There was recently a case that came to national attention where a gentleman was arrested at an airport for having a watch that looked like a bomb, among other things.
As it came out, the watch was, in fact, not a bomb, and the man was just an artist who was probably trying to make a statement of some sort. Well, that message was lost amongst the hail of people shouting that either he had been stupid for bringing that watch on the plane and so deserved to be arrested, or that it's a free country and he should be able to carry whatever he wants.
As a Steampunk, you probably don't want to make the national news with that level of infamy. If you do, just ignore this article and do whatever you've gotta do. I'm looking at you, Dr. Grymm.
However, I'll assume that most of you would like to experience the joys of airplane travel without the hassle of cavity searches, handcuffs, and Guantanamo Bay.
So, here are some tips and tricks that I've picked up over the years that will help you travel with your Steampunk props without getting strip-searched, especially important for the holidays if you're traveling with tons of Steampunk Christmas gifts!
If you can, pack your props in your suitcase, or in a case that you can check as luggage. The TSA loves that, because they can go over it at their leisure without causing a scene. That helps you, too... Do you really want to have to stand around without your shoes while someone paws through your carry-on bags?
I certainly don't.
When you check your luggage at either the ticket counter or at a security checkpoint, alert the TSA agent that you have "art" in your luggage that may look like weapons or whatnot. Tell them that your objects are completely inert and safe (provided that this is true), but that you wanted to let them know.
This increases the chance that they'll let your bags go through without a thorough search, because they'll already know what it is. The harder they have to work to figure out what in the hell your Steampunk props are, the more disruptive they'll be to your belongings.
You don't have to tell anyone what you're carrying on board your own airship, but when traveling on an airplane, you fly only with their permission.
Be considerate and upfront about everything you have!
When going through the security checkpoint, if you have to carry a prop in your carry-on bag, take it out and put it through the scanner in a separate box as if it were a laptop.
The scanner works better when it's not seeing a bunch of jumbled objects in a bag, and that way if the bag itself is clean, they won't have to rifle through it. Instead, they can poke at your prop and quickly ascertain that it's harmless.
Always be clear with what you say. Words like Steampunk, prop, sculpture, art, etc. are good. Words like gun, bomb, knife, etc. are bad. For obvious reasons.
I don't think I need to explain why you shouldn't carry this.
TSA agents tend to be extremely swamped and short-tempered, so they can easily misunderstand you. Don't expect that they'll appreciate your long explanation of what you have. Make it short and clear, and they'll like you.
If they ask you to do something, do it. Don't get upset, don't complain, and don't try to walk away. All of those can land you in a sad little room, getting interrogated by the police.
The more compliant you are, the less likely they are to subject you to additional searches. This seems like simple common sense, but it's easy to forget when you've been waiting in the airport for an hour, or when you're running late and about to miss your flight.
But then again, a little resistance might be necessary...
As I mentioned earlier, putting your props in your luggage is just your absolute best bet. If you can't manage that, then, your carry-on bag is next-best.
However, some props are just so unwieldy or delicate that they have to be carried in your hands through the airport. These are the hardest things to deal with, because you can get hassled for them multiple times.
One trick for in-hand props is to check them on the plane. That is, most planes will allow you to 'check' objects at the gate, which they will hold for you at the front of the plane. This serves two purposes:
- It makes your fellow passengers more comfortable, and
- You can rest easy knowing that your item won't be crushed in the overhead bin during turbulence.
When walking through the airport, consider putting it in its own bag. The sad fact is that "normal" people are often frightened by things they don't understand, especially in the airport, so keeping your unique pieces to yourself is generally going to be the best plan. That will prevent your item from being misconstrued, and let you get on your way.
One of the hardest things to travel with are hats. They take up a lot of space, and are very delicate.
I've found that the best solution to this problem is simply to wear them. I know, your top hat doesn't go with your jeans, but this way you don't have to get a separate case for it and you don't have to worry that it will be crushed.
If you have metal or electronics in your hat, you should instead default to point number 6 and put it in its own bag. While you can explain what the components do to the TSA, you don't want a random passerby to call the police on you.
This hat is probably fine:
Just make sure to check your other accessories. This is not a good idea:
Do you have experiences with the TSA? More tips? Please share them in the comments, that way every Steampunk has a care-free flight home during the holidays this year. No one wants to be locked up for Christmas.