We just showed up at our destination after a long trip. And to start off the vacation, there’s bad news: the TSA has been rifling through our luggage again

It’s hard to choose just one reason why we hate the TSA. Whether it’s their regular invasion of privacy or the hassle of getting through airport security, they don’t have a friend in us. But going inside our luggage takes that invasion to a new level.

We’re worried that they’ll take valuables. If they don’t take valuables, then they’ll break them. There’s a way to stop them in the meantime until they automate the process.

In this article, we’ll learn how to keep the TSA out of our luggage.

Why Does the TSA Open Our Luggage in the First Place?

We’re not terrorists. We’re just trying to get from A to B with minimal headache. It might seem like a headscratcher that the TSA finds any reason to go through luggage.

The first thing to understand is what the TSA stands for: Transportation Security Administration. Ever since 9/11 in the US, the TSA has concerned itself with preventing another airplane hijacking or bombing.

In addition to that, they’re trying to prevent the trafficking of illegal goods across states and countries. In the majority of cases, though, they’re just looking for safety hazards.

Therefore, it pays to think like the TSA. If anything looks like a bomb, illegal item, or hazard, they’re going to take a closer look. 

What Is the TSA Looking For?

The TSA has a pretty straightforward list of allowed items. Some of the allowed items are surprising. For example:

  • Antlers
  • Lighters
  • Artificial Skeleton Bones

Here are some of the common prohibited items:

  • Firearms
  • Insecticides and chemicals
  • Knives/scissors/razor blades
  • Liquids or gels larger than 3.4 ounces

It’s also important to know the difference between what’s allowed in checked luggage vs. carry-on bags. In our checked baggage, we can actually carry ammunition (minus the firearm). But we cannot store batteries.

Conversely, we can bring batteries in our carry-on. But we can’t bring ammunition into our carry-on, even if we don’t have a firearm with us.

What’s the Point?

The main issue might be obvious already: fire safety. Aerosols, batteries, and gunpowder can all fuel a fire. A fire on an airplane could prove deadly for passengers.

When the TSA isn’t looking for fire hazards, they’re looking for potential terrorist threats. For example, we can’t bring sports equipment like a golf club on the plane. That’s because we could potentially use it as a bludgeon.

That’s why we can only bring liquids and gels in bottles up to 3.4 ounces. And these bottles need to be in a clear plastic bag. That’s because some bombs come in liquid or gel form.

The TSA’s biggest concern is trying to eliminate anything that looks like a bomb. They won’t take any begging, they’ll throw away our big container of shampoo rather than risk it. When it comes to the TSA searching bags, they take every potential threat with the utmost severity.

How to Stop the TSA From Getting Into Checked Luggage

When we submit our checked luggage, it also goes through screening. The problem is, we’re not there to see what they’re doing. We can’t trust that some underpaid employee won’t steal our valuables.

The first rule here is to avoid placing valuables in checked luggage. Keep valuables in the carry-on bag.

Second, we should check the checklist of the prohibited items very carefully. If we buy a brand new power bank and store it in checked bags, they’ll confiscate that. We’ll have no recourse for getting it back.

Packing a Bag

Again, the TSA is looking for bombs and illegal items. If they don’t find the latter, they’ll look for the former. If the TSA sees something that looks like a bomb in our luggage, they’ll open it.

Terrorists can make bombs in sneaky ways. They do this with three main components:

  • Electronics to time and trigger the bomb
  • A primer/detonator
  • The explosive

Check out this article for a nifty guide on how to avoid making luggage look like a bomb. The basic principle is this: keep electronics and liquids separate. We need to use clothes to isolate our electronics on one side of the suitcase.

The TSA isn’t perfect. They use an X-ray to scan the luggage. They’ll stop and open anything that looks remotely like a bomb, so we need to minimize that chance.

Using a TSA-Approved Lock

It’s not just the TSA that could be opening our luggage. There are baggage handlers and other employees between the screening line and the airplane. The only way to stop that is with a luggage lock.

However, the TSA might break off an unapproved luggage lock. They’ll think we’re hiding something. That’s why it’s important that we use a suitcase that comes with a built-in TSA-approved luggage lock.

If the TSA sees an approved lock on our luggage, that makes our luggage more trustworthy. They won’t feel the need to open our luggage since we’ve given them full access in the first place.

Best of all, the baggage handlers won’t be able to open our luggage. Only the TSA has the master key for these special locks. 

Let’s Prepare for the Next Vacation

The TSA loves to give everyone a headache at the airport. Luckily for us, we can prevent TSA searches by reading the rules beforehand. We can prevent unwanted people from opening our bags by using a TSA-approved lock.

Vacations should be a time of relaxation, not stress. Get a quality checked luggage bag so that the next trip abroad isn’t a headache.

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