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Busted for Bringing Cupcakes and Bagels Through TSA Checkpoints?

By Brad Tuttle
updated September 29, 2021

Among the latest revelations from passenger confrontations with the TSA: You can't bring a tub of cream cheese through a checkpoint. Spread it on bagels, though, and there's no problem.

Snow globes and holiday sweaters are on the strange list of items that could possibly get you held up at airport security. Liquids and gels are also no good, and have been banned for quite some time now.

As many travelers are aware, though, the rules for what is and isn't OK are often confounding, especially because enforcement of the rules seems so haphazard. The Freakonomics blog highlighted a recent head–scratcher of a situation, in which a flier tried to pass through security at the Milwaukee airport with a package of bagels, lox, and cream cheese to bring home. The bagels and lox were OK, but the cream cheese was a no–no because of it was gel–like and held in its own container.

Apparently, the TSA agents considered the cream cheese potential dangerous. But they didn't confiscate it. Instead, they offered an interesting solution, in which the woman could still bring the cream cheese through security:

They agreed that it would be okay, and she could bring it on board, if the cream cheese was spread on the bagels.

Salon.com's Patrick Smith, meanwhile, followed up on a recent situation in which TSA agents in Texas wouldn't allow a passenger's cupcake through security because the heaping of frosting was too big and "gel–like." When Smith asked the TSA about what happened, a spokesperson told him, "In general, cakes and pies are allowed in carry–on luggage."

Well, that clears that up. It's as clear as cream cheese.


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How the Most-Hated Airline Fee Became a Huge Success

By charging passengers fees for carry-on bags, Spirit Airlines rakes in a whopping $50 million annually. When we first reported the news that Spirit Airlines would charge for carry-ons, readers unleashed their outrage in the comments section. One example: This is just another reason not to fly this airline, which is the worst I've ever seen in terms of nickel and diming customers. They charge for water, assigned seats, checked luggage and now carry ons. Their prices may look cheaper than other airlines on the surface, but add in all these costs, and they're no longer such a budget option. Now, a little over a year later, the consulting firm IdeaWorks has published a study analyzing the effects of Spirit's decision to charge for carry-on bags. Travelers may have hoped Spirit's a la carte, charge-for-everything business model would prove to be a failure, but actually, just the opposite is true. In the 12-month period after Spirit introduced its carry-on fees, 24.5 percent more passengers flew with the carrier. It's estimated that roughly 20 percent of Spirit's passengers elect to pay the carry-on baggage fee, which ranges from $20 to $45 per bag. When added up, the fees generate some $50 million per year for the airline. Spirit has drawn plenty of heat for its checked-baggage fees. U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) called the fees "a slap in the face to travelers," and convinced several airlines to refuse to follow Spirit's lead. More recently, a bill has been introduced that would force all airlines flying in the U.S. to allow one carry-on and one checked bag free of charge for all passengers. It's up in the air whether the bill will ever become law. One thing looks fairly certain, though: Based on how lucrative Spirit's fee structure seems to be, the airline isn't going to stop nickel and diming customers anytime soon. Not unless it's forced to stop, that is. MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL: Introducing the $450 Checked Baggage Fee What's the Strangest Travel Fee You've Encountered? DOT Secretary on Spirit Air: 'I don't think they care about their customers

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'Tis the season for traveling like Santa and his elves, with tons of gifts and packages in tow. The Transportation Security Administration has several reminders for travelers bringing their holiday gifts onto a flight. First off, remember that any liquid, aerosol or gel items are subject to the 3.4-ounce limit for carry-ons. That includes these popular holiday foods, treats and gifts: cranberry sauce; cologne; creamy dips and spreads (including cheeses and peanut butter); gift baskets with food items such as salsa, jams and salad dressings; gravy; jams; jellies; lotions; maple syrup; oils and vinegars; perfume; salad dressing; salsa; sauces; snowglobes; soups; wine, liquor and beer. Pies and cakes can be brought through security, but are subject to additional screening (whatever that means! A TSA taste test maybe?). Flyers are permitted to travel with wrapped gifts, but if the gifts set off the security alarm or there are any red flags, security officers may have to peel away your pretty paper take a closer look inside. “We recommend passengers wrap gifts after their flight or ship them ahead of time, to avoid the possibility of having to open them during the screening process,” TSA advises. So, really think about what’s in those packages, as it’s easy to forget about the contents once they’re wrapped. Case and point, I was flying with gifts for my brother and his family one year, when airport security pulled me aside to tell me there was a foot-long knife in my carry-on. I couldn’t believe what they were telling me, and turned bright red and flustered. As it turned out, I had packed an at-home, sushi-making set for my brother that, indeed, included a foot-long sushi knife. But because it had been a couple weeks since I had wrapped it, I forgot about the knife. They confiscated the blade and I had to gift the sushi set minus one of its main ingredients. More from Budget Travel: 5 Eco-friendly Packing Tips Poll: Would You Use Social Media to Find A Better Seatmate? It's Ski Season! Check Out Strategies for Cheaper Lift Tickets