Planning a No-TSA Summer: Forsaking skies for purple mountain majesties

As long-time readers know, when I say I refuse to submit to (and thus tacitly support) the TSA and its unconstitutional search-and-seizure policies, I really mean it: I refuse. I haven’t traveled anywhere by airplane since the summer of 2009; neither have my husband and sons.

Now, my family and I — passionate civil libertarians, all — are fortunate to be in a position to put our collective foot down thus: none of us needs to fly for work, or — thankfully, currently — for medical procedures. So, boycott the airlines is what we do.

Take that, airlines, said the British-born, Caribbean-and-Central-America-raised girl who comes from a long line of itchy-footed wanderers and who longs for the return of sensible, respectful security policy so she can get back to enjoying the world — hell, the country, even.

But although we know, with certainty, that a short-term boycott of the airlines by a large enough number of people — for just a couple of weeks — is all it would take to bring the airlines to their knees and to get Congress to heed our request for sane, effective airport security policy, here at TSA News, we’re not about shaming people who can’t protest exactly the way we do. Rather, we’re hoping to set an example by not flying, while also entreating those who must fly to cut back on air travel wherever possible.  And reminding them, when they do fly, to opt-out of the electronic strip-search machines and document any “pat-downs” with video, as you are permitted to do by law and as you are encouraged to do by civil liberties activists, this blog included.

As our colleague Lisa Simeone (currently on her own no-TSA vacation!) has often said, Everyone can participate in a campaign to effect change, as there are many ways to protest besides not flying. One VERY important thing you should do, right now, is head over to the public comments submission site and state why you oppose the government’s use of electronic strip-search machines on innocent citizens traveling within their own country. (We’ll keep the link posted in the upper left margin, too. Tell your friends.)

In the meantime, another summer fast approaches. And the TSA is still irradiating and groping Americans, with no end to the madness in sight–not yet, anyway.

“It’s going to be another inferno,” my husband said glumly. “It’ll be hot everywhere, but it would be nice to have a little break, a change of scenery….”

“South Beach?” I ventured. “It’s ridiculously drivable. Stay in one of the old Art Deco hotels; take the boys to art museums and vintage shops; hang out in cafés?”

“Get real! That sounds more like a girls’ weekend than a vacation for the lads, Deb,” he said. “Keep thinking.”

We pondered our options. Although we certainly live right in the midst of Family Vacation Central, with Disney, Universal, Sea World, Busch Gardens, and Cape Canaveral all within a couple of hours’ drive, our general attitude on that front tends to be Been there, rode that, and all we got were these lousy (and profoundly cheesy) t-shirts.

We were looking for something different, something . . . not in Florida.

Suddenly my husband perked up: “The Smokies! We’ll drive there. We’ll rent a house, load up the family truckster, and be there in eleven hours or so — which is not that much longer than it would take if we flew there, once you add on all the security wait-time and car-rental wait-time and . . . .”


And he’s right: road-tripping it versus flying starts to look pretty good once you factor in the time it takes to drive to the airport, park your car, take the tram into the airport, and go through security (which represents a significant amount of travel-time, even when everything goes smoothly); and then factor in your actual time in the air (assuming takeoff happens as scheduled and there are no delays on the destination end, either) and the time it takes you to hop the shuttle bus to the rental-car lot and wait in line to get the keys to your vehicle (another time-suck, in our experience: we were once held up for nearly three hours in Los Angeles when the car-rental computers went down and all the reservations had to be processed manually); and finally, add on the time involved in driving the last leg of your trip, that is, from the airport car rental lot to your hotel or house, which will invariably be located in a different part of town.

Driving from our house in west-central Florida to the Smoky Mountains will be a TSA-free cakewalk in comparison.

And just think:  no sexual assault by people who are unhappy and embarrassed at best; surly and abusive at worst. No being separated from our luggage and having our belongings ransacked and the pricier items among them stolen. And no restrictions on liquids–other than adult beverages, of course: we’re not anti-common-sense and anti-safety. Just anti-Security Theater.

