s Points For Better Travel and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

René de Lambert is a contributing writer and the founder of RenesPoints. He is an avid Delta and SkyTeam flyer who has held Delta’s top Diamond Medallion status for many years and flown millions of miles.


  1. Travelling in a wheelchair. Yes, occasionally you get bumped to the front of the queue but more than often you’re left sitting there like a dick waiting for a “male assist” as everyone else streams past you.

  2. Frankie Morgan Reply

    Ice packs for insulin thst are or are not frozen (even with a prescription), contact lens solution that is more than 3.4oz (they don’t sell smaller sizes).

  3. Virtually any mass of organic material will get your carry on pulled for additional screening. I give all of my Flight Attendants peanut M & M’s so I travel with a minimum of 12 boxes. My carry on bag gets searched 75% of the time so that TSA can swab every box. It takes about ten minutes. But the FAs are worth it!

  4. Michael Karpiel Reply

    Rene – I have had the same issues with Pre-Check. I travel with 2 laptops and lots of electronics in my computer bag. There is never a bin and I have to ask for one and most of the time the TSA idiot tells me NO!. So if my bag goes through screening it gets pulled and they take the laptops out and half of the cables, routers, USB drives, camera etc. out and run it back through. They treat me like I’m an idiot and don’t know how their security theater works.

    The few times I’ve had a common sense TSA agent and they give me the bins then I’m able to pull my laptops out and still my bags gets lots of looks going through the scanner.

    There are still too many people selected to go through Pre-check that have not gone through the application and screening which really slows things down. I think that might add to why a TSA agent will argue with you about not taking stuff out since they get so many people that don’t have a clue. That is really defeating the point of the program in my view.

  5. I have a TENS unit I carry everywhere with me and have never had that inspected. I do also carry a metal plate for my cross stitch and I, too, got yelled out for taking it out of my bag but I had had my bag searched on the out bound flight so I was trying to save myself from doing that again. I’ve learned to carry it in my hand while in line instead of waiting to pull it out when it’s my turn to put my carry on down for inspection. That seems to have diffused the situation. I can’t tell you how many times my husband carried a metal ice pick style meat thermometer in his carry on and never got searched.

  6. As Wayne said, anything dense and organic that comes in slabs or bars: Chocolate, soap, and especially candles.

  7. Frankie,
    I don’t know what brand you use, but there is a 2oz size of Opti-Free Puremoist lens solution. It is $2.97 in the travel toiletry section of Walmart stores in my city. It is $2.96 on the Walmart website. It is $2.96(add-on item) on Amazon.

    One of my bags was searched the first time I used Pre-Check. The culprits were 10 oatmeal packets and 9 Fruit Roll-Ups.

  8. I was checked twice for a bag of wild rice. It was in regular commercial packaging but I still got questions from an agent who had never heard of such a thing and was suspicious!

  9. My safety razor handle (one that takes double edged razor blades) always attracts attention. I just pull it out and have it go through separately.

  10. I have a Swiss Army not-knife that I travel with. I used to get stopped all the time until one of the agents suggested that I open all the tools in the not-knife and put it in a tray where it’s openly visible. I haven’t been stopped for that since.

  11. Tad Dunlap Reply

    Popcorn. Seriously.

    A friend missed a flight because of the ridiculous amount of time wasted to make sure a package of popcorn was safe. And it came from a gift shop a few yards away – in the airport purchased on a previous flight.

    Maybe it relates to the salt mentioned?

  12. If you have a newer Dell power supply and wrap the cord around it shortways, like when it was in the box, you will get pulled for additional screening. This triggered on my manager on his last two trips.

  13. I carry a laptop, a tablet and lots of electronics (batteries, cameras, flash units, cables, chargers) in my carry-on. Fortunately, I have not had the bad experiences that Michael has.

  14. Having traveled from PWM over the past 10+ years, I am known to have frozen lobster meat in my carry-ons. Never ONCE have I been secondarily searched there. But an enclosed cigar cutter that somehow got lost in the lining of my roller…now that caused a significant delay!
    Pre-check is still the bomb…but don’t say bomb at Pre-Check…

  15. Butane lighters. There doesn’t seem to be consistency. I was once held up for a few minutes while two TSA officers argued back and forth whether it was allowed. Of course it was!

  16. I find it best to put anything with metal: watches, all money, passport, keys in jacket pocket and then put jacket even though they tell you to leave jacket no.
    Annoyingly, my shoes now set off the machines all the time.

    I leave my liquids in the pouch in my carry-on bag and they never re-screen it unless I forget the liter bottle of water.

    How they can justify sending unscreened people thru Pre-Check is beyond me. It defeats the whole purpose of the screening, unless of course, it is all “Security Theater”. Then it makes perfect sense.

  17. A cervical traction device, complete with manual air pump and pressure gauge. It helps relieve the pain of a pinched nerve in one’s neck but can be a “pain in the neck” with TSA. Go figure!

  18. Jeff Smith Reply

    I learned quickly that “Ancient Cheddar” and sausage looks exactly like C4! So when I pack it into my carry on, it sits at the top in a see through zip lock and gets pulled out before screening. TSA guys really appreciate that. The other item is my Surface Docking Station. Got to pull it otherwise they pull your bag.

  19. dotti cahill Reply

    my mail and magazines..they cannot see thru them under xray so they always look!!Now i put them in a small cloth bag till on the other side then i put them in my carryon -if i haven’t gotten thru it in SC!!

  20. Noob Flyers Reply

    (possibly 1st time) flyers who need to go back and remove items several times just to get their bags inspected for contrabands.

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