Dealing with airport security is quite possibly the least fun part of travel. Long lines, pulling out liquids and laptops, emptying pockets, taking off shoes… the process is unpleasant under the best of circumstances. Because of all the rules, regulations and hassles, the prospect of packing sex toys for a trip can be a little unnerving. The first time I packed a vibrator in my carry-on bag under the post-9/11 security rules, I was terrified that it would be confiscated or hauled out for inspection in front of a crowd of people.
As it turned out, the TSA could not have cared less about that little vibe. No one said a word about it. Since that initial success, I’ve gained fairly extensive experience traveling with sex toys.
Regardless of whether I’m checking my sex toys or carrying them on, I store them in a clear, zip top plastic bag. This allows them to be inspected without being touched. And when my toys are in checked baggage, I find that manual inspection happens A LOT. As in almost every time. I label the bag to indicate the contents/materials (e.g. “Sex Toys – Silicone”) to help clear up any confusion since some of my toys are unusual in shape and/or size.
Before departure, I take a photo and keep a list of what was packed in the event that something unfortunate should befall my baggage. Thus far, I haven’t needed to use it but I feel better knowing everything is documented. I also use TSA-approved luggage locks to keep my bag from opening and spilling its precious cargo during loading/unloading. Don’t let this happen to you.
For vibrators, make sure that batteries are removed or the travel lock is engaged. If you have a rechargeable toy that doesn’t have a locking system, run the battery down and pack the charger. The last thing any traveler needs is for their bag to start buzzing as it goes through security, or is about to be loaded on the plane. Buzzing bags have to be investigated, potentially delaying departure for everyone.
There are a lot of rules about exactly what U.S. travelers are allowed to have in their carry-on bags. The rules that exist are very specific. Scissors with a blade length under four inches, fine. Over four inches, nope.
The problem is that there aren’t a lot of rules specific to sex toys, so we have to extrapolate them from the stated rules. Personally, I think this is ridiculous. I know a lot more people who are concerned about traveling with dildos and vibrators than about spear guns and cattle prods, yet we have clearly defined rules for those items.
Based on the TSA’s published regulations and my own experiences, here are the guidelines that I follow when packing sex toys in a carry-on bag. Keep in mind that the final decision about whether a particular item is allowed on a plane rests with the individual TSA agent doing the inspection. If you’re unsure whether a particular item is permitted, I recommend erring on the side of caution: check it, leave it at home or ship it to your destination.
- While not spelled out in TSA guidelines, a search with their “Can I bring…” tool indicates that all vibrators are permitted in carry-on luggage.
- I have packed a variety of vibrators, from the tiny Tango to the substantial Big Boss, in my carry-on bag or purse without incident.
- Large wand-style vibrators could be viewed as “club-like items”. I have not tried traveling with one of these, but if I did, I’d put it in my checked bag.
- For wood, metal, hard plastic or glass dildos, I keep the length under seven inches. This is based on the prohibition against “club-like items” and the seven inch length limit for miscellaneous tools. I have heard of folks successfully transporting larger metal or glass toys in a carry-on bag, but I prefer to be cautious.
- For silicone dildos, consider weight. Some of my larger toys, while soft, could probably do serious harm if swung at a person’s head. If there’s a good chance I could subdue an attacker with my dildo, it travels in a checked bag.
- Some silicone dildos (handled ones in particular) could look weapon-like on a security x-ray. While my friends and fellow bloggers would immediately know them for what they are, I’m not certain that every TSA worker would. I’d rather avoid the potential issue and play it safe.
- Butt plugs, kegel exercisers, and other such wearable items should be fine in your carry-on bag. I would not attempt to wear such things through a security checkpoint, at the risk of provoking a cavity search. If you want to do kegels on the plane, stop by the restroom after security to insert your exercise device of choice.
- E-stim/TENS units used for pain management are allowed in carry-on bags, so it’s fairly safe to assume that recreational units are allowed as well.
- Strap on harnesses are not specifically referenced in TSA guidelines, but climbing harnesses, belts and other similar gear are permitted in both carry-on and checked bags.
- This probably merits its own article, but I’ll touch on a few things here. According to TSA rules, riding whips and riding crops (classified as sports equipment) are OK to carry on but “whips and bullwhips” are classified as martial arts/self defense items and must be checked. Based on those rules, a small flogger or other light impact play item should be fine in your carry-on.
- As far as paddles go, ping pong paddles are cleared for carry-on bags, cricket bats are not. I interpret this to mean that small paddles are acceptable to carry, larger paddles (especially wooden ones) should be checked.
- Rope and handcuffs are definitely permitted in carry-on bags, as are collars and leashes.
- When checking luggage, I’ll toss my lube in there to avoid the bottle size issue. Truth be told, I check all my liquids whenever possible because I hate pulling everything out when I go through security. I still bag everything in a zip-top bag though, in case of any leakage.
- If I’m only traveling with a carry-on bag, I’ll transfer some lube to a travel size bottle (3.4 ounces/100 ml or less) or pack a few trial-size lube packets. I save lube samples I receive with sex toy orders to have them on hand for travel.
The nightmare scenario for most people is having a sex toy plucked from their carry-on bag and waved around by an angry security agent for the world to see. Personally, I have never had a TSA agent open my carry-on to inspect a sex toy, nor have I seen any kind of negative or judgmental reaction. That being said, if I am traveling with colleagues, I make sure we’re not passing through the same security line at the same time…just in case. It wouldn’t bother me much if security questioned me about a sex toy in front of strangers. I would, however, find it horrifically awkward in front of co-worker.
Speaking of questions, if you do happen to be asked about a toy in your bag, the best thing to do is be brief and honest. You’re not the first person to bring a sex toy through security, they’re not going to be shocked or upset when you say “That’s my vibrator”. If you’re still worried, remember that you can ask to be screened in private.
I hope this guide helps people to feel more comfortable and confident flying with sex toys. If you have tips or tales about traveling with toys, please share them in the comments!