I love seeing someone at the airport with something so large, so oddly shaped, so mysterious it makes me think, "What's their story? Where are they going, what are they doing, and what could that possibly be?" But sometimes, the weirdest items are hidden safely away in carry-ons and checked luggage...
During the last Olympics, I saw a news story on the perils of travelling with 17-foot pole vaulting poles: they are one solid piece, cannot be broken down, and arouse a lot of suspicion. (For a similar report, see NPR's "Will That Vaulting Pole Fit In The Overhead Bin?".) The Wall Street Journal ran an interesting story about cellists travelling with their instruments, and the debate over whether they should accrue double frequent flier miles since they buy two seats, one for themselves and one for their cello. Have you ever sat in a row with a cello on a plane? And for the last couple of months, my darling colleagues and I have criss-crossed the country with suitcases and carry-ons packed full of fully-assembled Mondrian cakes, Thiebaud cakes, buttercream, cake stands, and plenty of dry ice (see above). We were lucky not to go through the harrowing experience Rose Levy Beranbaum described in The Cake Bible when she attempted to fly with a spectacular three-tiered wedding cake...during a blizzard (you can read the story from here through Google Books, page 209-211).
It is nerve-wracking to put your lovingly-baked cakes, priceless cellos, and Olympic-level equipment in the hands of baggage checkers and TSA employees, and I don't think you truly exhale until you've landed and checked on your precious goods.
What's the most oddball thing you've ever travelled with, and how did you pack it? Did it raise eyebrows in security, and did it make it through your travels safely?
(Image: Suitcase full of cake by Leah Martha Rosenberg)