First, obviously, we’re talking recreational! I assume that if you are trying for a bulk sort of operation, there’s no way in hell you’re getting your tips here anyway, but yes, maybe worth saying regardless: this is for short trips and small amounts only. Maybe you’ve got an occasion on your hands in a remote location, maybe your quality-control neuroses, specific proclivities or other extenuating issues make it a subpar option for you track down a number once you get to your destination (which is, of course, the most sensible thing to do by far).

For me, this situation comes up pretty often. It’s one thing to get a hookup in big cities; it’s harder if you’re going remote, and enough times buying “molly” and getting “methy bath salts” will teach you a (bad, dumb) lesson about control. In the last approximate decade, I have flown with drugs pretty frequently, probably more often than not. In my case, we’re overwhelmingly in a weed scenario—but this post will cover a variety of substances and assume a high (so to speak) paranoia level.

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Also, I’m not advising this, etc. Just saying that traveling with drugs is easy, if stupid, and it’s very simple to take precautions about the matter.

So let’s dive right in: The #1 easiest and most hassle-free way to take drugs on an airplane is, of course, to do it by accident. The classic “If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late.” You’ve probably done this, if you like drugs—flew with something knocking around a purse pocket, or in the back of your jeans. This is not best practice, but it’s remarkably workable: it may reassure you to know that it’s literally on the TSA website that “TSA security officers do not search for marijuana or other drugs.” Of course, whatever they say on the official TSA website is not necessarily that reassuring, but, for example, out of the thousands of people who have surely carried pot out of the Denver airport since weed was legalized in the state, only 29 were caught last year, and all of them were allowed to throw their weed away and board the plane.

The TSA does not search for drugs “proactively” in checked bags either. Of course, they find plenty, but even for bulk stuff, at non-hippie airports, the numbers are pretty forgiving: out of the 14 million people who pass through Terminal 4 at JFK each year, for example, only about 400 were stopped for “further investigation,” and only about a quarter of those people were caught with contraband. People like this fucking idiot:

But you’re not being an idiot: stuffing pounds of coke inside frozen goat steaks in your checked baggage or just casually carrying six large bottles of baby powder because you just looove to be baby fresh. You’re not stuffing a QP of weed into two giant shampoo and conditioner bottles in your carry-on when you know you can’t even take that shit through the X-ray!

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No, you’re gonna be smart! What the TSA really wants to check for is weapons, and that your best one in this situation is (the illusion of) control. So here’s my first rule: use your carry-on. You’ll only have to deal with a brief moment of anxiety at security check, and for the rest of your journey, you’ll have the object of concern right under your thumb. You likely won’t see a dog en route to your destination, nor will you have to fear out-of-sight searches. (There are electronic sniffer machines that could be calibrated to drugs as well as explosives, but the TSA halted their intended rollout of 434 “puffers” in 2007, and there are not many of these machines left.)

With the carry-on tactic, all you have to make it through is the X-ray, which is just fine. Remember how you were always scared that if you peed in the pool you’d trail purple behind you into the water? And how that was really just not true?

It’s kind of like that with drugs on an X-ray. Just don’t put drugs on your person; if they find bobby pins in your hair and are yelling at you to take coins out of your pockets, they’ll certainly find drug bags on the full-body scans. But lots of stuff can chill in a bag, and it all just shows up by density on the scanner: dense metal shows up dark and bluish; lighter hard materials like plastics show up greenish; organic materials blend into the orange backdrop.

So what you want is just to have your bag look normal in general. Don’t hide your drugs in anything you’re going to have to interact with (film canisters, etc) and be mindful of density contrasts. But if your bag looks like a normal bag with normal things in it, you’re fine.

Another very basic tip: use packaging strategically. I taught myself how to use Tor and bitcoin for long enough to order a bunch of drugs off Silk Road several years back, and though I instantly forgot everything about encryption, I’ll always remember that packaging. It was all very elaborate and tightly done—literally vacuum-sealed, disguised very specifically. That taught me the ideal: your substance should wear a very nice disguise. I’ve taken pounds of weed candy on flights with me wrapped up all cute in a Dylan’s Candy Bar bag.

Also: your drugs, just like you, need friends. Throw some decoy candy in there; if you’ve got coke in a mini thing of baby powder, don’t have that be the only toiletry in your purse.