So, are you and your loved ones planning some TSA-free travel this summer? Are you taking to the rails? Or else the road — as we are — all the while crossing your fingers that VIPR units don’t crop up along the way? Tell us about your plans in comments, and feel free to ask questions of–or offer suggestions to–your fellow travelers.

Bon voyage sans le déranger de TSA!  [Bon Voyage without the disturbing of TSA.]


Image via Lego Minifigures Tumblr

  • Eddie

    More leg room for me.

  • Tincanrider

    Live near ATL – prices/service are decent, Tsa lines are slow… But flying takes too long! due to obvious reasons, we flew to Hawaii 3 yrs ago, and to LAX this year. But, we’ve gone via car to Navy reunions and visits to friends and family in Central Fla, Va, Boston/Newport, Cincinnati, and in Oct we’re going to Galveston. It’s simple… We throw everything in the trunk of our mid-size, or, rent a small SUV if we want a bigger car when we get there. Our rented Equinox got better mileage than our car to Boston. Note that you’ll probably have to rent a car, even if you fly. BTW, we both work, not retired. Flying should be a last resort for many reasons… Prices, comfort, access to luggage, not riding in the armpit theatre, not hassling with officials, flight attendants, etc.

  • a great story and I’m afraid of loneliness.

  • I just arrived in Seattle from Baltimore – the Amtrak trip here was glorious! This morning I was enjoying the scenic Cascade mountain view out my window, spotting mountain goats, eagles, rushing class-5 rapids, and climbers scaling 500-foot granite cliffs. And then I heard a knock at my sleeper cabin door and there was the conductor, offering me a grapefruit mimosa. Life is grand when you can travel without enduring the TSA’s warrantless searches. Just get on the train and go!

  • Daisiemae

    Our last flight was to Jackson Hole for a trip to,Yellowstone in August 2010, right before the blitzkrieg arrival of the scanner and sexual assault downs. Since then, it is car trips only.

    From NJ, we have travelled up and down the Shenandoah Valley. Beautiful scenery and great for War Between the States buffs (aka Civil War buffs). Staunton, VA is really gorgeous. Huge historical district, very well preserved. (For some reason, both armies missed Staunton.). Very eclectic area and artsy fartsy. Birthplace of Woodrow Wilson is not to be missed.

    We went to Abingdon, VA in the Appalachians. Gorgeous! Don’t miss Heartwood, the center of SW VA craft, music, food, and culture. Their sustainable restaurant has the best pot roast i ever tasted. Take a day trip to Big Stone Gap (stunning scenery) and visit the South West Virginia Museum in a beautifully preserved Victorian mansion.

    Monticello is a short drive from Abingdon and not to be missed. Ironic, isn’t it, that our flight from an oppressive federal government led is to,the home of Thomas Jefferson.

    From Abingdon, we travelled on to Nashville. If you think there’s nothing to Nasville but country music, you are sadly misinformed. ( it I do strongly recommend a visit to the Grand Ole Opry. Even though I am not a country music fan, it was exciting to see this historic icon.)

    Nashville has so many different attractions, historic sites, museums, etc. I cannot possibly mention all of them. There are mansions galore…my favorite was Belle Meade Mansion. Museums…Cheekwood was my favorite. The Nashville Zoo is very nice. don’t fail to visit the Loveless Cafe but go very early or be prepared for a very long wait.

    We have also been to Myrtle Beach and Charleston, both great places. And we have been to Frederic, Maryland another wonderful historic town with a huge historic district. Great shops and restaurants. The Serenity Tea Room is lovely and the National Museum of Civil War Medicine is completely fascinating. Antietam is a short drive away.

    Of course, we’ve been to Gettysburg….many times.

