Duane Hoffmann / msnbc.com
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By Travel writer
msnbc.com contributor
updated 3/20/2008 1:02:50 PM ET 2008-03-20T17:02:50

The Well-Mannered Traveler's mailbox has been filling up with intriguing comments, questions and helpful travel tips from folks on the go.

Guns, not roses?
By now you'd think word would have gotten around that you can't take your guns with you on an airplane. Yet during the week of February 11th, while many of us were fretting about concealing Valentine's Day chocolates in our carry-on bags, it seems some travelers were busy hiding guns. During that week, the TSA confiscated more than two dozen firearms at security checkpoints, according to TSA Week at a Glance. And between March 3rd and 9th, checkpoints yielded 16 firearms and three “artfully concealed prohibited items.”

Rich Armstrong, an Ohio resident who enjoys target shooting in Missouri, doesn't mind having to check his guns. “I purchased a special secure container for their transport and thoroughly break down and secure my weapons for each flight.” But Armstrong sent in this question after reading that United Airlines will soon begin charging an extra fee for those who check a second bag:

"[M]any sportspeople travel and now will be required to pay more to fly because they are sportsmen. This simply does not seem fair or well thought out. I pack my weapons separately since it is required by the airlines. It would seem the airlines should not charge us for the extra bag since it's their requirement we pack in that manner.”

Sorry, Rich, but if you're flying on United, Delta or US Airways after May 5 (and no doubt soon on many other airlines), you'll have to shell out some extra dough, even if your second checked bag is sports equipment such as golf clubs, skis or a weapons case. So be sure to review your airline's Web site for current baggage rules before you buy a ticket or head out to the airport.

Pity the fool
In response to a recent column about the TSA's attempt to better communicate with travelers via a blog, one “I'm just not buying it” reader wrote:

“If you think your comments to TSA will have the slightest effect on the procedures of the airport Gestapo, then you are a fool ...”

Y.M. from Israel didn't call anyone a fool (directly), but did take me to task for making global assumptions:

“[I] read the article about TSA. Interesting, but nowhere does it say what is TSA? What do the letters mean? Thank you.”

Point taken, Y.M. And I'm so pleased to know that Well-Mannered Traveler columns about the antics of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and other topics are being perused worldwide!

Al Johnson from Woodland Hills, Calif., no doubt already knows what TSA stands for, but he dropped a note because he wants to know:

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“How can passengers reclaim items that have been confiscated [at security checkpoints]?”

I can tell you for sure that arguing with or yelling at the TSO (Transportation Security Officer) who has confiscated an item simply doesn't work. I recently waited (patiently, scribbling notes) behind a woman holding up the very long security checkpoint line at the very tiny Westchester County Airport in White Plains, N.Y. This woman was attempting to reclaim a large bottle of shampoo with the “You’ve got to be kidding! There are only 3 ounces left in there” routine. She even stamped her foot a few times and whined. It didn't work. Nor did, “Come on, how about just this once?”

What would work?
Ken Lawson from Youngstown, N.Y., sent along his suggestion: “ ... anything that is not allowed through security should be tagged and able to be reclaimed within 90 days of surrender ...” But TSA spokesperson Nico Melendez says: “If you have something confiscated at security, you don’t get it back.” Melendez says that’s because the TSA sees millions of items each month and already has its hands full screening it all. So, “it’s a passenger’s responsibility to know the rules and regulations and prepare properly for going through airport security.”

A growing number of airports do have kiosks where you can pay to mail home some TSA-prohibited items you may “forgotten” to leave behind. But an option that always works is to make sure you have no prohibited items in your carry-on bag in the first place. (See the latest list here.) Some items on that list come and go, but things like box cutters, ice picks, meat cleavers and spear guns, for example, still are not allowed in your carry-on, but are OK to put in luggage you check. Fireworks, gas torches, flares and spray paint, however, are not permitted in either your carry-on bags or in your checked luggage. Traveling taggers take note.

On a separate note, thanks are due to the many folks who sent along tips about the location of the Museum of Bread mentioned in the Well-Mannered Traveler Valentine’s Day column that explored how to get along with a partner while out on the road. It turns out that France isn’t the only country with a museum devoted to bread. There are also museums celebrating bread culture in Germany, Portugal and Russia!

Harriet Baskas writes msnbc.com's popular weekly column, The Well-Mannered Traveler. She is the author of the “Stuck at the Airport” blog, a contributor to National Public Radio and a columnist for USATODAY.com.

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