You Can't Take That on a Plane

10 Things You Can't Take on a Plane

By Simon Vaughan

It wasn't my greatest of travel moments, but sometimes you just don't think straight.

While travelling through Namibia some years ago, a San bushman had offered me a beautiful hand-made bow and arrow with hand-forged metal arrow heads all housed in a leather quiver. It was identical to the ones I had seen the San use during my travels and as it was reasonably compact and didn't cost a fortune, I thought it would make a great souvenir. I bought it, and happily carried it with me during the rest of my travels. 

Before boarding the aircraft on the first leg of my journey home, I wrapped my bow and arrow-filled quiver in newspaper and taped it up to keep it safe. From Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe I flew to Johannesburg. In Jo'burg, I carried my bow and arrow onto my flight to London. In London I was pulled over by security.

"What's in that parcel, sir?" the stone-faced security agent asked.

"Oh, yeah," I blushed. "Hmmmm. A bow and arrow?"

"That will have to go in the hold, sir" I was politely but firmly told.

I must confess that I was less shocked that it hadn't occurred to me earlier that carrying a large weapon onto a commercial airline flight wasn't such a good idea, as I was that two airlines had allowed me to do just that twice earlier in the day. I was also somewhat relieved that no one was going to be able to hijack my final flight back to Canada with a bow and arrow!

In the post-9/11 world, we all take airline security more seriously than ever before. Rather than being surprised by what we can't carry with us into the cabin these days, we're often surprised by what we used to be able to carry on with us in the good ol' days!

Between the individual airlines and government transportation and security agencies, there are some very long lists of what you can—and cannot—carry on a plane these days. Many of the banned items that appear on these lists are simply common sense—like dynamite, hand grenades and Molotov cocktails (yes, all three do appear on the lists)—although I always find it somewhat amusing that regulators feel it is necessary to tell people that they can't carry weapons of mass destruction on their Spring Break flight to Cancun. But there are other items that, on the surface, seem strange that airlines would have felt compelled to have declared as banned in the first place. When you think about them and ponder how they could be a threat to the aircraft and/or other passengers, their prohibition becomes obvious, but nonetheless.

Here are ten of my favourite things that airlines deemed it necessary to declare banned as carry-on:

  1. Meat thermometers
  2. Snow globes...unless they "...appear to be smaller in size than 3.4 ounces in size (approximately tennis ball size) and the entire snow globe, including the base, is able to fit in the same one clear, plastic, quart-sized, re-sealable bag, as the passenger’s other liquids, such as shampoo, toothpaste and cosmetics."
  3. Cattle prods
  4. Creamy dips and spreads (cheeses, peanut butter, etc.) that are bigger than 3.4 oz.
  5. Rat poison
  6. Catapults
  7. Gas-operated curling irons
  8. Maple syrup (of a certain size, of course!)
  9. Fire extinguishers and of course
  10. Bows and arrows

For nervous flyers, there's some consolation that no airline yet prohibits you bring your own parachute on as carry-on. As long as it fits within your cabin baggage restrictions!


Simon Vaughan is a Senior Writer/Editor & Special Travel Advisor for Outpost. Alongside special reports and travel features you can find Simon’s voice in his super-mega-funny Local Knowledge travel stories in Outpost Magazine every issue.  Don't miss each of Simon's articles over at Simon Says Travel.


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