    Coming up, we are planning a trip to Maine: Portland and Bar Harbor. Also, a trip to the Maryland area where we plan to visit Annapolis, Arlington, Mount Vernon, and we’ll go on the John Wilkes Booth tour offers by the Surratt House Museum.

    So look,at all these possibilities for travel and enrichment…all without harassment, abuse, or sexual assault from TSA. The airlines lost our money and Toyota got what they lost because we bought a luxurious car for all these road trips.

    • Sporty_Teacher

      Great post, Daisiemae! Thank you for sharing all that. I’m going to use your suggestions and update my travel list. 8) That John Wilkes Booth tour sounds very interesting! I’m interested in learning how it goes.

      Nashville is such an amazing city. Haven’t been since 2008 and need to get back there. I miss Rippy’s BBQ! Franklin is also a must see. Thomas Cartwright gives amazing tours! Harper’s Ferry is absolutely beautiful. Sharpsburg is great. So is Fredericksburg. My third visit was this past December when I attended the 150th anniversary of the battle as a spectator. I haven’t been to Frederick yet, but it’s on my list.

      There’s so much to do and see in Virginia. I’ve seen a lot of places there, but I am dying to go back.

      Back in October, my boyfriend and I went to Tucson by train, a two-day trip. From there, we went down to Tombstone, which is a neat place. It was my second visit.

      My boyfriend and I are both “Civil War buffs”. He lives in Iowa. I live in Mississippi. We started seeing each other in October, 2010, right before the TSA decided to really get stupid. (Perfect timing, huh?) I stopped flying the following month. My boyfriend supports me, and even though it’s been difficult, we’ve been doing okay with traveling. Basically, if I can’t get there by train, I don’t go. Fortunately, I have a little flexibility in my job to allow me more time to utilize this mode of transportation. Unfortunately for him, he doesn’t have that ability to take time off work to travel by train, so he has to fly. He doesn’t like it, and I certainly don’t like him giving money to airlines and airports, but he will make that sacrifice for us to continue our relationship.

      I think about all the wonderful trips we could be taking if it weren’t for the TSA, and I become so angry. I funnel this frustration into my “cause”. Indeed, my friends are probably sick to death of hearing me talk about the TSA and alternatives to flying, not to mention submitting comments.

      As for upcoming trips, my big one this summer will revolve around the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg. This will be my third trip there. I’m going to take a train north where my boyfriend will drive three hours just to pick me up at the train station, as he has been doing since 2010. We’ll then drive to Pennsylvania and back. I’ll stay with him in Iowa for a couple more weeks and then he’ll drive three hours to drop me back off at the train station for me to go home. Meanwhile, there is an airport a mere 45 minutes from his house, an airport that won’t make any money off me.

      If y’all haven’t already, I urge y’all to check out Amtrak’s rewards program. It is outstanding! They are partners with a lot of businesses I use already. In addition, I have their Chase credit card, which has no annual fee. Just make sure to pay it off monthly to avoid the high interest rate! I have acquired enough points to enable me to travel for free so far this year. And I haven’t had to change my spending habits.

      • Susan Richart

        One very foggy afternoon, we were at Gettysburg, in the Peach Orchard, when out of said fog came about 10 Rebel soldiers. For a few moments, it seemed very, very real.

        I’ve also “felt” the presence of the spirits of Chamberlain and his troops at Little Round Top.

        • Sporty_Teacher

          Ooooooooo, that gave me chills even in the heat and humidity down here! LOL

          Since the park is open until 10 pm, We are planning on going out to Little Round Top one night before the event. Part of me would like to “see” or “feel” something but then again, I wouldn’t be terribly disappointed if I didn’t. 8D

        • Daisiemae

          Every November on Remembrance Day, I visit the NC and VA monuments. I place flowers there in remembrance of my two great great grandfathers who fought with NC and VA regiments.