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Okay. Just with those tips—do your carry-on, be careful of density, change the packaging, have similar objects surrounding your drugs—you’re in decent shape. But now, on to the specifics:

Weed:

My usual way these days is to double-bag the weed and then put it at the bottom of a large bottle of over-the-counter pills, either dark-tinted or opaque on the outside. Cover and surround the weed with pills, and then stuff some cotton over top of everything for good measure just to keep that Excedrin from rattling around.

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If you want to further disguise your weed by not taking nugs, you could take a bunch of weed from the grinder and put it in a fancy thing of loose tea. Hey, look at you with your expensive gift package from Penzeys! Keep a tiny boutique-y looking bag around for these purposes and use it. And with wax or oil, just make sure your wax or oil packaging isn’t attached to a warm vaporizer and it really shouldn’t be a problem. Disguise in the company of other cosmetics or re-package; easy.

And edibles, of course, are the easiest of all. You’re going to want to change out the packaging that’s got 95 OZ THC or whatever printed all over it, but that’s easy. I always just switch out the wrapping for the edible’s non-weed equivalent; if you’ve got weed chocolate, put it in a fancy chocolate bar wrapper; if you’ve got gummies, empty a bag of Haribo.

Coke:

Travel-size baby powder is the classic solution—a little too classic. I would advise, if you’re a woman, going through this wide variety of options you get simply by searching Sephora for “white powder.” No one is going to go pawing through your makeup bag for the coco, particularly if you’ve gotten all your liquids nicely in that plastic bag like a conscientious traveler. For bonus points, use the actual packaging it comes in—like you’ve just gotten it brand-new from Sephora. Double bonus points if you use the Sephora bag and leave the rest of your purchases in there as well.

Molly:

Molly varies in its appearance, so, if you have a brownish situation happening, the makeup route is again what I prescribe: a brown-sugar lip scrub, for example. If what you have looks like weird, rough but relatively fine grainy off-white business, you could try putting them in empty pill capsules and then adding those pill capsules to an existing bottle of Advil. (This would also work for other stuff, of course.) I don’t know! Get creative!

Mushrooms:

Well, you’re in luck, because these literally look like mushrooms. Unless you are doing what this guy did and traveling with big colorful containers that are like PSILOCYBIN 900 GRAMS XXX EVERYTHING’S MELTING RIGHT NOW, maybe you’re just a mushroom enthusiast bringing your mom some special vegetables from your garden or whatever. I don’t know, I realized a few months ago that I’d been flying with mushrooms on accident for a minute because I had some leftover ones in the back pocket of a bag. It’s probably fine.

Pills:

Doesn’t even count. A freebie! You’re supposed to have documentation for pills—and Rush Limbaugh did get caught with Viagra that one time, remember—but just swap out the bottles for some over-the-counter generic and you’ll be fine.

Acid:

Put it literally anywhere. In the lining of a cigarette case, in the jacket of a book. In the tiny pocket of your jeans. In general, if your drugs are hiding in a place that is too small to contain or suggest a weapon, you are in okay shape.

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And that’s all I fuck with! I should also say: never put drugs in an orifice when you’re traveling, because this is already a dark fucking subject, and that is just TOO dark, and removes what little plausible deniability you have.

And of course, to do this with confidence, you have to be a person who does not generally arouse heightened suspicion in the eye of the law and the TSA, which is to say: it helps to be female, it helps to be white or to look privileged, it helps to be all the things that trigger positive responses rather than suspicion. That’s a huge caveat. It is a disgusting thing to do—she wrote, flying on an airplane with a bunch of shit in her bag—to fly with drugs so shamelessly, knowing that many people have been fucked over for way less, and, really, knowing that if I’m fucking myself over I’m doing so for basically nothing.

But whatever. If you’re flying straight to Palm Springs to spend New Years at Joshua Tree with your best friends, bring some damn molly and go roll under the stars. It is arguably more dangerous to put yourself in a situation where you’ll be interacting extensively with strangers who you think might hook you up with interesting drugs than just to take a little bit with you, carefully. So godspeed. Remember, I’m not recommending this. Let me know if you have any stories, questions or tips for next time.

Illustration by Tara Jacoby.


Flygirl is Jezebel’s travel blog dedicated to adventures big and small, tips and tricks for navigation, and exploring the world at large. Have a story or an idea? We’re always taking submissions; email us with “Flygirl” AND your topic in the subject line. No pitches in the comments, please.