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Bringing home food-customs restrictions?

Has anyone had any trouble bringing home any foods from the glorious food shops. I plan on loading up my carry-on, but know there are restrictions on bringing liquid onto the plane. Some of the things I plan to bring are in glass bottles, like honey, jams, olive oil, etc. and I don't want to check them. One year I destroyed a suitcase after being told by customs that I couldn't bring my wine onto the plane. I have given up trying to bring wine, but I refuse to come back without some goodies. Anything I should watch out for?

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  1. You've got a 3 ounce limit per jar/bottle, and all those have to fit in one, one gallon ziplock bag. That said, if you buy in the Duty Free, I think you'll be allowed to get what you want. Otherwise, it's into the checked bags. Sorry. Check the TSA website.

    3 Replies
    1. re: toitoi

      There's a problem with Duty Free shopping. Depending on the airport, you may end up having to go thru security again. We came back from Sydney via LAX. After picking up our bags, we had to walk two terminals over and check back in for our flights home to VA. Everyone who bought liquor had to put it into their checked bags, regardless of the duty free seals on the boxes. More than one person had broken liquor bottles in their checked bags when we reached our destination.

      I just don't bother any more.

      It's a 1 quart zip lock bag, not 1 gallon, for your 3 oz bottles.

      1. re: jeanmarieok

        Yup. I ran into that problem, too.

        I've always been lucky with breakables in my checked baggage -- I brought a crystal vase home from Poland in my checked luggage -- but one thing I suggest is sealing anything that might break or leak in plastic bags. I always throw a few gallon-size ziplock bags in my suitcase -- they don't weigh anything or take up any space, but they're great if you decide to bring home a jar of honey or a bottle of olive oil or liquer (they won't fit a full-size wine bottle), not to mention they're useful for packing that wet bathing suit, soiled undies and socks, etc.

      2. re: toitoi

        One *Quart*-sized bag for carry-on liquids.

        Oil, honey, jam, wine, beer, and any other things are liquids and will not be allowed in your carry-on. You can put these in your suitcase, but if they're broken, you will wish you hadn't. Much better to ship these items home instead of testing the gentleness of the airline baggage handlers.

      3. Easy solution, if not cheap, mail/ship things to yourself.

        1 Reply
        1. re: OCEllen

          Better yet (it's not always easy getting cartons and wrapping materials while you're traveling), get the shop to ship your purchases for you. It can really cut the hassle!

        2. When you say you couldn't bring your wine onto the plane, do you mean carry on, or at all? I would like to bring back a case of wine with me in checked baggage, but if it's a waste of money, I'd dearly like to know before I spend it!

          1 Reply
          1. re: phedre

            You can check it, just not carry it on. You'll have to pay duty on anything over your allotment (although I've heard sometimes they don't bother), but it's often still less then you'd pay if you bought the equivalent bottle in the US.

          2. If you are traveling to the US, do not plan to carry on honey, jams, olive oils, mustards, etc. I have had mustards and jams seized at CDG. This is not a customs issue but a security issue. There is no way you can board a US-bound plane with a bottle of oil. A sorry state of affairs! I pack all of these things in my suitcase now days.

            1 Reply
            1. re: erica

              My husband and his coworkers travel frequently to Germany. A couple of the guys have a favorite beer there and lament not being able to get it in the states. On their last trip they discovered it in mini kegs. They went out and bought a small cheap suitcase with rollers and were able to bring back two of the mini kegs in it with no problems.

              On my trips abroad even before the restrictions, I planned carry space in advance in my luggage for the return trip. Anything in glass went into a plastic shoebox or two. Sometimes I took an extra small suitcase rigged out with protective plastic containers to carry goodies back (I had to be aware of the 50 lb weight limit). I just had no desire to lug extra weight in a carry on into the plane.

              Now that airlines are starting to charge for that extra bag (USAir $25) you have to consider if it's worth it. I'd say that it is compared to the cost of shipping the stuff in most cases. My experience in having stuff shipped is that many of the places you buy it will ship for you directly from the place of purchase. But if you do that you need to keep track of the total cost of shipping from all these different places because you can end up spending far more than the cost of an extra bag on the airline.

