About the last thing anybody wants when they are flying for the holidays is to be held up at airport security by a forgotten tube of toothpaste a purse.
Major delays, like closing down a screening line to deal with the gun someone tried to bring in a carry-on bag, are a big problem for folks flying during the holidays, but even minor delays can frustrate passengers, Transportation Security Agency spokesman Mark Howell said on Thursday.
In order to help holiday travelers, he and TSA lead security officer Robbie Gray brought out a variety of items surrendered recently at Blue Grass Airport and at the Louisville airport to remind travelers what not to carry.
Some are downright dangerous; others bear sad witness to poor planning. Like the snow globe of a praying tot, engraved "Happy 1st Birthday Jack," intended as a present from a loving aunt.
No big snow globes allowed, Howell said. Too much liquid.
"Best rule of thumb, tennis ball or smaller, is OK," he said.
Other tales of woe: The half-empty bottle of Woodford Reserve Double Oaked, or the still-sealed Maker's Mark barbecue sauce.
"Even if it's been opened, you're going to have issue. Because it's still more than 3.4 ounces," Howell said. "Bourbon and barbecue sauce are two of those things we have fairly common at Lexington ... perfectly fine, lot of people want to give those as gifts. We just recommend people put them in checked bags."
Hard to know what the former owner of the vintage kerosene can was thinking trying to bring that on a plane, but odds are he or she wasn't happy about leaving it behind.
"Somebody brought that to the checkpoint," Howell said, shaking his head.
Or the lawn mower blades.
"That's just a weird thing to bring in a carry-on," Howell said.
One important holiday travel tip: Don't wrap your packages, even in checked bags. If security can't see what is in that box, personnel will have to open it up.
The TSA doesn't actually seize things, Howell and Gray pointed out. Guns are turned over to law enforcement to deal with, but passengers have the option of returning other items to their car, placing them in checked baggage or, if the items are small enough, mailing them through a service at the airport.
The rules on what you may bring through security haven't changed recently: liquids must be less than 3.4 ounces, and bottles must be in a clear plastic bag. And anything that can be a knife or bludgeoning weapon won't get through.
One thing TSA screeners began seeing a lot of this year: credit card knives. The hard plastic cards, often given away as freebies, fit in wallets but fold up into very sharp knives.
Some items just seem like obvious no-brainers, like the miniature hand-grenade shaped perfume spray bottle.
"When we're at the checkpoint and we see this come up on the X-ray machine, it's going to make the hair on the back of your neck stand up," Howell said, holding up the bottle. "At first glance, you're not going to know if it's a live grenade or not. This little inconspicuous bottle of perfume is going to end up causing big problems at the airport. We're going to call in local law enforcement, possibly a bomb squad ... this is going to cause major delays."
By far, the biggest problem at checkpoints is firearms, Howell said.
"Last year, nationwide, we had 1,813 firearms brought to checkpoints ... as of Dec. 1 of this year, we're over 2,000," he said. "Here in Lexington, we've had six at the checkpoint so far this year."
His advice, again: Put it in your checked bag in a hard-sided case, unloaded.
Just don't gift-wrap it.