Tips and tricks for jugglers navigating the globe.
In this article series, “Tricks for Trips,” I will show you how to travel smart with all of the tricks and lessons I’ve learned from traveling dumb.
In this first edition, we’ll take a look at tips for going through airport security. This article is based around many US airport security guidelines but likely has broader applicability to many international airports.
As a juggler heading for security, there is a small amount of dread that builds after the check-in counter. You’re standing in the byzantine line, ticket and ID in hand, thinking, “Will the TSA swab my Acrylic balls again?” or “Will my kendama be seen as a weapon?” While you have done nothing wrong, you do have quite a collection of strange objects in your bag. Often what actually sets off the TSA agents’ alarms is something that slipped your mind completely – like an unusually large bag of gummy bears at the ready for any flight delays.
“Club Like Objects” are mentioned specifically on the list of “Forbidden” objects not allowed in carry-on bags – making airports one of the only places it is acceptable to call a ‘club’ a ‘pin.’ (“Ba Dum Tsss”…) Sil-X Balls, LED glow props, acrylic contact juggling balls, Russian juggling balls, and even bean bags can look suspicious. When going through the X-Ray scanners you may want to empty props out into a bin to save time and make for a very transparent screening. Unfortunately, traveling on the expectation that you “might” get through security with all of these props could end with extra fees or missed flights.
As a rule I recommend stowing your juggling clubs in a checked bag to lessen your airport hassle. This also goes for most other hard, stick-type objects used for object manipulation. Some TSA agents will see that juggling clubs make pretty terrible weapons and let you through a checkpoint with them, but it’s not a guarantee.
SILl-X juggling balls (which have liquid Silicone inside) and similar Beto Balls are also best stowed in a checked bag because of restrictions on liquids in carry-ons. In the US liquids are limited to 3.4 ounce (100ml) containers of liquid in a 1 quart bag. That is normally referring to resealable containers like cosmetics, medicine, or alcohol.
Hoops 24” and smaller will fit in the overhead compartment of most planes as a “carry-on” item that may be an extension of your actual carry-on bag, and must go around, on top of, or below your bag. Smaller aircraft with 3 or 4 seats across the cabin tend to have smaller overhead room, though. If your flight reservation doesn’t include a carry-on bag and you haven’t added one, you may be charged more at the gate. Collapsible hoops are no trouble for security, and are safe in a checked bag, carry-on, or clipped to your “personal item.” Hoops over 24” that are not collapsible should be checked using a hoop bag like the ones from Modek Designs. Some people improvise hoop packages made of cardboard, tape, and/or plastic which can be checked if they look like they will survive the trip. Unfortunately, these packages may come with an over-sized baggage fee or have trouble on the journey.
Traveling with fire props is covered in a previous eJuggle article called How to Fly With Your Props and thoroughly covered by the mostly Poi-based blog Drexfactor in the article How to Travel with Fire Props. A simplified explanation would be to thoroughly burn off any excess fuel, place the props in a secure bag with wicks covered, label them “Juggling Equipment,” and stow them in your checked bag.
When it comes to non-juggling related suggestions I would say save a little money. Taking snacks for your trip through security is allowed. Problems arise if the food can be described as a gel, paste, powder, or liquid. I have had spices and hummus thrown out at security. Basically these textures are not allowed. Another no go is water but an empty bottle can be refilled after the security checkpoint and save you dollars.
Lastly, when traveling internationally, the flour or millet seed in Russian balls and bean bags may set off customs agents in countries like Australia and New Zealand. These countries have a strong objective to protect against invasive species and organic materials that may carry such species. A plastic pellet bean bag will be more hassle free for international travel.
The Take Out
Checking your clubs, SIL-X’s, and hoops when you know they can cause delays should be made standard practice. It makes travel easier and more consistent.
Make sure to bring an empty water bottle and food for your trip to save money in the airport.
Hopefully these tips will help avoid many messy situations. Now go travel the world and put this information to good use! From all the way back here in Group 5, thanks for reading!
Written by Kyle Johnson
Edited by Amy Wieliczka