Is Your Souvenir Banned on the Plane?

Amazonian Indian using blowdart

Photo credit: JialiangGao, CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0

How was I to know Delta Airlines would take a blowgun so seriously? Or that a souvenir gift would extend our trip by an extra day?

Each year, TSA (Transportation Security Administration) confiscates thousands of items which are weapons or appear to potentially be weapons. Some items are obvious. But many others are easily assumed to be toys or souvenirs and, in many people’s minds, not dangerous.  A belt buckle shaped like a gun, a Buzz Lightyear toy, fuzzy handcuffs, martial arts souvenirs, a Civil War replica or a blowgun from the rainforest of Peru.


2 red parrots hamming it up for the photographer, people in hammocks in background

Connie watching parrots pose at an Amazon camp in Peru.

Long ago… before marriage and kids and before TSA, I toured Ecuador and Peru. While in the Amazon, I bought a blowgun to bring home to a boyfriend. I knew he’d get a kick out of this unique souvenir. It more or less was a hollowed out perfectly straight stick of about three feet through which the indigenous people shoot darts when hunting small game. It was a perfect gift.

Now defunct Aeroperú didn’t mind me bringing my blowgun as carry-on for the flight from Lima to Miami.  But going through security to connect to our flight to Philadelphia, officers had somewhat of a fit. “No weapons.”  Yes, I get that.  But I really wasn’t thinking about a souvenir hollowed wood pipe with no darts being any more dangerous than someone’s cane.  Or, for that matter, someone potentially inflicting an eye injury by blowing seeds through a straw.

Obviously, security won.  Or Delta won. It feels like we’ve always had TSA so I can’t recall if it was federal, state, airport or airlines that ran security where we got stopped.

Unfortunately, we had a tight connection.  Having to run down to the ticket counter to turn the blowgun in as checked baggage made us miss the last flight of the day to Philly. Peggy, my longtime friend with whom I was traveling, and I had to overnight in Miami.

We got home the next day with the blowgun intact.  The boyfriend seems very impressed… though the relationship was short-lived.

For Peggy and me, the entire trip is one that we still talk about and laugh over… in addition to many other memorable times!

Here are some resources you may find helpful or interesting:

Happy Traveling!

Connie's signature


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