San Diego Comic-Con is only two weeks away – and if you’re an Aussie travelling in for the biggest convention on the globe, there’s a few things you might need to know. If you’re flying in, you probably already know what you should and shouldn’t try to pack in your luggage. But there’s a whole lot more you can do to make your trip safe, easy and exciting.
Your first step should always be checking what you can and can’t take. Thinking about taking a replica dagger for your epic Elder Scrolls cosplay? You might want to think again – it’s likely to cause a bit of a hassle as you pass through Aussie customs. Check out the full list of prohibited items here, and plan your costume according.
On the return flight, you’ll need to consider American customs requirements. While lightsabers are fine to travel with back from the U.S. – and foam swords are not (at least, not as a carry-on) – what about all the other stuff you’re going to bring back from a convention? Expensive autographed comics? Priceless collectibles? Costume accessories? You’ll want to keep your expensive goodies safe and sound.
Over on the TSA’s blog, the agency has a few helpful suggestions for how you might want to treat the items you’re taking to and from this year’s Comic-Con, particularly when travelling internationally. These rules are applicable to any geeky convention you attend, and they’re worth filing away in the back of your mind the next time you suit up as Stormtrooper number 81310.
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Even if not real, replica or inert explosives are not allowed, at all, in carry-on or checked bags. Never. Nay. Nope. Negatory. Yeah, no… … While the actual item here looks a bit Wile E. Coyote-ish, the X-ray image was far more realistic. … When our officers spot a potential explosive on the X-ray monitor, they cannot just take the traveler’s word that the item is not real. A TSA Explosives Specialist or Police Department Bomb Squad must respond before the bag is ever opened. This can lead to costly evacuations, delays, and missed flights while explosives professionals determine whether the item is real or not. These types of items can lead to hefty fines and arrest. … This replica Improvised Explosive Device (IED) was in a traveler’s carry-on bag at the Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD). As a result, the checkpoint was closed for a total of 19 minutes before the Chicago Police Bomb Squad was able to respond and clear the item.
If you don’t want the TSA to break the seal on a product, ship it
Shipping items back home from a convention (or a holiday) can be a pain. It costs money, there’s no guarantee your carrier of choice won’t wreck your precious item (unless you protect it with all the bubble wrap ever), and someone might steal it off your doorstep even if it safely makes it to your house or apartment.
Still, if you don’t want airport staff on either end of your trip to open up something precious, don’t pack it in your luggage. As the TSA’s blog notes:
“There’s always the chance that a packaged item might have to be searched and opened, which would cause us to have to break the original seal. If you’re a collector, the last thing you want is a broken seal.”
Don’t pack items that might cause a crazy amount of panic at the airport
You’d be surprised - but probably not that surprised - at what airport customs finds in bags. (TSA's Instagram account is a gold mine, and you can always find some unbelievable gems on Seven's Border Security.)
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Raphael was so excited when he heard he could carry on a pepperoni and pickles pizza that he forgot all about his twin sai. Raph was on his way to an all you can beat buffet. #TMNT … They were discovered in a carry-on bag at the George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH). Martial arts weapons (if legal to possess where you’re traveling) must be packed in checked bags only.
I’ll quote the TSA on this one, since it’s important (and some people still seem to think you can just bring whatever on a plane):
“If you’re not checking a bag and you have a realistic replica of a weapon or an actual weapon, you’ll want to ship the item. If you are checking a bag, replica weapons... may be packed in your checked bag.
Anything looking like an explosive (whether real or not) is strictly prohibited from air travel.”
Comic Books are OK, but ...
Customs has no issues with you flying with stacks of comic books, aside from the aforementioned bit that they might crack the seal on your pristine collectables if they need to search your gear for whatever reason. However, the TSA recommends that you carry your comics with you, rather than packing them in a checked bag, to prevent problems:
“Packing these items in checked bags may cause alarms leading to bag searches that can cause a significant slowdown in the screening process leading to delays and bags possibly missing their flights.”
What about costumes?
If you’ve been working for the past 11 months on your gorgeous replica costume of a Warhammer Space Marine - first, I’d love to see it, because that’s awesome. And second, you might want to take a little extra care when travelling with its parts and pieces. (And consider creating items that can be disassembled and reassembled, which might make your travels a lot easier.)
If you’ve shipped the bulk of your gear and are hand-carrying some of the more critical props, consider leaving customs a little love letter when checking your luggage. Maybe you’ll get a screener who’s also a sympathetic sci-fi fan:
On our way to #SODAK this weekend! Fun tip, if you're a cosplayer or prop maker, leave a little note at the top of your bag explaining what's in there so TSA will be a little more gentle If they inspect it!#cosplay #cosplayer #convention #malecosplayer #travel #prop #propmaker pic.twitter.com/Ho6xcfgXNi
— Carl @RTX (@CarlMartinCos) June 28, 2018
You should also consider adding some reference photos or anything else that might be able to help prove that your gear is for an authentic costume you’ll be wearing somewhere, not... well, whatever else the airport staff thinks it might be.
When you forget some of your cosplay stuff was in your bag and you get stopped by tsa ????????.
I’m thankful they were very nice and I was also able to show proof of everything.
They did their jobs like they should????????????????
— THA ORIGINAL GATA™ (@Thaoriginalgata) April 27, 2018
You could also try asking for an in-person inspection of your gear:
For the couple of times I flew with props, I asked to get my stuff inspected in person. After they saw it, I repacked it, they sealed it with TSA tape, and it continued unmolested through baggage handling.
— Cryptomancer (@TheCryptomancer) November 16, 2017
Also, don’t forget to bring along a kit for basic (or emergency) repairs, just in case an airport screener isn’t kind to your gear:
Wellll Boston TSA broke my Tracer cosplay ???? full day of travel off to a terrible start ????
— Dawnfire (@dawnf1re) April 20, 2018
If a wig is a make-or-break part of your costume, Annemarie from Travel on the Brain has a few helpful ideas for getting it safely to your final destination:
“Turn your wig inside out (unless it’s heavily styled or spiked, such as with cosplay wigs), carefully curl up long tresses and place it gently inside the wig top. Then put a hair net around it to keep everything in shape.
Now, store it in a zippable plastic bag to avoid moisture or at least put it in a (silky) scarf for protection. If your wig is very dear to you, pack it in your carry on. Alternatively, you can also wear it on your head. More wig packing ideas include special hair packaging boxes, hair extension or wig travel case or wig packing bags.”