Hustling sex toys through airport security, onto a plane, and eventually to your destination can be a tricky and worrisome process. The good news is, sex toys are becoming more expected at the airport. Last July, we wrote about a news story making the rounds in which the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) admitted that sex toys did not bother them very much.
However, it’s their job to look for electronic devices, explosives, and potential weapons — and sex toys can still be mistaken as harmful, so precautions are necessary.
The first thing you should do, if you’re traveling within the United States, is read up on current TSA policies. If you’re traveling internationally, look up country-specific travel information. Especially do your research before jetting off to a foreign country (or Alabama) with your toys, as some places forbid sex toys and/or porn. It may even be worthwhile to consider alternative transportation methods, such as train or bus. The following tips are for air travel.
Checked vs. carry-on
If you decide to take your toys with you, your first choice will be whether to pack them in your carry-on or checked luggage. There are pros and cons to each. Carry-ons don’t run the risk of getting lost, but they are subject to more public scrutiny. Checked luggage isn’t searched in front of everyone, but a few travelers have reported that toys were removed from their checked bags — never to be seen again.
When it comes to searching checked bags, the TSA may simply be confused; if they don’t know what something is, it’s easier for them to deem it dangerous and confiscate it. Since you won’t be there to give them an explanation of the item, put it in a plastic bag with an identifying label (“dildo,” “vibrator,” or even just “sex toy” — something easily understood). Never put your toys in something the TSA can’t open, as they’d have the authority to break into it anyway.
If you put your toys in carry-ons, the plastic bag tip still applies — mostly because you don’t want the TSA getting their grubby hands on your personal items if they do decide to pull them out for inspection. Where you pack the sex toys is up to you. If you put them on top of everything, they’ll be easier to access if the TSA asks about them. On the other hand, if you stick them between layers of clothing, that could buy you some time to explain yourself and ask that your bag be searched in private.
Be sure to leave yourself some extra time at the airport if you pack your toys in a carry-on, just in case your experience at the security terminal takes longer than usual.
Avoid the buzz
The last thing you want is for anyone to think your bag contains a bomb, so always take the batteries out of battery-operated toys — don’t just flip them around or assume the switch will stay in the “off” position. A TSA agent has explained that, under the security scanner, vibrators with batteries inside can resemble the barrel of a loaded gun!
Many high-end rechargeable vibrators, like those from LELO and Jimmyjane, have travel lock functions. Read about them in your toy’s manual and be sure to employ them correctly. If your rechargeable toy doesn’t have a travel lock, drain its battery completely before travel.
Tools — er, dildos
According to the TSA, “tools” less than 7 inches in length are allowed in carry-on luggage. However, if the item is “club-like” or can be mistaken as a weapon, don’t pack it in a carry-on. Try to imagine your dildo or butt plug under the security scanner — will it look sinister somehow?
Since even belt buckles set off the metal detectors at security, there’s no way a metal dildo or butt plug will get through unnoticed in a carry-on. Same goes for strap-on harnesses with metal buckles, rings, or fixtures. Consider packing a fabric harness instead, and put your metal toys in your checked luggage.
As with any fragile item, pack a glass or ceramic dildo by wrapping it up thoroughly in soft cloth.
Follow 3-1-1 with lube
Lube is, of course, a liquid, so for carry-ons, you must follow the 3-1-1 rule with it (and other liquids such as massage oil). Liquids must be in 3.4 ounce or less sized bottles, then placed into a single quart, clear, plastic ziplock bag. Even a half-empty container of lube is not acceptable if the container exceeds 3.4 ounces, which most do. So try purchasing a small plastic container and filling it with your favorite lube. Or pack lube samples, which are all less than 3.4 ounces.
To avoid this rule, stick your lubes in your checked luggage (but keep them secured in a ziplock bag so they won’t leak all over everything!).
There are conflicting reports about the TSA’s response to BDSM toys such as restraints, whips, floggers, leashes, etc. in carry-ons. Since BDSM toys can be even more stigmatized and misunderstood than the average sex toy, we suggest erring on the side of caution. If your toy could be considered a weapon (handcuffs, anything sharp… really, a lot of BDSM toys), put it in checked baggage.
Attitude is everything
Ultimately, the most important part of traveling with sex toys is staying calm. Owning sex toys and wanting to bring them on trips is absolutely nothing to be ashamed of! But security may ask you to open your bag if they are concerned about anything, or you may be picked for a random search. If this happens, don’t panic. Tell the agent simply, “that’s my butt plug.” Don’t dance around the truth, and definitely don’t become argumentative. The more matter-of-fact you are, the better it makes you look.
More often than not, the TSA agent will be surprised by your candor and send you on your way. It is entirely possible that the agent may be more embarrassed than you are. Travelers have reported TSA agents giggling, smiling, and pointing things out on the screen to their co-workers. If a TSA agent harasses or tries to humiliate you, file a formal complaint with the TSA.
But overall, confidence can make a world of difference. Take it from a guy who had to deal with TSA agents making a big deal about a whip, but handled it with finesse:
I look at all the people around me and feel like the whole airport — passengers, ticket agents, security guards — are giving me the benefit of the doubt on this one, at least in part because I’m refusing to have it any other way. My lack of embarrassment, my lack of apology, is defining the moment and telling everyone how to respond. I feel exceptionally powerful. It is the liberation of one more level of coming out, of refusing to be made wrong for being different, for being sexually different.
Take comfort in the fact that these guys have seen it all. If the TSA agent shakes their head as you pass through, it might simply be to express their disappointment that you’re only bringing one vibrator, whereas you’ve packed 7 pairs of shoes.
We want to hear your stories!
Have you had experience traveling with your sex toys? Run-ins with the TSA? We want to hear all about it! Comment below with your story. The writer of our favorite story will win a locally-made Appetite travel bag! We’ll also compile the answers into a post.