          I look across at Cemetary Ridge and think how it must have felt for them on July 3, 1863 when they stepped out of the woods and began to make their way up that long hill with all the mortar and shells tearing them apart. It’s a very solemn moment, and I’m grateful they both survived.

          Then we drive around to Cemetary Ridge and look at it from that side too. It’s always a very emotional day.

          I can’t help but wonder what all of these men, Union and Confederate, would think of what our government is doing to us now through TSA.

          • Susan Richart

            My great grandfather didn’t fight at Gettysburg as the 19th Ohio Volunteer Infantry was down in Tennessee. Great grandfather was captured while “out foraging” during the Battle of Chickamauga. He was sent to the Libby Prison in Richmond and from there transferred to Andersonville, which he survived (else I would not be writing this).

            He was involved in a POW exchange in Florence, GA on December 9, 1864.

            Many, many years ago, there was an article in Yankee magazine written by a man whose grandfather was involved in the same exchange. His grandfather and my great grandfather were on the same train together traveling to Florence.

            I copied the article but lost it and many other family records in a move. I’m still heartbroken about that.


            Here’s his record. His middle name is wrong as it should be “Lynn”


          • Sporty_Teacher

            Truly fascinating! Thank you for sharing the account of your relative. When I click on your link, it gives me an error.

            I knew there was a prison in Florence, South Carolina but not in Georgia.

            There was a Pennsylvania woman, Florena Budwin, disguised as a man who was captured along with her husband. Both were sent to Andersonville. He was killed by a guard. She was eventually transferred to the prison in Florence, South Carolina where she succumbed to pneumonia. Her true identity wasn’t discovered until she died. It’s amazing how she chose to endure the suffering at Andersonville, even after the death of her husband, rather than to reveal her gender, which would have been her ticket out of there. At the end, she paid with her life for it.

            So your relative was probably there with her.

          • Susan Richart
          • Sporty_Teacher

            That one works! Thanks! It’s amazing your relative was able to survive considering some of those notorious prisons he spent time in.

            It’s a miracle those of us who had relatives in that war are here today!

          • Daisiemae

            That’s amazing that you found his record like that! It’s lucky that he was paroled. Once the Feds shut down the exchange arrangement things went from really horrible to even more horrendous.

            One of my GGGrandfathers was captured in 1863, but he was paroled very quickly. Another GG was captured when the Union army rolled into Richmond. I can’t find out where he was held. A 3xgreat was captured in Kinston, NC right at the end, but I can’t find out where he was sent either. I guess things were falling apart near the end and the records are not so great.

            Four of my uncles enjoyed the hospitality of Point Lookout, and one of them died there. Another uncle died at Fort Delaware. And another uncle enjoyed the hospitality of (H)Elmira.

            If you’ve never visited Fort Delaware, it’s quite an experience. You go over on a ferry, and it feels very foreboding and oppressive.

      • Daisiemae

        We go to Gettysburg every year for Remembrance Day in November. We dress in our period attire for the whole day. It’s a lot of fun.

        The parade is fantastic! Last year I sat on the sidelines with my Confederate flag and waved and smiled and said hello to every Union Reenactor who marched by…including a friend of mine who belongs to a regiment of United States Colored Troops. The reenactors are really one big family. Those Yankee soldiers just love my Southern Belle accent!

        We won’t be going to the 150th. The heat is brutal in July and we really can’t manage the crowds. We both have disabilities and it’s simply not manageable.

        But my heart will be there with y’all!

        • Sporty_Teacher

          Ha ha! Great story! Thanks for sharing. 8) I can tell you’re a Southerner just by your gift for storytelling. 😉

          My impression is actually that of a woman in the ranks, which I think is a fascinating and little-known part of the war. There are three documented Confederate women who participated in Gettysburg. And it will be in their memory that I will participating.

          • Daisiemae

            Would one of those three women be Euphemia Goldsborough? She was a Baltimore woman who nursed the Confederate soldiers at Gettysburg. The book Exile to Sweet Dixie by E. F. Conklin is amazing.

