Hi Mary, I just started faceting, so my experience with Tucson has mostly been buying cut stones, but probably still relevant. It seems like more vendors are taking credit cards and company checks, but smaller vendors are usually cash only. I was actually surprised at how often we were able to use company checks this year.
We always carry a backpack and have never had any security issues, even at the high security shows like AGTA and GJX.
I know there is a shuttle, but we always rent a car so I can’t give any insight on that. This link might help: https://www.tucsonaz.gov/park-tucson/gem-show-parking. I assume you can also get around easily using uber.
We stayed at an Airbnb this year and a variety of other hotels in the past. If you don’t have a car, you will want to find one in walking distance to a show or shuttle pickup. Many people rent out their rooms, apartments, and houses for the gem show on airbnb, and you can save quite a bit of money going that route since the hotel prices are so inflated.
We’ve never had any issues with TSA. I think they’re used to seeing it all come through there. Obviously you want to carry on as much of your bounty as possible, especially anything of high value. I recommend carrying on a small roller bag and your backpack because those rocks get heavy!
Hope this helps!