Picking up souvenirs during your travels is the easy part. Getting them home through customs? That can be a little tricky. While we recommend you check the U.S. Customs & Border Control website for the most up-to-date regulations for bringing items back into the United States, here are a few tips for making your walkthrough customs a breeze:
In general, customs requires a three-percent excise tax if you’re bringing back more than 1 liter of wine per person. Keep in mind that most wine bottles hold 3/4 of a liter, so if you’re traveling with two people, you can fly with the equivalent of three bottles. If you’re planning to pack the wine in your suitcase, know that there’s always a chance of broken bottles. To minimize the risk of breakage, ask the seller if they provide special bottle insulators or bubble wrap (or bring your own). Then, stick the bottle in a plastic bag and wrap it in some of your clothes to protect it even further. The same works for olive oil, liquor, or anything else in a glass bottle.
While it’s tempting to purchase handmade pottery, ceramics or other heavy goods, don’t forget that most airlines restrict checked baggage to 50 pounds per bag (be sure to check with your airline before you leave). If you really must have it, see if the store will ship your purchases to your home address. Another way to save suitcase space and weight? Pack old clothes and shoes, then donate or trash them at the end of your trip to save room for all your souvenirs.
Everyone is required to fill out a U.S. Customs & Border Control form upon arrival back into the U.S. to document any goods purchased overseas. If you plan on buying any big-ticket items during your trip, pick up a VAT form at the airport before your flight departs to save money on taxes.
Restricted items can include things like certain types of meats and cheeses that cannot be brought into the U.S., so check the U.S. Customs & Border Control website if you aren’t sure about your souvenir purchases. Items that are specifically prohibited include ivory, absinthe, and tortoise shell products.
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