How To: 7 Things Every Steampunk Should Know for Making It Through Airport Security Stress-Free

7 Things Every Steampunk Should Know for Making It Through Airport Security Stress-Free

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!

1. Put It in Your Checked Luggage

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?

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I certainly don't.

2. Tell Them What You Have Beforehand

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!

3. Take It Out of Your Carry-On at Checkpoints

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.

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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.

4. Be Extremely Clear

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.

5. Never Resist

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.

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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...

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6. Luggage > Carry-On > In-Hand

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:

  1. It makes your fellow passengers more comfortable, and
  2. 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.

7. Wear Your Hats

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:

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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.

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Here's a secret from the photography/electronics world: if you need to check your bag with lots of expensive things, electronics, valuables and you worry about theft - go to a sporting goods store, buy a starting pistol, then fill out the appropriate TSA forms for carrying a starting pistol. it's legal, but it's in a happy little gray area where it's not a real gun, but it's a secure bag. TSA will search it and then you lock it. No one else opens it until you get to your destination / it is securely tracked. No airline thievery, and all your suspicious but neato props (and your camera, laptop and mustache trimmer) will be safe.

Wow, I had no idea! Great tip!

Thanks, Lauren! =D

Yeah, I've heard of that trick before, too, but never actually traveled with anything expensive enough to actually try it out.

I don't have any steampunk props but I travel with an expensive camera sometimes. I'll have to try that trick!

While I'm not a steampunk aficionado, I have quite an aversion to the way American citizens have relinquished their dignity for questionable security. I encourage every one to question these officers who aren't under oath, to not lay down like a dog when they want to feel your privates and to really look at the situation in American airports and see how disturbing it really is. I've been to China, a "communist" country, you aren't treated to such invasiveness when you go there. The last experience I had with the TSA was pretty memorable, I opted out of the full body scanner for a normal metal detector, then I was groped once in full public view and then hidden from public view and groped even more invasively a second time. I asked the officers what they had found and even what they were looking for, They told me, WE DONT KNOW! Those were his exact words, I said so you haven't found anything and you don't know what your looking for, he replied, We'll know when we find it. Folks, this is a psychological domination, it's not keeping anyone safe. We're being subjected to unreasonable searches that are honestly pretty ineffective at their purpose, go search for people who've gotten past security with weapons etc, there's plenty of examples out there. My hope is that you'll recognize this as something that is not good for our society and does not make us marginally safer. Next time you have an encounter, ask the agent what they're looking for, ask them why you've been singled out, you should have a right to know these things. Obviously, not all of you will agree with my opinion, go ahead and get the full body pat down, you may find yourself quickly of a different mind.

As someone who frequently travels with real firearms and other weapons; I can assure you that you have every legal right to travel with these items. TSA's guidelines for prop weapons is the same as for real:

  1. The item you wish to transport must be legal in the state you are leaving and the state you are going to.
  2. Items must be in a secure locked case. The case may then be placed in your checked baggage if it is small enough. The baggage should then also be securely locked. Ammunition must be stored seperately and the guidelines for transporting it are so confusing that you would do better to just purchase it when you get there.
  3. Arrive at the airport EARLY and go to the checked baggage area and tell the staff person that you wish to check a firearm. They will refer you somewhere else, but you can't skip this step because every airport has a different way of doing this. Have the keys to both the gun and the locked case readily available. Follow the steps they ask you to do in the order they ask you to do them, be patient and polite.
  4. When you arrive at your destination there is a very good chance that your luggage will be first off the luggage rack and will be sporting red tape around it or something melodramatice like that. At some airports, security will escort you around the airport. In some cases, your firearm will be at a special location and you will need to show ID to pick it up.
  5. For better info you can google this topic and get the complete TSA guidelines. These guidelines apply to props, knives, bows and crossbows, and really anything that TSA might hassle you about.

As a performer who uses swords. We use gun/rifle cases to carry most types of swords. A basket hilted type fits quite nicely in a hard sided gold club bag. Both style of cases would work for many large steampunk props. Again they can be locked.

As for wearing hats through the lines and on the airplane, it is quite fun. Lots of conversion starters.

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