          • Sporty_Teacher

            No, the identities of these women are unknown. They disguised themselves as men, which they had to do in order to fight, and their gender wasn’t discovered until after the battle. Two of them participated in Pickett’s charge. A report in the Official Records describes a Union burial detail finding one of them dead. The fate of the other who participated in the charge is unknown. She probably died as well. A New Jersey soldier detailed to guard the Emmitsburg Road described hearing her cries throughout the night as the worst sounds he had ever heard. The 3rd woman did not participate in the charge but was wounded at another time during the battle and had to have her leg amputated.

            I’ll have to check out the book you mention. Sounds very interesting.

          • Daisiemae

            That is amazing! Can you point me towards a book or other documentation on that? I’d like to dig deeper.

          • Sporty_Teacher

            Sure! Women in the ranks during the Civil War is a relatively new topic of study. Perhaps the most definitive work is “They Fought Like Demons” by Blanton and Cook. Richard Hall in “Women on the Civil War Battlefront” is another good one. He basically took Blanton and Cook’s work and expanded it. The best thing about his book is the appendices and index which allows for quick reference.

            I’ve been blessed to have been given opportunities to speak about these extraordinary women at Civil War roundtables and national parks. These two books are what I have used the most to obtain my information and put together my power point presentation. You won’t be able to put them down. They are truly fascinating!

            By the way, my email address is [email protected] and my Facebook page is under slh14 if you ever would like to discuss this topic further. I’m afraid of getting us in trouble for veering off topic!

          • Sporty_Teacher, don’t worry; you won’t get in trouble at this blog. We’re all adults here, conversations often take detours, and we’re not about censoring people.

          • Sporty_Teacher

            Okay, thanks!

          • Daisiemae

            Thanks, Lisa. When you get these Civil War buffs started, we just can’t stop. We’re like the Ever-ready Bunny Rabbit…we keep going and going.

            However, not to bore everybody else to tears, I’m going to email Sporty Teacher privately. And if Susan would like to continue the discussion, I think she might have my email already. If not, you can supply her with my address if she wants it.

  • Chris Bray

    Driving from your house in west-central Florida to the Smoky Mountains will be an invitation for multijurisdictional police narcotics task forces to flag your out-of-state license plate and pull you over to see if you have enough cash to justify an asset forfeiture seizure. And then there are the VIPR teams.

    Not flying misses the larger point. The TSA is a piece of a larger pattern.

  • I am a US Citizen. I am also a FAA Certified Flight Instructor / Airline Transport pilot. I am with your movement. I have since fled out of my native country and will not return as long as the Enhanced Security Procedures are in effect. On my last trip to the USSA I personally got sexually assault by the Total Sexual Assault. I could say I am a pilot and it should not have happened to me, but the truth is, it should not happen to anyone. I have not been back since. I have been to 38 countries on this planet. This nonsense only happens in America.
    Greetings from Russia!

    • 1amwendy

      Not routinely, and when/if you roll down your window and plainly state you do not consent to any search the TSA is not empowered to detain you. Don’t even have to follow their instructions to pull over to any designated search areas. With trains, I recommend calling an LEO, because there are no “sterile” areas in a train station. Also, Amtrak police state that the most they will do is spend normally less than 60 seconds examining luggage. Problem is, most people aren’t familiar with what they can legally do. I never ride buses, so I am not familiar with practices.

    • Thank you, Dee Jaye. I’m glad you’re on board (so to speak) and if you haven’t already done so, I urge you to make your views known by going to the public comment site (link is at the top of the side bar, above left, under IMPORTANT). And please feel free to share this blog with friends and family. The more, the merrier, the more effective!

  • eleanordew

    We plan to do a river cruise on the American Queen steamboat. We’ll rent a car one-way to Cincinnati (the departure point), and then pick up another rental car one-way in St. Louis (the last port). It is amazing how much money one can save in airline fares and fees, even with the one-way surcharge.

