5 Surprising Items Customs May Flag You for at Airport Security
It's wise to double-check all souvenirs before your flight, according to travel experts.
Few things are more exciting than taking a trip abroad. You'll tour amazing sights, try the local cuisine, and, if you want something to remember your vacation by, you'll likely bring home a souvenir or two. But when it comes to your mementos, you'll want to keep in mind that U.S. Customs and Border Protection (USBP) has strict rules on what can come back into the country—which can make the required process of going through Customs a bit stressful. To make the experience smoother, it's best to be prepared ahead of time, which is why we consulted travel experts about the surprising items Customs may flag you for at the airport. Read on to ensure your goods can return without any issues.
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5 Surprising Items Customs May Flag You For
Getting chocolate abroad almost seems like a given, especially if you've traveled to a country like Switzerland, Belgium, or Germany. But Taylor Beal, owner and author of the travel blog Traverse With Taylor, says many people don't realize that some chocolate items are illegal in the U.S. and Customs will pull you aside for having them.
Kinder Eggs, also known as Kinder Surprise, specifically, are outlawed in the U.S. A hollow chocolate egg with a little toy inside probably seems harmless enough, but it can raise flags for suspicion because you can hide contraband in it.
"So, if you're wanting to bring back Kinder chocolate from your journey abroad, make sure you're just packing the regular chocolate bars or other snacks," Beal says.
2. Tulip bulbs and other plants
The Netherlands is highly renowned for its tulips. If you visit the country, you can bring bulbs back to the U.S. as long as you follow certain standards, Beal tells Best Life.
"Tulip bulbs can be a little tricky," she says. Certain markets in Amsterdam and Holland have bulbs for sale that aren't permitted for transport back to the United States. "They have to bear a specific seal that states they were inspected and are approved for travel," Beal explains.
This rule typically applies to all things in foreign soil, especially plants, flowers, and seeds, so you'll want to double-check any regulations before packing.
"Many people love to bring back souvenirs that they find such as rocks or sand from the places they visit," Nicole Miller, a travel writer at A Florida Traveler says. Items like these can be confiscated, as you never know what will be harboring pests or diseases.
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Electronics can be pulled for inspection if Customs thinks they could be used for illegal activity or if they weren't properly identified.
Laura Olds, co-founder of A Piece of Travel, says she always gets stopped for having a portable laptop keyboard in her bag. "It gets flagged because they think I've left a laptop instead and the keyboard just gets swabbed and goes back in the bag."
Other surprising things Customs may stop you for are an electronic toothbrush or a camera with a lithium battery, according to Mercedes Zach, travel expert at Asaptickets.
"And remember, if it's just a spare laptop battery or power bank, it needs to go in your carry-on bag," Zach adds. "Otherwise, these items will be confiscated at Customs."
4. Coffee or tea
Any foreign coffee or tea products should be declared before you get off the plane. "A lot of the time, the grounds or tea leaves are vacuum packed and sealed tight which can make them look more suspicious," Andrew Jernigan, CEO of Insured Nomads, says. "I've found on numerous occasions it is caught for inspection to ensure it is not an illegal substance."
If you are bringing back coffee, try and avoid the vacuum-sealed option and get a regular bag. You should make sure everything is labeled properly, meaning you can see exactly what the product is and where you got it, to keep from getting stopped by a Customs agent.
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5. Supplements or prescriptions
If you're traveling with medications, the rules at Customs are very similar to those at TSA. Anything that's loose or stored in a Ziploc bag is much more likely to get flagged.
"You're much better off keeping things in the original packaging with the labels, and mentioning them instead of hoping they go through without raising suspicion," advises Nick Mueller, director of operations at HawaiianIslands.com.
"If your medications or devices are not in their original containers, you must have a copy of your prescription with you or a letter from your doctor," states USBP on their website.
You may also get stopped if you have a larger-than-normal amount of medication, which is why USBP advises traveling with no more than a 90-day supply.