Keeping it Legal: Common Travel Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Gear Guide — By Alexi Ueltzen on June 18, 2009 at 12:11 pm

“Illegal” and “travel gear” aren’t exactly topics that go hand in hand. Chances are, if you’re breaking the law you don’t need extra gear to do so. That two hour parking spot you’ve been in all day definitely doesn’t require a multi-tool or sweet new backpack. And filling your water cup with soda at a fast food place requires speed, not a state-of-the-art laptop case.

However, sometimes the line between what’s allowed and what’s not gets a little fuzzy. The following is a list of travel gear-related issues that straddle this line, and how to avoid them. We want you to keep your interactions with the law enforcement during vacation to a bare minimum (although certain exceptions are allowed).

The issue: Dangerous items in your carry-on.

According to the TSA, spear guns, pool cues and cattle prods are out, and so are less obvious items such as gel shoe inserts, snowglobes and scissors (check out the full list here). If you’re taking liquids (anything from toothpaste to Fanta) on board, you need to carry it in amounts of 3 ounces or less.

The solution: These slick aluminum bottles from Oggi are TSA approved. Just pour your various shampoo / conditioner / lotions in, and you’re golden. Or silver, rather. Also, follow these steps when packing for a fast and efficient trip through airport security. Check any dangerous items, because it’s better to wait 15 minutes at the luggage carousel than to kiss your blowtorch goodbye forever.

The issue: Driving / hiking / rafting / backpacking / fishing / haggling for souvenirs without a permit.

Just kidding on that last one.

All over the world, national parks and wilderness preserves require users to obtain a permit for their various activities. It seems like a hassle: Figuring out where to get the permit. Paying for the permit. Displaying said permit. But they do serve a purpose. Not only does the money go towards preserving and maintaining the land, but they also help limit the number of irresponsible people (Not you, of course. Never a NileGuidance reader) who might visit and leave more than footprints.

The solution: Check ahead; your search is as simple as typing the park’s name into google. Even if the permit is news to you when you arrive at your destination, fork over the $5 (most fees are minimal) and have cash handy (the rangers might laugh when you hold out your credit card). Once you’ve got your permit, I suggest putting it in one of these for the duration of your trip. It’s an easy way to display it and protect it from the elements.

For those of you traveling to such rugged, outdoorsy destinations, check out’s post on how to sleep cheap on the road… and avoid getting in trouble.

The issue: Obscure cultural taboos

Sometimes you’re unaware that you’re breaking a law in an unfamiliar place. In today’s world the internet is at your fingertips, so be sure to do a little research beforehand. Besides, some of the stuff you learn might be pretty entertaining. For example:

Singapore: Spitting is illegal and you may be caned if you get caught. Solution: Bring your own spittoon.

Blythe, CA: You must own 2 cows before you can legally wear cowboy boots in public. Solution: Buy 2 cows.

Italy: A man may be arrested for wearing a skirt. Solution: Leave the kilt at home.

Have any other advice on how to keep you travel legal (or maybe some more obscure laws)? Leave us a comment below!

Alexi is a resident gear junkie at NileGuide. Have a question about travel gear? Shoot the gear junkies an email at

Prohibited Items photo courtesy of donger/Creative Commons
Permit photo courtesy of the_tahoe_guy/Creative Commons
Tags: carry on, gear, hiking, illegal, laws, legal, obscure, parks, permits, travel, TSA


  • Victoria says:

    A word to the wine wise: the TSA confiscated my spare wine corkscrew. A few wino friends assured me that I could have kept the corkscrew if I let the TSA break off the foil cutter.

  • Samya says:

    You can also mail it to yourself right there at Security. I had the same problem with a corkscrew.

  • Darryl Gould says:

    Rural Italy is turning more and more admired with tourists. Tuscany is particularly nice-looking with hilly and mountainous topography in much of the region. There are beautiful valleys too and interesting Tuscan farm houses.

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