TSA snags child’s Christmas present: Think like TSA when packing your carry on

Think like TSA when you pack your Christmas presents for your flight home. If you don’t think like TSA, your child may end up losing a gift. It almost happened to us.

In the past, I have said goodbye to a full bottle of suntan lotion and a corkscrew with a knife attached. Those were not fun to lose, but these were items that ended up in our carry on bag as we hurried. I’ve known about snow globes for awhile so I never would forget about one of those.

Still, to not be like me, don’t pack in a hurry. Sift through that carry on bag one more time. Don’t think logically; think like TSA. Items that may seem harmless to you can cause TSA’s warning bells to ring. This summer, as Scott posted, one boy lost a Star Wars toy from Disneyland at a security checkpoint.

In general, when it comes to TSA’s warning bells, I’m not one to argue, but when it came to one of my son’s Christmas presents, I went head to head with Mr. TSA Man. I tried to stay polite even though I was mad enough I could have spit.

Here’s how it went down and who won. Will a certain present be under the tree this year?

As a last minute shopping trip the day we flew out of the airport in Albuquerque, New Mexico this summer, I headed to the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center and my favorite gift shop. There, among other things, I bought a hand-painted, flimsy bow and arrow set for my son for a Christmas present.

Because both could be easily snapped in two–the arrow was more of a stick really with merely a suggestion of a tip, I decided to keep the set in the shopping bag and use the bag as a carry on. I had “toy” on the brain. I did not have my TSA thinking cap turned on.

As soon as Mr. TSA saw the bow and arrow through the monitor of the X-ray machine, he saw weapon. Of course he would. He’s TSA Man.

TSA Man pulled the bow and arrow out of the bag.

“It’s a child’s toy.” I tried to be reasonable in my tone.

TSA Man said, “It’s a bow and arrow.”

By this time the bow and arrow was on the counter in plain sight. My son looked happy to see it. “Is that for me?” he said. There went a Christmas surprise.

“Could you remove the arrow so we could take the bow?” I asked TSA man, thinking this might be a solution to keep us both satisfied. I really liked the bow.

“No,” said TSA man.

“Why not?” By this time, TSA man was really getting on my nerves. I was trying to be helpful. He didn’t seem to care that he ruined a perfectly good Christmas present that I wouldn’t find anywhere else.

TSA Man: “Because it’s a bow and arrow.”

At this point, I may have said “That’s dumb.” I did say, “If you take off the arrow, wouldn’t it be just a bow?”

“No,” he said. “It’s still a bow and arrow.”

Recognizing the futility of the power of logic, I said, “Then I’ll check it.”

I had a carry on that the set would fit in and I’m stubborn.

I reached for the bow and arrow.

TSA Man: “You can’t touch it. I have to carry it.”


I waltzed toward the terminal door that lead out of security with my carry on and with TSA Man following close behind. He handed me the child’s bow and arrow once I was on the main terminal side of the door.

Ever polite, I did say “Thanks,” although by this time I did not sound pleasant.

The bow and arrow set made it home safely. Checking it last minute cost $15 dollars–twice as much as I paid for it. Oh, but keeping that bow and arrow set was so worth it.

This is a lesson in having a carry-on you can check if need be and enough time before your flight to do a last minute check in.

By the way, there were three wooden tomahawk toys in the shopping bag as well. I guess tomahawks aren’t weapons.

The bow and arrow set is not going under the Christmas tree. My son already has it.

When you are packing, remember to think, what would TSA man think about this? If you’re not sure, check out this list of prohibited items from the TSA website. Also, here’s the information about traveling with food and gifts.