It was during the final hours of my trip to Jamaica that I realized I’d yet to buy any souvenir gifts for friends and family. So I went to the hotel gift shop and stocked up on standards like magnets and postcards. But I also grabbed a few nods to the local cuisine like some Blue Mountain coffee and a small jar of jerk spice-rub. I shoved everything into my carry-on and headed for the airport, straight into the security line. As the title foreshadows, my jerk spice did not make it past the check point. I stood there arguing with the lady that it wasn’t a liquid, this was a spice rub; it was a paste at best! She called over a supervisor, the line got longer, I got more irritated and in the end my jerk spice wound up in a box somewhere, instead of my mom’s pantry.
The point isn’t that it was only $6.50, or that I could easily replace it at any of the numerous gift shops between security and my plane. No, the point is, if I had thought about the situation a little better ahead of time I would have saved my self the trouble. The contents and value of a souvenir collection are irrelevant, whether it’s big or small, made up of trinkets or jewels there are some good ways to make sure they all make it home safely.
Know the Rules
My first mistake was not really thinking about the rules. I mean I knew enough to check my shampoo and conditioner, but I didn’t think about the rules regarding more ambiguous substances, like say, jerk spice. In my case it was a liquid/solid discrepancy, but there could be issues concerning bringing certain foods, animals or plants out of a country. Issues could arise regarding quantity, size or laws regarding specific items. If you stick to T-shirts and coffee mugs you’re probably ok, but if you have anything larger or more exotic, ask around before getting to the airport. Knowing what will and won’t pass security is the first step to making sure you don’t have to leave anything behind.
Mail it Home
One of the easiest ways to avoid the hassle of getting souvenirs on a commercial plane is to let them fly on a postal one. A good number of gift shops and hotels offer services or assistance in mailing purchases home. The upside is that you never have to deal with the added luggage and you still get the goods back home. The downside, is primarily the cost. It’s going to cost a little extra, or in some cases a lot extra to get items shipped. Small things can usually fit in a bubble envelope, but then small things can usually fit in a suitcase too. The airmail method is generally most useful for larger or more expensive items and is usually worth the extra cost of postage. But if you go that route it’s probably also a good idea to look into insurance too. That way, if your souvenir makes it home in pieces, you have a recourse.
Check or Carry
If you’re bringing them home yourself another important consideration is whether or not souvenirs will be checked or added to a carry on. If there is ANY chance that the item could be confiscated by the security, it’s better to find an alternative method of transport. A lot of people like to pack an extra bag whenever taking a trip in anticipation of doing a fair amount of shopping. Certain air lines are now charging small fees for checking an additional bag so make sure you know your airline’s policy. When you do pack, make use of clothes, towels and soft items to wrap souvenirs, and keep them at the center of the case for safety.
Speaking of protection, everybody knows somebody, who knows somebody that had something “disappear” from a suitcase in transit. So it’s no wonder we’re all a little over-paranoid about conspiracies to relive us of our newly acquired snow globes and spoons. Of course, if you have something of real value, hiding it is usually a good idea. TSA examined and approved locked boxes are the straightforward option. But for a more surreptitious approach, that doesn’t involved speaking to a member of the security team, there are containers with secret compartments. Shaving cream cans-safes, for example, are a popular choice, and they can also serve to hide valuables at home.
Plan It Out
Bringing home tokens, remembrances or even major finds is one of the joys of traveling. But that happiness can be cut short if the souvenir gets snagged by security. Whatever your special treasure is, if it was important enough to buy, it’s important enough to think about the logistics of getting it home.
This is a guest post by Leslie West. Leslie writes most often for a Pardons site based in Canada. She loves traveling whenever she can and has a fondness for both shopping and jerk shrimp.
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