              Do check with the TSA about what foods you can bring back. Anything sealed in a can or jar, etc is usually good, but things like cheese and deli meats, produce are right out.

              And if you're coming back in through Philly carrying a softsided cooler that had your road food in while on your trip, give Liberty a pat for me. She's the official cooler sniffing beagle there!

            2. I didn't think sealed food items would be such a problem!

              As far as putting things in my checked bags , its risky because the bags are thrown around and handled quite indelicately.

              phedre, regarding the wine. On a few trips we brought wine home that we carried onto the plane. However, the last time we tried from Marseilles airport, we were told (by customs officials, I believe--the whole plane was held up while various authorities were called in to discuss our bags-sorry everyone) that if we still wanted to bring the wine, it would have to go into our suitcase. We quickly put about 6-8 bottles into our checked luggage. Needless to say, it was done in haste and not as carefully as we would have liked. Upon arrival, the bag was not on the carousel and we were told it was "lost". The next day, a destroyed bag, with broken bottles, was delivered to our apartment. Clearly, bringing home wine is not what it used to be, so forget it.

              Not sure anymore, but I thought you could bring two bottles on the plane with you. But, probably not, considering what the other posters have said.

              If I am reading this correctly, I can bring oils, mustards, honey, etc. in my checked bags. I have heard that hams and cheeses are not allowed. Still squimish about checking this type of thing. Obviously, I will bring packing materials. Like the idea of plastic shoe boxes. Thanks for the advice.

              2 Replies
              1. re: doughreme

                Just bring a bunch of bubble warp with you and wrap really well. Then nestle between clothing in your checked bag. I bring lots of things home (including bottles of wine and all kinds of jarred items) when I travel to France, Italy, Spain and have not had a problem.

                1. re: erica

                  Putting the bubble wrapped items in a plastic slider or ziplock bag is double insurance against a mess - how I mail all liquid items, too!

              2. Hi doughreme,

                This topic has actually been discussed to death in this thread. The poster is a customs officer and gave out invaluable advice to a lot of the questions. I think you can find every of your questions answered in the thread.

                http://www.chowhound.com/topics/353902

                1. We recently went to Grand Cayman and I took a case of wine with me and had no problems. Packed in a regular wine box and taped up well and then put in the duffel bag I use to bring back all the stuff I seem to acquire. I've brought wine back from France and beer & schnapps from Germany the same way. Wine boxes with the separators can be used to bring back many jarred items.

                  1. Instead of speculation and what others may have/have not gotten away with, go to the source:

                    US Customs:
                    http://www.cbp.gov/xp/cgov/travel/vac...

                    or write to:

                    USDA-APHIS Veterinary Services National Center for Import/Export (NCIE),
                    4700 River Road, Unit 40,
                    Riverdale, MD 20737-1231

                    or call :
                    (301) 734-7830.

                    Transportation Security:

                    http://www.tsa.dhs.gov/311/index.shtm

                    and

                    http://www.tsa.dhs.gov/travelers/airt...

                    1. Thanks Everyone, The post that was linked by kobetobiko is truly lengthy informative information on this subject. Information from the source is great. Still, its nice to hear whats happening to people these days. The rules and attitudes seem to change so often. Happy trails.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: doughreme

                        that is a great link posted by kobetobiko that I will need to mark. one last thought - checked goods, on the fly (so to speak) without packing material - plastic zip bags over bottles, then a double layer of socks thick socks and well-rolled in other clothes has always worked for me.

                      2. I always buy coffee, mustards, jams, and honeys. I keep the plastic bags from local stores and wrap the jams or honeys first! Everything done individually. Then I wrap each one in a t-shirt. Use dirty laundry, if you don't have any clean ones. For a big olive oil you might want to use your beach towel. Everywhere I go, I bring back stuff and I haven't broken anything yet. I put my silks, cashmere, fancy clothes always get put in a plastic zipper bag, That way, if it rains on my suitcase my good stuff won't get ruined. I put the glass items in the middle of suitcase and padded around each item with clothes. Oil seems kind of scary, you might want to get some ziploc bags or plain plastic bags with twisties. Use two of them on the oil. Don't put anything upside down, if you don't have to. The airlines will, so you have to think about how much they will abuse your suitcase. With tons of padding (clothes) you should be okay.