Whether you’re flying internationally or domestically, packing your bags and passing through airport security can be stressful. After all, forgetting an important item at home could derail your plans or cause you to overspend once you reach your destination. But when it comes to preparing for your flight home, packing isn’t usually as difficult. That is, unless you plan to bring certain mementos back with you. While most souvenirs won’t pose a problem, you will want to think twice before you buy and pack any of the items below.
By now, you probably know about the restrictions on the liquids you can pack in your carry-on luggage. On both domestic and international flights, liquids need to be packed in containers no larger than 3.4 ounces and all of your liquid containers must fit inside a one-quart plastic bag. If you plan on bringing alcohol in your carry-on, it’s subject to these same requirements and must be in its original, unopened container.
Planning to check your intoxicants instead? You’ll need to pay attention to the proof. If the alcohol content is less than 24%, there is no limit to how much the FAA says you can bring back in your checked luggage. If the alcohol content is between 24% and 70%, the FAA will allow you to bring back up to five liters. However, you won’t be allowed to bring back anything with 70% alcohol content and above (which equates to 140 proof or more). Keep in mind that these are just the regulations for U.S. flights; many other countries have even stricter regulations on baggage booze. It’s safe to say, you should research local laws before packing your luggage.
Certain Prepared Foods and Produce
If you’ve taken steps to book cheap international travel options, you might want to save even more money during your trip by bringing your own snacks instead of paying a premium at the airport. Those fresh fruits may be healthy and affordable, but if you’re flying internationally, you’ll need to make sure to eat them before you hit customs. Most foreign countries won’t allow you to bring in fruits, vegetables, plants, and other agricultural products, and the U.S. won’t always allow you to bring home these kinds of foods from abroad, either. It may depend on where the food in question came from and where you’ll be going in the United States, since fresh produce has historically brought certain diseases or pests to the country.
And while bakery items and many kinds of cheeses can safely be brought back into the U.S., foods that contain meat aren’t allowed. If you aren’t sure whether your item will be allowed to enter your country of destination, it’s best to find out for sure ahead of time.
This may seem a little Scrooge-y, but you’ll want to do your research when traveling before and after Christmas and other holidays, lest your festivities be derailed by travel restrictions. Technically, you can wrap holiday gifts and pack them, but it might be better to bring wrapping supplies separately or buy them when you arrive. The same advice goes for birthday presents.
TSA agents need to screen what’s inside your luggage, and if they can’t see what’s in a wrapped package via X-ray, they’ll need to unwrap it. If you really need to bring wrapped gifts, then gift bags are a great option.
And if you’re buying something at a Duty-Free for someone, make sure it doesn’t go over the monetary limit of what you’re allowed to declare. For most routes into the United States, the max value for personal gifts is $800, but it can be different for others
In addition to wrapped presents, there are a lot of common Christmas items that are verboten as far as the TSA is concerned. If you’re bringing a real wreath or garland back home with you, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection will only allow you to do so if it’s deemed healthy (i.e., it has at least five pine needles in a cluster). Chestnuts come with a very specific set of regulations, and mistletoe can’t have any berries. Holiday crackers are outright banned on certain airlines, but some will allow it if they’re sealed in their packaging. If you’re flying internationally, other countries will have their own rules when it comes to traveling with these specialty items.
When flying internationally or domestically, err on the side of caution when packing your luggage. After all, if you’ve taken precautions to reduce stress during your trip, you don’t want one rogue item to wreck your travel plans.