  • 1amwendy

    Well, so far, during my no-fly, post-October 2010 travels I have driven and/or taken the train on separate trips to: Houston, Phoenix, Denver, San Diego, Boston, Washington DC (twice), made a loop from Michigan to Des Moines, up to Grand Forks and back home and Niagara Falls Ontario. I am leaving for South Carolina in a week or so. Next year I plan to take the Cunard Lines to Great Britain. I refuse on any and all levels to engage with any TSA screener. Period.

    • Daisiemae

      On your return trip, will you fly back? I have heard that security in Great Britain is just about as bad as it is here. I’m wondering if that is true.

      We would consider sailing to Great Britain if we could fly back. It takes up too many vacation days to sail both ways.

      • 1amwendy

        I’ve thought about this a lot. I understand that GB has mandatory scanners – not sure which type – but no pat-downs. No scanner, no fly. I will investigate, but I wonder what they would do if I refuse. Grant me asylum? Try to deport me? LOL, same problem. Interesting thoughts.

        • We’re in Paris now, flying next week Charles de Gaulle to Heathrow, Heathrow to BWI. I know for a fact that security in the UK isn’t as bad as it is in the U.S.

          And the Cunard crossing — on the QM2 — was fantastic!! Don’t have enough superlatives to describe it. Will do post when I get back.

          Oh, and the security to get on the ship was nothing nothing nothing like the bullshit at the airports. The security people were friendly, joking, helpful. I started taking off my necklace and bracelet, and they said, no, don’t bother, just come on through. And of course we all kept our shoes on. It was like the old days at the airport before Americans turned into hysterical, paranoid idiots.

          From Southampton, where we disembarked, we flew immediately to France. Again, security was nothing like in the United States of the Cowed and Fearful.

      • Susan Richart

        Lisa is on such a trip as we speak! She is flying back from some place on the continent, however.

  • Enjoyed reading this, since I am with you in my non-TSA vacation plans. I will be hiking in the Adirondacks, visiting Southern plantations in Charleston, and walking the beaches at the Jersey shore. All drivable from Washington DC. I long to go farther in my travels again, but not until I can do it with no molestation.

  • Xanthippia

    I’m traveling cross-country (Massachusetts to California and back) this summer for an overdue family visit. I’m not going to fly again until the TSA is out of the airports. As of October 2010, based on my previous years’ average travel, the TSA has cost the airlines approximately $24,000 in tickets alone that I don’t buy, irrespective of any additional fees, expenditures and so on.

    There is no such thing as a “rights-free” zone in the US — and I, for one, do not intend to support tyranny or totalitarianism in any form with my resources (including the air I breathe).

  • Like you, haven’t flown in years due to TSA and their groping ways. Last trip we took was from CA to Arizona for spring training. It’s a long drive, but definitely doable. A lot cheaper than flying too. If it were just me, I’d take the train a whole variety of places, because I don’t mind meandering about. But son won’t go for it.

  • EdB

    I quit flying right around the time the nude scanners were deployed. I flew a couple of times after, but was never subjected to them. I still would have flown if needed, but once the enhanced pat downs started, I swore off flying.

    I have been toying with the idea of taking the train up to see my mom (LA/San Jose) but the price is ridiculously high for two people compared to driving. Still might splurge on the trip anyways just because I like riding the trains. Either that or book far enough in advance on the Big Bus to get the $1 fare. 🙂

  • Susan Richart

    I stopped flying many, many years after standing on a cold wet carpet in my stocking feet in Anchorage watching a FA, legs spread, arms out being patted down and wanded, with the wand being put up between her legs. That was enough for me to see to put me off flying.

    And this was far ahead of the Nude Body Scanners and enhanced gropes.

  • nveric

    The last time I flew was 1 or 2 weeks before 9/11/01.