Saturday, November 20, 2010

Fun times with travel restrictions

I'm traveling - some work, some fun, some visiting family and reuniting with friends I haven't seen in a few years. Loving every minute of it. This trip I'm doing a lot of flying, long flights.

I don't even mind the long-haul flights, except for one minor thing. I have dietary restrictions, which always means a "special meal". Happily I am on a non-American airline this trip, one that usually has decent food. This makes me especially happy because on the last long flight, one of the meals was a single rice cake. The dry variety. Urgh. Without butter (which I can eat) or jam (ditto) or nutella (and let's face it - nutella could make a rice cake a happy thing).

I've been on one flight where my special meal went missing, others where I didn't trust what was handed to me. This restriction is by necessity, not choice, and because I need to avoid cross-contamination, I have a very hard time finding alternative food (other than apples) to eat.

A long haul flight with not enough food? Unpleasant.

These days I travel with snacks. Which leads to another set of problems, namely security screening at one end of the trip and customs at the other.

From experience I can tell you that yoghurt counts as a liquid about 2/3 of the time - although I did manage to convince someone that greek yoghurt is more like goats cheese and therefore a solid. (Seriously though, yoghurt?!). Smoothies are a definite no-no and bananas get squished in your bag unless you have one of these. But really, who wants to explain that to security?

No, really! It's a banana case!

At the other end of the trip, you run into customs. Many countries have a No Food policy, and some have sniffer dogs at customs to make sure. Yes, that's right, sniffer dogs for food. Or drugs. But here's the thing - you never know which dog is which. And when the handler says. "Put your bags on the ground", you could cut and run, but that's not a good plan. What is amusing* is when one of the dogs start barking at your bag. Especially when you've just deplaned from 20 hours of cumulative traveling, with no sleep, and are at the point where you either giggle or cry (or both) at the slightest provocation.

So picture this: dog barking, a young woman, disheveled and giggling hysterically with tears running down her face, adamantly stating that there are no drugs in the bag, or trying to, but not quite forming the words coherently.

It's amazing I didn't get arrested and drug-tested on the spot.

The customs people were still looking at me funny as they rifled through my hand luggage.

The contraband? A couple of sticks of string cheese and a bag of almonds.
I've been careful ever since to throw everything out before I get to customs. But next time I'm bringing crackers and foie gras on the plane. If I forget about it and get caught, at least it will be worth it.

*several years later

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