You may lock your luggage when you travel, but rest assured that what's in there isn't entirely private. Just ask Jill Filopovic, a blogger at Feministe. In 2011, she took a flight and packed her vibrator in a checked bag - only to open it and find a note from a TSA agent who searched her luggage. "Get your freak on, girl," it said.
If having a group of anonymous TSA agents fiddle around with your toy isn't enough of a turnoff, it could be worse. In 2002, 36-year-old Rennee Koutsouradis was paged over the intercom when one of the baggage handlers noticed that her luggage was vibrating. And so, there on the tarmac, in full view of many of the plane's passengers, Koutsouradis was forced to explain the source of the noise - and them pull out the toy for everyone to see. (She also received harassing comments, and later filed a suit against the airline.)
Vibrators can put the buzz into a business trip and spice up a getaway, but they're also something most people don't want to have to explain to a stranger - or demonstrate for an overzealous airport worker. The kind of embarrassment Koutsouradis suffered is rare, but anyone can become a victim of some tense moments, whether your sex toy gets pull out for examination at the airport or your luggage starts buzzing once you bump it down a ramp.
Have toys, will travel? Here are some tips on how to avoid tricky situations.
Stop the BuzzAirport security isn't really interested in unearthing vibrators. Problem is, bombs vibrate too. So, when your vibrator goes off, security is forced to investigate. The best way to avoid this is to take the batteries out of any toys you pack. It takes just one unfortunate bump for an idle vibrator to buzz to life. At best, you’ll drain your batteries; at worst you’ll alert airport authorities that you’re carrying something worth investigating. Many rechargeable toys also include a travel switch (like this Vanity model by Jopen), which locks the toy and prevents it from starting up accidentally. If your toy doesn't have removable batteries or a travel feature, don't pack it. (For yet another story on how a buzzing vibrator was mistaken for a bomb, check out Vibrators: Bigger and Generating More Buzz Than Ever.)
Be UpfrontIt might be tempting to hide your vibe inside a cloth pouch or wrap it in some clothes, but a more open, honest approach is actually better. Stash your electronic friend inside a clear zip-lock bag, just as you would the toiletries in your carry-on case. This way if airport officials do open your bag, they'll be able to see your toy but you won't have to worry about them laying their hands on it. Because ... ewww.
Think SmallWhether you like a big vibrating dildo or a tiny pocket vibe is up to you - unless you're planning some mile-high vibe action. If that's the case, remember that most international air guidelines require carry-on "tools" to measure less than seven inches, which means if security finds something bigger, it could be confiscated. Plus, anything in your carry-on luggage will pass through those high-tech scanners. A lipstick-style vibe could help you keep your cover, but larger toys are a lot harder to overlook, and could even be mistaken for a weapon. Awkward!
When it comes to checked luggage anything goes, so technically you can feel free to go large. However, you might want to avoid packing anything too, um, unusual. There have been incidents where vibrators were removed from cases by baggage handlers erring on the side of caution because they just weren't quite sure what they were dealing with. The most conventional looking vibes are less likely to cause suspicion. If you can’t do without your space-aged, high-tech toy, consider packing it with a note of explanation for the baggage crew.
Slippery RulesWhen it comes to packing the sexy stuff, lubes can be tricky, too. Remember that lubricants are liquid, so if it’s in your hand luggage, the TSA's 3-ounce rule still applies. That rule concerns the container, not just its contents. The TSA doesn’t care if the bottle is half full; if it can hold more than three ounces, it’s gone. Again, you can opt for those clear toiletries bottles. Saving up those complimentary sample size lube packs is another good option.
Of course, if you keep your lube in your suitcase, feel free to pack as much as you think you'll need. Even so, you should still store it in a sealed baggie. Changes in altitude can cause bottles to explode or leak, leaving you with a mess (however fragrant, edible or "kissable") when you land.
So Good It Should Be ...Western countries including the United States, Canada, Australia and European nations allow travelers to fly freely with vibrators and most other sex toys. In fact, airline and airport employees are prohibited from making sexual or otherwise harassing comments about anything you pack (although, as we mentioned in the intro, they sometimes do it anyway). Know your rights; if anyone makes you feel uncomfortable about your toy, report them.
Also know that other parts of the world aren’t so liberal. Sex toys of any kind are illegal in India, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, so if you're going that way, leave your toys at home. You may also face trouble in some parts of Africa, Asia and the Caribbean Islands, as many nations in these regions have outlawed homosexuality. If you’re part of a same-sex couple, traveling with toys might flag your status and land you in hot water.
Sometimes despite our best efforts, sex toys are detected. Sure, it's a little embarrassing, but before you hang your head in shame, remember that recent statistics suggest that 50 percent of Americans use vibrators. If yours is held up at security, chances are you aren't the only one in line with a little something to hide.